How to adventure in costa brava


A little while ago I wrote a blog about setting goals. I am reminded of a couple things that I wrote. One thing was putting this question out there: ’what do I want my life to look like?’ Another was Christopher Reeve’s quote “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” I believe that when you really tap into your soul and take a good look around, you will find yourself moving in a cool, and likely unfamiliar, new direction. One that is meant for you. I love adventure, I love trying new things. And I was recently moved in a new direction when one of my BFFs asked me to join her on a running trip to Spain. Just thinking about this trip puts a big smile on my face :). And to think I almost didn’t go! Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert ( and her book Big Magic for making me hyper aware of any little flicker of interest in my body that I now pay attention to and explore with great curiosity. It’s what made me jump in and say yes to running around Spain (after I first said no I can’t). I’ll admit I love things that are a little different, mostly involving exercise, fun, and friends/family. So running through Costa Brava was right up my alley. Normally I would do some research on what I’m doing beforehand, but with this I went in fairly blind. And that’s actually an understatement. But anyway. It didn’t matter.

There were 6 of us, plus our guides, Pablo and Dani. I only new 1 person going in, and was happy to form such a great bond with our whole group - because they are all wonderful individuals. This was a 7 day running trip through Costa Brava. My friend and I chose to do the 4 day trip, as we had a shorter timeline. Ha, next time will be the full 7 days, no question.

We left Vancouver very early on a Saturday morning and arrived in Barcelona on Sunday morning. Hello sunshine!! We had a few hours of fumbling our way around with buses, trains, and taxis, but we made it to Girona a few hours later. This is a beautiful, old, history-rich city that I would go back to in a heartbeat. I could wander around the little cobblestone streets for days. We were off exploring for a couple of hours and that’s when the dreaded jet lag hit. Ugh. No time for jet lag! We are in Spain - too much to do and see! I think we were asleep by 6pm. And awake by about 1:30am. Not just awake. Wide awake. Ok, so we were too excited about the adventure starting at 9am to really care if we were tired.

We met our guides after breakfast. Both awesome and quick with warm smiles. Pablo Rodriguez, owner of Running Costa Brava ( you have seriously got to check out this website and then book your trip, not kidding), put together a fantastic running plan for us, and his wife Cristina arranged our accommodations for each day (each place we stayed at was spectacular and unique). Pablo is a mountain runner extraordinaire - the guy runs either barefoot (I know, it seems crazy right?!) or in these little flip flop things that are wafer thin and look like they might survive for a week or 2. He then tells us he’s had them for 6 years…I watched curiously and continuously in disbelief as he ran barefoot, sure that he was going to end up with cut up and bleeding feet - we ran over rocks of all sizes, giant pine needles, prickle bushes, and a variety of other terrains, and his feet were totally fine! Pablo is passionate about what he does and it shows; he emanates a fantastic calm energy and positive vibes in such a relaxed and happy manner that you are instantly put at ease before setting off on a 20 kms + run each day. He pushed us, encouraged us (much needed and appreciated especially as we’d approach a decent size and lengthy hill), and he was interested in getting to know each one of us. I know I ran with a smile on my face the entire time. Pretty sure we all did. And you could just feel the satisfaction and happiness that gave Pablo - like he wanted everyone to not just see but feel the beauty of our surroundings. That we did. We had many wonderful conversations as we ran through the forests, over mountains, along the beaches. At 1 point I was a little concerned when Pablo started telling me in a somewhat serious but slightly mischievous voice, “you know Kelly I have a bit of an addiction…”. I’m thinking oh boy, hopefully it’s nothing serious or bad. Then he says “if I see a trail I haven’t seen before, I have to just go. I just go.” It totally made me laugh. Because it was so him…leave no stone unturned. Pretty sure he knows every single trail out there, and he’s made a lot of them himself, with his machete. Pretty cool.

So Day 1 had us naturally going for coffee at a quaint little coffee shop that is frequented by cyclists. I mean who doesn’t go for coffee first, before running? This is not exactly how things happen at home, I run with my girlfriends and THEN we go for coffee. In Spain, we went for coffee, then ran, and then went for beer. Ha ha. We ran from there for the next few hours, stopping lots to take pictures, take in the scenery of Girona - old churches and convents, and running through the Gavarres Forest. And then we came to the Wall. Here we were told that if we could make it up to the top then we would know that we’d be fine for the rest of the trip. Great. I was then told ‘c’mon you can run up the whole thing let’s go…’. um, WHAT???? I guess my huge smile and the adrenalin I’d been going on made it seem like I was a decent runner. I am truly a very average runner, who gets high on extraordinary life moments. This life moment was several days long of continuous ‘holy shit is this all really happening, everything is just so freaking awesome!’. It recharges you, gives you more energy than you thought you had, and gives you permagrin :). Back to the Wall…..It was steep. Really steep. Narrow, awesome, technical, awesome, never seemed to end, and awesome. I did try to run the whole thing. But stopped to hunch over and try to breathe more than once. Sure felt good to get to the top. That was a nasty Wall. But I’d do it again. We continued running, ending up at the Castillo de Sant Miquel, that gave us an amazing view of Girona. An awesome 18kms day. Day 1, survived. Check :).

