Running holidays don’t come more picturesque than this. RW’s deputy editor, Joe Mackie, experienced what Running Costa Brava has to offer last summer. We spoke to founder and owner Pablo Rodriguez about his remarkable running story and for some running inspiration.
After years as an IT specialist, Pablo decided to change paths and turn his passion for running into a career. Using his knowledge as an ex-professional triathlete, Pablo and his wife Cristina launched running holiday company, Running and Outdoors Costa Brava in 2011. Located in the coastal region of northeastern Spain, the tours allow you to go on holiday while running and exploring the area.
What is your running philosophy?
Running values are very human; running is a means of transportation, a way to get from point A to point B. The most important thing about running is nothing to do with improving your marathon PB, it should be about enjoying it.
What is your personal background in running?
I used to compete as a professional triathlete in my early 20s on the International Triathlon Union circuit, and running was my best sport. Then after a car accident ended my career, I only ran occasionally.
Tell us about your back injury and how you’ve recovered from this?
In 2007, after fighting against sciatica pain that left me with limited mobility, I decided to get surgery so I would be able to at least walk with no pain. My doctor warned me that after my surgery I would not be able to run ever again.
Although this was scary, I decided to try the surgery, which was a success. Following my doctor's instructions, I didn't run for the following three years. I then became unemployed and that's when I decided to give my dream one last try. I always wanted to create a running-while-vacationing business, but with four children to support, I couldn’t leave a steady-income job.
I started to run a few minutes a day, and realising that my back didn't hurt, I kept increasing the frequency in order to gain some shape. Day by day, I began to plan the route for our running vacations, exploring every single corner from Girona to France. I couldn't believe that my doctor was wrong. I was running at least 20K per day during the following four months.
Once the route was finished, we started our business. Our website was almost done and our first customers arrived! It was the most wonderful experience.
But one day I was woken by the familiar leg pain. I was terrified. It was physically impossible for me to keep doing my job with that pain. I tried every option: medicine, creams, hot and cold treatments, but nothing worked.
About a week later I took our second client for a tour. We were about to start when I saw he was wearing a pair of sandals. He told me that running with sandals was the only relief to his back pain. He gave me his sandals, which I started using that same afternoon.
Now, running in sandals, I am able to run between 20 - 30K per day without pain. Whenever I meet my clients for the first time, I always get the same question: ‘Excuse me, are you going to run with sandals?’
Tell us about the principles of chi running?
Chi Running improves running efficiency and reduces your risk of injury by focusing on correct postural alignment, relaxation, balance and mind-body connection. Combining various principles of T’ai Chi such as movement initiating from the centre of mass of the body, cooperation with force and gradual progression, you learn how to develop the skill of running in a very efficient and low impact way.
Is running as much about the spiritual journey as it is physical for you?
The feeling of running full speed downhill in a technical trail is the closest I've ever had to a spiritual experience – there is no thinking or knowledge involved, it’s an instinct.
Why do you think it’s important to share running with your children?
Kids always run with a big smile on their faces. I have four boys, aged between 10 and five. Our favourite family activity is going on hiking or running days in the mountains. I used to believe that running was not suitable for kids, but I now know that it is. For adults, running seems to be a mix of effort, pain and racing, but for children, running is just fun – I'll do what I can to let them keep it that way.
Can you tell us about your running trips?
I believe that the only way to really know a place is to run through it, and that is what we do. I asked my self, what would be my perfect holiday? And we came up with this. We explore the area by running – sleeping one night in a house in the middle of the forest and the next one in a monastery or a lighthouse for instance. We eat local food, do wine tasting and go swimming. One of the main ideas is that we travel by running, so we always move to a different location every night and avoid driving as much as possible.
How important is running to your life?
I feel so lucky that I can run as a job, running is what I do.