By Michal Kapral Tripping Out
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.”