I have had a couple of weeks’ vacation from work, blogging etc. whilst on holiday in Mallorca recently and although I haven’t yet readjusted to our life at home, my teenagers’ established summer routine has already kicked in. It’s funny how quickly they can revert to their default mode of trying to sleep in until almost lunchtime but then again, why wouldn’t they when there is no beach to motivate them to get out of their beds and eat breakfast any earlier? It is more of a culture shock for me to suddenly begin a working week getting up early, having a quick bite and madly rushing out the door. It only makes me pine more for the warmer Spanish weather and lazy breakfasts al fresco eaten only days ago. Although there was that one unforgettable breakfast on the run that I hope will quickly become a distant memory…
But before relaying this saga, I must first confess that running is in my genes and as I married another runner, we tend to go running on holiday and have done so in many other countries. In Mallorca, we ran most mornings along the beautiful coastline of Port D’Alcudia, next to a never ending beach that was quiet except for the few locals working out or going for an early swim amongst the bustle of the cafes opening up. However, after meeting up with a Spanish friend who told us about a nearby natural park that he uses to train for various races, that was so amazing that he happily travelled the hour it took him to get there from his home in Palma, we knew that we had to do it.
Off we went early one morning for what we hoped would be ‘The Run’ of the holiday. But Spain was experiencing a heatwave unlike any seen for years and as the temperature would be heading again towards 37-39˚C, we knew we had to start early and come well prepared. Therefore, we both drank copious amounts of water beforehand until we were bursting and we packed an extra 2L water each and some watermelon in a cool bag for afterwards. We were so keen that we arrived at the park before it was officially open but we snuck in with a couple of locals, studied the park map and decided on doing a straightforward 11.5km loop.
But we didn’t get off to the best start because as soon as we began running we were confronted by a nearby park official who told us that there was no running in the park. She explained that we could stroll, powerwalk and even cycle but as she corralled us back onto the trail she said that there was just no running. As my husband was born and brought up in Spain, this was not a case of something being lost in translation so we began our powerwalk very confused but at least down a beautiful trail, lined with trees and wildflowers. There was not another person in sight although the park was teaming with incredibly noisy wildlife as every bird and cricket competed in a sound off. Maybe it was the din that spurred us on but we began to powerwalk faster and faster until we realised that we were running. But with no one around and with the assurance that our friend regularly ran here, we continued to run by stealth.
As the kms began to grow and it got hotter, I noticed that we had been running for some time alongside bushes of bright yellow flowers of wild fennel that was growing weed-like in every corner of soil. I couldn’t resist pinching some fennel and the overwhelming liquorice-anise scent was only matched by its taste which was incredible.
We ran on and started to stick to the shade as the heat was becoming more powerful and we were beginning to tire. Unfortunately, at this point we came to a fork in the road and with no signage to aid us we could only guess at the likely direction. We carried on for several kms until we began to pass houses with allotments and acres of fig trees. The aroma of figs was sickly sweet in the intense heat but surprisingly, the unripe fruit still clung firmly onto the branches. On we went, getting hotter, thirstier and starting to get a bit hungry. We were also getting a bit fed up as it was now obvious that we had chosen to follow the wrong trail.
We were finally forced to stop and backtrack when we came across a very angry-looking dog that was guarding a house and field where the trail narrowed. Just as we turned around I spotted a couple of very ripe figs drooping off of a branch over the road. Without thinking, I greedily snatched them as the dog started barking like mad and my husband swiftly led me away. He only told me further down the trail that as the dog was not on a lead and the gate was open, we were lucky to not be set upon. Nevertheless, it was the sweetest, juiciest fig I have ever eaten and my hands were covered in sticky syrup.
After several kms, we were finally back on the right trail but by now we were both starting to become dehydrated. There was virtually no shade and the trail started to line a marsh which only made us thirstier. We weren’t carrying any water with us as we should have finished the run by now but the ‘diversion’ and heat had slowed us down so much that we were now running on empty. I kept looking at the marshy water, willing it to turn into something drinkable when I realised that the fields of mammoth clusters of little spongy green fingers was actually samphire. I couldn’t believe that something I have only ever seen behind the fish counter at posh supermarkets was growing in such abundance and feeling absolutely desperate, I chomped on a couple of salty stems. But unsurprisingly, this only made me thirstier.
On we ran, past more marshes and then alongside farmers working in fields full of juicy ripe peppers and tomatoes. By this point I was demonstrating all of the textbook symptoms of dehydration and feeling absolutely terrible. But with no shade or refuge, we had no choice but to carry on through the intense heat. I failed miserably to distract myself from the fact that I was overtired and was burning up and with still more than 2km to go, I was beside myself with anger at the stupidity of getting into such a reckless situation. But just at the point of really losing it—or to be honest, a little after that—we spotted some blackberry bushes and thirstily devoured the jammy berries like bad tempered grizzlies. Those berries managed to get us to the end of the trail, with just enough energy to stumble to the car where we down our drinks in seconds.
As we collapse in the shade drinking, eating and trying to recover I notice a sign for the entrance to the park that we had not seen earlier. It contains numerous icons depicting forbidden activities at the park including fishing, lighting fires, camping and of course—running. But in the corner I notice another which clearly shows a hand and a flower symbolising ‘no picking’ and I realise that our breakfast on the run had broken not just 1but 2 park rules. Feeling like a greedy Bear Grylls outlaw but knowing that we would have been in a worse state if we hadn’t helped ourselves to nature’s all-you-can-eat, we sheepishly head home. We are still none the wiser about the running ban and perhaps it was sheer arrogance to disregard the park official even with our friend’s assertion but at least half of the run would qualify as staggering. In any case, I will not be repeating this breakfast on the run anytime soon.
Now for the recipe. I thought I would come up with something that combined at least some of the flavours of the wild breakfast and what better way to do this than in a bread. This recipe for Blackberry, fig & fennel bread is very easy to make and does not require you to illegally forage for the ingredients although, I suppose that depends on where you pick your blackberries…