Crazy Legs

By Michal Kapral Trip­ping Out

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - Michal Kapral is a world record hold­ing jog­gler (run­ning whilst jug­gling). Read his col­umn in each is­sue. michal kapral

Camp­ing is a beau­ti­ful way to ex­pe­ri­ence the out­doors, to re­con­nect with na­ture, to spot wildlife and to get away from the hec­tic as­pects of city life. It’s also a ter­ri­ble way to get your run­ning train­ing done. In fact, you al­most couldn’t come up with a worse sce­nario for run­ning, with the ex­cep­tion of house ar­rest or in­car­cer­a­tion.

Ev­ery year, our fam­ily takes a week-long va­ca­tion to go camp­ing in Al­go­nquin Park. The pro­vin­cial park is a gem of On­tario wilder­ness, a real-life Group of Seven paint­ing. On one of our car camp­ing trips, there was a rough trail of about half a kilo­me­tre that led to the site where Tom Thom­son painted the iconic The Jack Pine. It’s a spec­tac­u­lar rocky clear­ing that over­looks Grande Lake. The orig­i­nal jack pine is gone, but an­other tree has grown in the same spot.

My marathon train­ing plan called for a 32-kilo­me­tre run dur­ing our stay at the camp­site, so one morn­ing I set out along the jack pine trail. I ran back and forth along that 500-me­tre stretch so many times, I lost count . I saw the jack pine look­out over and over, un­til it be­gan to feel mun­dane. Af­ter about 20 visits to the site, I started to get sick of it . ‘Here we go again with The Jack Pine plaque, yeah, yeah, yeah, what­ever,’ I found my­self think­ing. The run felt like a game of Pong and I was the ball. I capped it off with a wasp sting on my an­kle.

On an­other car camp­ing run on a short trail near our camp­site, I hit a swarm of deer f lies. I picked up the pace and man­aged to lose all of the f lies but one. It must have been train­ing for a deer f ly­ing marathon, and had no trou­ble with my ac­cel­er­ated pace. It cir­cled around my head for a good two kilo­me­tres, and prob­a­bly cov­ered about five kilo­me­tres in f light (it wasn’t wear­ing a Garmin, so we’ll never know). I turned around to run back­wards and swat­ted it a few times with my hat, and then broke into a full-out sprint. Drenched in sweat, my heart rac­ing, I looked be­hind me and the f ly was gone. I took a mo­ment to cel­e­brate the fact I had out­run the Mo Ahmed of deer f lies. And that’s when the mos­qui­toes at­tacked.

I didn’t know how lucky I was to have those lit­tle, bug-in­fested trails, be­cause we soon be­gan al­most ex­clu­sively back­coun­try camp­ing – where you pad­dle out to lakes in the mid­dle of nowhere. When you fi­nally hit land, the camp­sites usu­ally just have one short trail that leads straight to the “thun­der box” (think out­house with­out the house part) – only good for run­ning to the toi­let.

On our back­coun­try trip this past sum­mer, I man­aged a to­tal of 800 me­tres of run­ning dur­ing a few portages with a ca­noe on my head. We stayed on a small is­land for two of the nights. One gor­geous evening, I looked out across the wa­ter at the pur­ple sun­set, lis­ten­ing to the call of the loons, breathed in the fresh air and thought long­ingly about paved roads.

“I ran back and forth along that 500-me­tre stretch so many times, I lost count.”

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