Running, and Hiding From It

You are looking at a picture of me at Praia do Siriu, Crab Beach

If you would, imagine the dialogue at the beginning of this storybeing spoken in Portuguese instead of English. It’s a tall order if you don’t speak the language, so consider it an exercise in imagination.

“Have a good trip, August?” asked Alessandraas I opened the gate of my home after my run.

“I did. Your suggestion was a good one. I needed to go out for a bit. Thanks, I feel much better,”

“That’s right, weneed physical activity. Relaxes a person. It’s no good to just sit andread my friend.” she said and added, “Stretch, exercise, to get the blood pumping. You know why? Because you are very stiff. You walk like a hobo.”

“I do?” I asked, but I knew she’d told the truth.

“It’s true.”

If blame must be assigned for my rigid musculature, all of it goes toanear-daily habit of mine to hoe fields of assorted premium quality organic vegetables. It’s a part of my apprenticeshiphere in Paulo Lopes with a nature buff and highly esteemed advocate for sustainable agriculture named Glaico Sell.I’ve co-opted the physical side of my work here as one of my rationalizations for avoiding getting back out into the sun and going for a run. It’s a weak excuse. I do have better ones! Shall we explore some of the other rationalizations Ihavein rotation?

I first took some time off from my running after little dog attack.

For the week before arriving in Brazil, I enjoyed runs in the Sonoma Redwood forest and around Stanford’s Lake Lagunita with a morning running group organized during our pre-departure training by superstar runner and Global Citizen Year Fellow Jaxom Moore. In my first five weeks in Brazil, Iranbarefoot on Joaquina Beach in Florianopolis with new friends and neighbors Juno and Manny.I learned that I’d be living in Paulo Lopes for the remainder ofmy time in Brazil, and I gotexcited to run onthe abundant forested mountain trails I imagined surrounded this community which the internet says abuts a major state park.

I movedin to my new home in Paulo Lopes, and spent all of my time with my new family. They opened there doors to host me here and treat me like a third son. In my second week here, I found time for my first run.Wherever we are in Paulo Lopes, the mountains are there watching from the distance. Mount Tamalpaishas this similarrole back home for the lovely people of Marin.I put on my shorts and went for the hillswhich is really justany direction roughly west, also similar toMarin. To make a long story blog sized, I didn’t reach the mountain trail of my dreams, only a private farming road. I headed home sweaty and satisfied anyway. I asked my host father where the trailheads are. He told me there aren’t manyaccessible from our home, and those that exist are for motocross. (Atrail which used to exist was actually owned by his family and led to their popular tourist attraction, the Zanela Waterfall until it was sold after drunk youth died falling down it and caused legal issues.) Hiking isnotdone much by the citizenry of Paulo Lopes. If and when it is, there’s a drive involved. Guess what? It’s not Marin, where every dead end road terminates in a trailhead.

Paulo Lopes, along with a huge portion of Brazil’s populated areas reside within a biome called “Mata Atlantica,” The Atlantic Forest. It’s a forestwhere 1,000 new plant species were discovered between 1990 and 2006. It’s a forest with more variety of trees in one hectacre of land than exist on the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. It’s also a place overshadowed by the Amazon Rainforest, although they are both in dire need of conservation. The majority of the land within the municipality of Paulo Lopes is parkland, and the town staresright in the face of the magnificent Parque Estadual do Serra do Tabuleiro, the land between this state park and the town of Paulo Lopes is practically all private. Youactually enter the park through neighboring municipality Palhoca.This relationship between the municipalitiesis mirrored and magnified at the internationally popular Guarda do Embau Beach. I like to go there on weekends, where I like to “Pegar Jacare” which means to bodysurf and literally translates to “catch the alligator.”The entire beach is a part of Paulo Lopes, but on the other side of the river feeding into the ocean is Palhoca. On that sidesits one hundred percent of the lodging and commerce associated with the beach.

Back to my story now and on to my second run. This time I did my research using Google Maps and that combined with anew sense of familiarity with my neighborhood filled me with confidence for my run. So I went left out of my house and straight up the hill of Sorocaba, running past the awesome sight of a glimmering emerald grass farm backed by Atlantic Forest. Grass farms are cool, and you forget that the sod you buy at Home Depot must be grown somewhere. I got high on the hill, passing a church, and kids giving me shocked looks. Then the distance between homes grew and so did the weeds in their yards. People looked more surprised to see me. It became obvious that I was really in the sticks. The combination of runner’s high and my excitement upon entering a forested part of the road had me feeling like the king of the world. My stride got longer, and the crest of the hill was close. Breaking my rhythm, anangry dog sprinted at me from under a super barbed wire fence and it was all I could do to start sprinting away from it while it bumped against my legs. It went sprinting back behind some chicken coop and under the raised foundation of thishome. Even quicker it flew back at me, and bit me right on the leg.

I gotfar enough away to catch my breath, look at my leg, assess the situation, and use a curse word.

Next, I congratulatedmyself, “Way to take it in stride” although I didn’t really feel anypain thanks to all of the endorphins I was creating. My mind then turned to the imperatives of removing my bloody sock and washing my leg. More important still, how was I topass the house with the dog on my way back? I figured that it was better to go immediatelythan to letmy muscles cool down and sweat turn cold. So I started going.

To be continued…

Thanks for reading through until the end of this blog. I’m very glad you’re interested, and I’m only sorry I didn’t write one earlier. I will now give you some reasons to check back in for my second blog. The first reason actually might turn some people away. I think it’s a nicely intriguing teaser, if a bit gross. You will hear the stories behind my trips to the health post of Paulo Lopes, or “Posto de Saude.” There were more thanfifteen of them and I have plenty more stories about my skinbeing puncturedin one way or another. You’ll also get more insight into how I justified avoiding running again until this weekend, and you’ll be allowed to judge the excuses. Some of these include that I bike for a half hour daily, that my host family will worry about dogs biting me, that its around 90degrees and humid, and my favorite: that I would be imposing my foreign behavior upon anyone who I pass while running and might perturb them as they are enjoying their day.

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Have a great new year