I've been out running every morning since I've been in Portugal - that's 5 consecutive days. 3 of them have been proper runs (i.e. on my own at my own pace), 2 of them with a friend who's just starting. I'm taking those as short, easy, recovery runs but the trouble is the guy I run with is very ambitious, 16 years younger than me and he keeps pushing too hard. I cruise past him on the hills as he's gasping for breath and tell him he's pushing too hard, but he won't accept it and as soon as it's flat again he tries to zoom off. And increase the length of the runs too quickly (20 mins, 25 mins and 30 mins). I personally don't want to overdo it and end up in a competition on my "easy" days and it would do him good to slow down, but he won't. So I probably won't go with him tomorrow.
But today I headed off early for a longer run with the intention of exploring new areas. The start was familiar ground, over the fields to avoid the "killer" dogs, then through the vinyards and pine forests down towards the nearest village. But instead of heading into the village I turned off past the sad-looking boxer, tied up in a field of sheep, who doesn't even bark when I go past him and ran up the really steep hill to the turkey farm. We can hear them in our garden about 2 km away, gobbling at regular intervals, but up here they really stink, so I'm glad the path is tarmac and I can run relatively fast. And then I'm in new territory. The turkey path turns off away from our area and in theory it should do a big loop bringing me back to familiar territory. I think. I'm now running next to cabbage fields, there are a few farm workers out and I greet everybody with my standard "bem dia" or "hola", but basically I have the world to myself. The path does a big loop. A very big loop. And comes out somewhere. To be honest I don't really know where, and have to rely on my sense of direction. There is a wood of eucalyptus trees up ahead and I think I need to go there. And there's a man walking his dogs at the entrance. I stop and point down the path, trying to think of the official name of our track "casal de cara.....?" I falter, but he completes the name, confirms the route, and then wishes me what sounds like "bon courage" which makes me laugh. I realise I've seen him before, not too far away from our holiday home, he may not recognize me personally but he knows I belong to that bunch of Germans and where I live, so I am reassured and with renewed confidence I head into the woods. But it's not the copse I expected it to be and 500m later I have to make another decision. There is a signpost to a village near us, which I still can't see any sign of, or a signpost to somewhere else. If I end up in the village I'll be about 3k from home, and I need to be back soon. Plus it's quite a big village and who knows where I'll land. But it's a familiar name so I head down the track.
Finally things start to fall into place, a huge mast on a hill is a familiar landmark and then I reach the proper copse of eucalyptus and I KNOW WHERE I AM! The last 1.5 km are my speediest as I bomb down the track, punching the air. Another piece of the jigsaw puzzle has fallen into place. My sense of direction didn't let me down. And I even had a mini conversation in Portuguese and got to stroke some dogs. Exhilarated I get home and don't mention the fact that I wasn't far short of calling them to come and pick me up. But I wouldn't have been able to tell them where I was, so it wouldn't have been much use anyway!