What Goes Up Must Come Down | Running On Istanbul’s Büyük Ada

Long runs are becoming a more and more important element of my training plan. They also remain incredibly difficult to squeeze into my busy schedule, not to mention how complicated it is to try and plan runs over a dozen miles in a crowded metropolis.

Awesome trails, awesomer views.
Awesome trails, awesomer views.

So this weekend I decided to head to the Büyük Ada, or “Big Island,” in the Seas of Marmara. I was there in the Spring with some friends and spied a bunch of cool looking trails. The whole place is really beautiful and peaceful, a great place to churn away the miles. It takes a few hours to get there, but most of the journey is spent on beautiful ferries, so what could go wrong with that?

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who had this idea, and the ferry ride ended up being crammed with people, though was made slightly less uncomfortable thanks to a family of tourists that offered me the built in table between their seats to sit on. After we stopped by literally every other island in the sea (or at least all the big ones) I got there, put on my shoes, grabbed some more water for my Camelbak and took off.

Büyük Ada has basically every surface you could think to run on. Asphalt, gravel, dirt, cobblestone, grass; it’s the perfect place to get variety. Early on I wandered through a lot of beautiful pine needle-covered paths on the front side of island. Then I crossed over to the back half of the island and headed up a cobblestone road that leads to a historic church.

The prize for climbing these crazy hills

This is where I hit the hill that slowed me to a walk. Granted, I had hit hills pretty much as soon as I got there. This island is just a series of giant hills. All of my decisions about where to go next involved some type of “I will have to run back up/down” thought process, but there were no flat areas to stay in.

After I finished limping up the cobblestone I meandered over to a more dirt covered off-shoot. It soon turned into a rocky path that my Merrel Vapor Gloves were in no way suited for. It was incredibly painful as rocks poked into my poor little feet. Also things kept rustling in the bushes, and these two factors led to a lot of talking to myself to try and get through (and maybe a little singing too). A highlight would be the sun-bleached horse bones I found laying across the path, of which I did not take a picture because it was way too creepy and all I wanted to do was gingerly pick my way as quickly as possible.

After I made it back to where people were I refueled like a pro with a cola and a bag of chips and then picked back up to a run for a few more miles of back and forth. As I headed back to the port I also found my way through some “trails” that were really just scruffy little paths in the brush with a lot of portions I had to squeeze through plants on either side. I’m not sure they’re really for running but I felt super epic, especially when I came popping out of the bushes to the surprise of a mountain biker working up one of the real trails.

IMG_4417It was also really fun running through the inhabited part of the island on the way back down, with older people staring at me and little kids squealing “She’s running! She’s running!” to their siblings. The ferry ride home was beautiful, watching the sun set behind the boats.

It was a beautiful day. The views are amazing, and it was great to be out of the city for the afternoon. In ten miles of running I climbed 2,600ft of elevation, so I didn’t make it as far as I had wanted to, but it was still a great run. When I got back off the ferry I logged another three miles or so before I checked in for the night.

So over all, highly recommend Büyük Ada for runs of any length. Just be ready for lots of ups and downs and bring a solid pair of shoes with you.

What, you may ask, am I running in preparation for (since I promised to post about that last week)? I want it to have it’s own dedicated post, so I can’t tell you here (insert evil laugh). But I promise I’m headed to put that up right after this, so you will know soon!


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