Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trail Running in Turkey

The red line starts in the marina at Aspen (on the right side) and then goes onto the island and back. The line should be a single red line but strange things happened out there...

I finally found the running trails! So far I have only been able to run on the streets and bike paths because there are villages, cities and towns everywhere, not to mention people, cars and unfriendly dogs.

Next to our marina is what the locals call an island but it is connected to the mainland so technically it is not an island but a peninsula. Either way it is a protected area that is really large with only a couple of coastal resorts on it. The interior is really remote and full of archaeological sites, caves and even an ancient mountain top fortress/temple. There is one road on the island that turns into a bad jeep road after about a mile and then terminates with assorted animal trails going everywhere around the island. It is a perfect place to run and explore!

Wednesday I ran for 2.5 hours all over the island. I ran and scrambled to the highest point where there were pottery sherds scattered about inside the formidable enclosing walls. This structure dates from about 3,000 BC they say. On the way down I found an ancient cave. The cave was actually a temple that dates from 5,000 BC where cremation ashes have been found, along with several pagan statues. That was a really mystical place to say the least. I didn't stay around there very long!

The trail up was not well marked but all I had to do was keep going up. Coming down was a different story (you can see my running trail on the attached picture).

Somehow I lost the trail (you expected this right?) and ended up running through the ruins of a long abandoned village with crumbling walls and pottery scattered everywhere. Running deeper through the brush I came upon several sarcophaguses, the sure signs of an ancient grave yard that has been dated at over 5,000 BC, I learned later. I saw one remnant of a bone as I ran among the graves and further down the mountain. This was a very eerie part of the forest I thought to myself, as I quickly flew along the mountain side (well, at least I ran faster after that).

Finally after being able to see the sea in the distance for so long over many really steep and impenetrable cliffs, I arrived near the sea shore and could make my way back to the jeep road and eventually to the marina and Aspen.

It was a glorious run and now I think I know how to stay on the trails and not get lost during my next run on the island!

Later today I found out that an ultra-running friend of mine, Micah True, had gone out for a run in the Gila Cliff Dwellings Wilderness area in New Mexico and had not returned. Search parties were sent out to look for him.

Micah and I were competitors in the Leadville Trail 100 mile race for several years. A competitor is not always a friend because you must think of each other differently when your goal is to beat them in a race. During that brutal race we ran long and hard, grinding each other into the dirt on those high mountain trails. We were both successful at Leadville in those early, legendary years. Yet with the passage of time I thought of Micah not as a competitor any longer but as an ultra-running friend. Competition eventually fades but for purists, ultra-running remains.

Micah was found late yesterday on a remote trail that he was running when he died. No obvious signs of trauma were found.

May you run long Micah - run long my friend.

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