Spa retreat (no, not that kind!)

The great thing (among the other great things) about running is that you can do it anywhere. Most runners always pack their kit when going away; not just because we need to get our kilometres in but because we know it’s the best way to explore new, and known, places.

I’ve been very lucky as I have gotten to run in some gorgeous locations; among vineyards of South of France, on the beach in Floria, through the fields in Finland… But all this was blown out of the water by the best running experience I have yet had…

As a bit of background; I grew up in Finland and the normal family would be very into their cars and motorsport. But mine was even more so as my father collected cars (still does, the daft old coot) and still has enough of them to reach double digits (not posh ones so don’t go thinking he’s Jay Leno or something). He loves his cars (Fiats, namely) and is on a mission to (at least briefly) own any car he might have lusted after over the years. As a man hitting the big 8-0 next year, that’s a few! So there is that.

But then there is my godfather whom I have always idolised and he was big into Folk Racing or Jokamies as we call it in Finland. In my mind he was interchangeable with Keke Rosberg (they both had a moustache and were awesome behind a wheel). So most weekends I would join my godparents at a race somewhere in Finland, in the winter on the frozen surface of lakes, and loved every minute. Except if someone unwittingly slighted him because it meant the 7 year old me would have to confront them. And I did.

It turns out that my boyfriend also grew up with cars and racing. His father raced cars as did he. After a break of a good few years from it they are both now back on the track and that has made this a very interesting year. In September we were at Masters Spa 6 Hours at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. As a kid I watched Formula 1 every weekend and it is close to a religion in Finland. Over the years I lost interest as the sport became more about the cars and less about the drivers but I still consider the tracks almost as places of pilgrimage.

To then find yourself at Spa, standing at the pit lane timing our car was a thing of wonder.

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I digress; I could write a book about what an awesome weekend that was but considering that would not have much to do with running or hysterectomy I will try and stick to the topic, loosely as it is.

img_3030It was a surprise to me exactly how hilly the track at Spa is; something that you can’t really appreciate when watching it on television or even in-car footage. We didn’t take part in the actual 6 hour race so that awarded me and The Boy a wonderful opportunity to do a run on the path alongside the track as the race started. And all I can say is – wow!

It was late afternoon, the weather was sunny(ish) and pretty warm. We ran from our hotel right by the track and within minutes were immersed in the sounds of these wonderful cars getting ready to race; Mustangs, GT40s, Jaguars, Falcons.. You name it, they pretty much had it. As we started climbing up the hill that is Eau Rouge (a behemoth), the spectators weren’t sure whether to watch us or the race – we even got shouts of encouragement – the hill is a serious one. As we were climbing, the cars started their exploratory lap to get ready for the race. The Boy kept wanting to stop to watch the cars so every now and again he stopped and I bounced up and down next to him – the people there thought I was mad (and how wrong would they be, really…). The sound was glooooorious and the sight of my beloved Mustangs (and the other cars) was enough to make me want to cry, it was that overwhelmingly life-affirming.

The race started as we were making our way around and to be standing up at Les Combes or Malmedy, watching the cars whizz past… Ladies and gents – my life was complete. The path that we followed allowed us some great views of the race and really made me appreciate the elevation changes of it. And what a way to be able to watch a race!

I feel like I am failing to convey exactly what a glorious run it was and maybe that’s why it has taken me so long to try and write it up. All I can say; this was my kind of Spa retreat!

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