Day 2 was longer, 23.5kms. Whew! We started our run from a little medieval village called Sant Marti Vell, and continued running through many medieval villages, stopping for beer in Jaume Square, located in another pretty little medieval village - Monells. Our run on this day was much less hilly and technical, but equally as beautiful. We were ecstatic to run through the gates of the 1000 year old Farmhouse (Mas Rabiol) in Peratallada, that was our accommodation for the night. Not even funny how beautiful this place is. A little slice of heaven on earth. Food to match. We were treated to the most incredible feast for lunch on our arrival. Beer, wine, yummy cheeses, meats, bread with fresh tomatoes and olive oil, pork, and the most delicious cannellini beans I’ve ever tasted. Then it was time for a little siesta by the pool :).

Day 3 was another 20+kms of stunning scenery and varying technical terrains. We began in the Gavarres Forest and ran our way out to the Coast. That first siting of the Mediterranean stopped us in our tracks and was a combination of breathtaking and inspiring. We ran past numerous castles and fisherman’s villages, running along beautiful sandy beaches - you know, the ones you see on postcards and don’t really believe exist - they exist - I felt like I was literally running from postcard to postcard. We stopped for snacks by the sea in Palamos. Our run ended in a little village called Calella de Palafrugell - at the Sant Roc Hotel. I’m pretty sure I announced to everyone more than once that I was just going to stay there forever. This place was stunningly beautiful and had such a cool ‘life is good’ vibe about it. I could have sat staring out at the Sea for hours. Taking it all in felt so good for the soul. So did a dip in the clear, salty Mediterranean.

Day 4. This was my last day of running with the group. I was going to savour every second of the day. I knew it was going to be epic. And it was. Another 20+ kms this day. We ran straight from our hotel, through the cobblestone streets to the next town, where we got a ride up a long switchback (hey guys thanks for the ride it would have been a forever long run up!) to the Sant Sebasti Lighthouse where the view was unbelievable - felt like we were on top of the world. We continued running, down, down, down, along technical trails, along the coastline, up cliffs, down cliffs, down more with rope assistance, until we ended up at a pristine little beach with a very unexpected and charming little family-run cafe. Cala Pedrosa. Seriously it was remarkable for us to see this place here. Time for beer. I am not a beer drinker. Anyone who knows me knows this fact. I had a beer here. It was bliss. You might be wondering how one can drink beer and then run. Hmm, well this was Spain. There are a lot of things that happen a little differently - like going for coffee at the start of your run, siestas - everything shuts down for a couple hours in the afternoon, and dinner? That does NOT happen before 8:30. Not kidding. That one took some getting accustomed to. Beer finished, ok so we kept running, this time up, up, up, way up, only to come across more insanely beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Every time we would stop to take it all in Pablo would say ‘oh, just wait for the next one’. Like how could it get any better? But it did. We made our way to Tamariu. Another place I insisted I was going to stay at forever. There were many of those :). There happened to be a diving board out on the rocks, so we all took advantage of it and went for a dip in the Sea. Again, bliss. I didn’t want to get out. We continued running up through the town and then through another forest, and into another quaint little town called Begur. We stopped at another family-run Cafe for some Croquettes, Pa Amb Tomaquet, and Calamars a la Romana. Pure, local yumminess. Food in Spain is so tasty! Off we went running through the little streets of Begur, and up to the Castell de Begur (Castle). Another ‘we are on top of the freaking world!’ moment. 360 degree views. It was worth the steep hill to get up there. No one would argue that. We could look down and way out to see where we were running to as our final destination of the day. The Medieval town of Pals. It seemed really far away. Off we went again. A lot of downhill. Winding our way down and around. Finally Pablo says, ‘ok guys, the Paella (this is what Pals is known for) will be ready at 5:00. So that gives us 22 minutes to get there. Let’s do it! Ok guys?’. What? It still looks really far away! Again, off we went. This time much faster. The Paella better be good…Somehow we made it, 5:00 on the dot. We feasted on beer, wine, sangria and the famous Paella. It was SO good. Everything was just so good. As I sat there taking in the sunshine, my glass of wine, the views, the Paella, my new ‘running Costa Brava’ friends and the connections we’d made, and thinking about all we’d done over the last 4 days, it was a bit overwhelming. I thought of something that Pablo had said - “the only way to see a country is to run through it”. I didn’t really get it before. I get it now. And I totally agree with him. You see so much more on foot. We were not in the touristy areas. We were exposed to the raw beauty of Costa Brava, local style. And guess what. It was impossible to not live in the moment every step of the way. And that was absolute BLISS. 100% pure happy. It’s what life is all about.

If you want to get away, feed your soul, do something really really awesome? Do yourself a favour, book a running trip. Don’t run? Start. Costa Brava is everything the postcards hype it up to be, and more. Trust me :). It’s so worth it.

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