Stage 1.5: Barbate – Zahara de los Atunes, Spain

When I start running from Barbate this morning, I’m feeling pretty bright. Today’s stage is much shorter, and I even choose to run along the beach a little bit just for the hell of it. I would’ve gone further, but I know I must rejoin the road and head south-east.

To exit the town, I take a small bridge. No pavement, but I’ve come to expect this, and besides, it’s not too busy. The to the left and right watery landscapes stretch out like soggy paintings. Lovely.
I realise pretty early on that something isn’t right. I have to run in the ditch again, which isn’t pleasant, not only because of the frequent broken glass bottles (are people drinking these in their cars when they throw them out? :S ), but because of the uneven surface. I stumble twice, unusually, and I am more alert; I really don’t want to break my ankle, which is probably certain given the extra weight.
To make up for the discomfort, more aquarellic views waft me towards a higher sense of beauty. These I note and enjoy, but I’ve realised the main problem is not the surface; it’s that my blisters must be more serious than I thought. The wise among you will um and ah and touch your nose and load up the last stage on your screens, in which I run through water. To the wise among you I say, run a mile in my shoes. Preferably more. On a hot baking road, with tarmac reflecting heat upwards. ;) Besides, I’ve run through water lots of times.
To my right, the coast is frequently in view, revealing long, abandoned stretches of sand. I assure you I’m not the one riding the quad-bike! :O
In trying to avoid the road to the left, and there being no path on the beach to the right (and that besides being down a cliff), I run through of land in the middle. It’s uneven, but would normally be just about workable. I eventually rejoin the road, and shortly afterwards pass a gate onto it: military zone, entrance forbidden. Just how was it so easy to run into a military zone, with no sign, no fence, and nothing in any way around except hills and the beach?! By now my feet are not-literally killing.
Whilst I am pondering this puzzlement of signposting, I discover that the hills to the left of the road are a military zone, too. And thankfully, the military have at least not only fenced it off properly, but found an adequate way to guard their spaceships. (Hint: yes, those pointy things on top are horns.)
A little later, I am especially pleased for the signposting on this side, since from such a sign I discover that there are apparently mines… My feet, I know you are anxious to know, have actually got slightly better, but it’s not a good run, and I’m in a fair bit of pain. I’m very relieved to eventually enter Zahara de los Atunes—albeit with an undignified run-walk-limp.
During the last couple of kilometres of the run, I ponder how the last few kilometres of a run often seem to be the hardest. No matter whether it’s 10 km, 20 km, 30 km, or a marathon, those last few steps seem all-too-often much harder than the ones before. (Note from future self: Part of the reason for this is that it turns out I’ve hurt my feet and blistered so badly, I’m losing whole sections of skin, and I can barely walk for a while afterwards, even post-first-aid. :| ) However, I somehow make it, and reflect that these 14 kilometres actually seemed so much harder than yesterday’s 28. Not the ideal way to cross the arbitrary 100-km-mark in the march of Project Snail. Such is life. Checkpoint. 14.2 km (stage) / 105.1 km (total)