5:20 am. Punk music – chaotic, poorly recorded, beautiful – jars me awake. After a quickly-brewed espresso, I grab my running backpack. Hoodie, camera, water. And I’m out the door.
A fog drifts through the narrow streets as I walk along the stone pathways to the closest access to the trail system. The cool air is heavy with moisture- a vast departure from the dry desert air I’m used to breathing, but the change of place is welcome.
A few photos, a few minutes of walking, and I’ve arrived. The camera is carefully wrapped in the jacket and placed inside my bag. A quick drink of water, and that returns to its place as well. I ensure my running shoes are tightly laced and I start down the slick pathway. I quickly reach the farthest point a group of us walked to a day earlier, and then everything is unfamiliar.
The trail changes medium, from asphalt to stone to dirt double track and back again. Roads and othe discontinuous paths constantly diverge from the route, and I remain aware of their “correctness” (relative to the trail that circumnavigates Orvieto) only by means of trial, error, and luck. Near the funicular, I choose the left branch – a mistake, something I only realize after a long, muddy hill-climb ends at some farming equipment. I reverse, but not far enough, and find myself in lower Orvieto.
The relentless uphill slog back to the divergence is brutal, but from this point the view is sublime. The camera comes out, capturing the winding path, the rolling fog, and the exposed rock of the hillside in a few dozen frames.
I push on. From here, only brief missteps punctuate the metronomic rhythm of footfalls against the trail. Soon after re-entering a wooded area, golden light pierces the forest, and I stop again to take some photos.
Bombing into the unknown on the next downhill, I make a critical error – I lose traction on the mud at a switchback and I slide out. Blood flows freely from my hand, elbow, and knee. Mud clings on my shirt and shorts. A dull ache radiates from my knee. And a huge smile materializes on my face.
If you can’t laugh at yourself and revel in the freedom – absolute, unbridled freedom – of forsaking a warm, cozy bed to run in a big circle, blow it while going what might be the fastest you’ve ever run and come away little more than scraped and dirty, are you truly alive?
I stand up, walk a few meters and continue running, much to the surprise of the middle-age Italian man who witnessed the fall. A quick “buongiorno!” and we part ways. A few uneventful, but no less beautiful, minutes later on the (to me) untrodden and soon I’m back on familiar ground, feet pounding away at a segment of the path I walked with Sean, Olivia and Xac on our second day in Italy.
Returning to the apartment, I feel incredible. Bloodied, bruised and sore, but incredible. And truly free.