The voice in my ear gives me the go ahead – I’ve completed my self-imposed time running on roads and forest paths, now Runkeeper says I can go onto the beach. I turn and run towards the gate. “Buongiorno,” says the security guard. “Buongiorno,” I reply, in my Irish accent. I keep my Italian accent for the restaurant, after the second glass of wine.
I run onto the wooden path and take in the first view. Pale yellow sand stretching both sides, further than I can see. A line of colour ahead – the early bird bathers with their striped umbrellas.
A few steps later, I can see it – the dark blue sparkle of the Adriatic Sea, topped by the softer, deeper blue of the Adriatic sky.
I run along the boardwalk, then down onto the soft sand, zigzagging through rainbow towels and multi-coloured sunbathers. Golden Scandinavians, seasoned Italians, and ever-optimistic Celts.
I hit the hard sand and head south, running along the water’s edge. Not fast, because it’s 28 degrees, and because I’m not really, really here for the running.
I see the navy umbrellas in the distance – the daily marker for “far enough”. Maybe I won’t make it today. But I might feel better if I do, so I keep going. And when I get there, I’m glad I kept going and I’m even gladder that I’ve arrived and can stop. Self-imposed rules can be strict. Ish.
I stop and face the sea, stretching my arms behind my head. I close my eyes. Breathing in the sea, breathing out the everything else.
I keep my eyes closed. I think I might look odd but I don’t know anyone here. Sounds drift in and out – parents chattering in different languages, babies babbling in just one. Beach sellers calling attention to cheap sunglasses and beautiful sarongs. And underpinning it all, the quiet swish of waves lapping at the sand.
I open my eyes and start to walk back, slowly, slowly, eking out every step and every second. At the boardwalk, I turn again to look at the sea. It’s the second last day. And though we’ll be here for sandcastling and swimming this afternoon, and maybe back for a dusk-time walk tonight, and definitely back for a run of sorts tomorrow morning, I’m already nostalgic for this place I haven’t left yet. I’m happy-sad at the future memories that will come when I’m not here anymore. It’s only been two weeks, but with this holiday relationship, it was love at first sight.