When most people think honeymoon, they don't usually think of fitness. After the craze of planning a wedding, lying on a chaise lounge with a cold cocktail in your hand halfway around the globe has a way of sounding that much more glorious. (Related: How to Use Your Vacation to *Actually* Relax)
But exercise is a huge stress reliever for me, so when my husband Christo and I planned our honeymoon to Italy, I knew a few pairs of sneakers would make their way into my suitcase. They'd help me to run off jet lag and keep anxiety at bay. I *also* knew, though, that no matter how much I told myself I'd work out, two weeks of red wine and pizza, the windy roads of Italy's Amalfi coast (read: definitely not runner-friendly), and less-than-stellar hotel gyms could easily keep me from exercise.
Then I signed up for a half marathon taking place six days after my honeymoon. Now, I'm not a big goal-setter, but signing up for a half—The Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon, a race I've always wanted to do—with one of my best friends seemed like a good challenge.
I hit the hotel's treadmill for a three-and-a-half-mile run our first day in Italy. I probably would have done that whether I was running the race or not (cardio helps ease my jet lag). But the next two sessions—fast mile-and-a-half runs with some weights in the mornings before we went out for a full day of sightseeing—definitely wouldn't have happened.
In fact, one of the most defining parts of our honeymoon happened 100 percent because of this race. On our second day in Tuscany, Italy's wine region, we woke up at a lovely little bed and breakfast called L'Olmo, just outside the Renaissance village of Pienza. We ate breakfast near the hotel's infinity pool which, overlooking miles of rolling green hills and vineyards and surrounded by daybeds adorned with billowy white curtains, looked like something from your dreams. The temperature was perfect. The sun was out. We could have sat there all day with Aperol spritzes without a complaint in the world.
But I had 10 miles to run. The night before (albeit after a few glasses of wine), I had mapped out what appeared to be close to that distance. Christo had agreed to bike alongside me on one of the property's rental mountain bikes. (It helps that he is also a college tennis coach, so he's always up for a workout.) When we told other honeymooners staying at our hotel about our plan, they seemed … surprised. One couple said they didn't even pack their sneakers. Another told us they gave up exercise during their trip. (No shame; everyone is different!)
Christo and I figured that on top of my sneaking in a last long run, a lengthy bike-run trip would be a different way to familiarize ourselves with the area and get to see wine country by foot.
It was stunning.
For hours, I ran, and Christo biked along dirt paths lined by Tuscany's iconic cypress trees, stopping for photo ops. We made our way past farm stands and wineries and local restaurants. We picked grapes. I ran up and down busier, hilly roads that connected medieval towns surrounded by fortresses. He flew down high hills on two wheels. Every few minutes, turns opened up to awe-inspiring fields of vineyards and pastures. It was the Tuscany you read about and see in the aerial shots of movies and magazine covers.
And although I miscalculated the distance of our excursion—we ended up running and biking about 12 miles—we finished in a hillside town where we found a hole-in-the-wall lunch spot for sandwiches and Italian beer.
After that wine-country-almost-half, I didn't run until we reached a whitewashed hotel called Casa Angelina, built into a cliff on the Amalfi coast. It was a few days later and toward the very end of our trip. Knowing I couldn't go too many days without pounding pavement, I forced myself out of bed before the sun one morning to run 45 minutes on the treadmill—which just so happened to overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea, dreamy Positano, and the island of Capri in the distance. It felt good. I sat down at breakfast feeling accomplished and energized.
The Half Marathon
Don't get me wrong, the race was still hard. In part that's because the course is a notoriously hilly one through Boston's park system, the Emerald Necklace. The weather was also that muggy-meets-cloudy kind of warm where on the one hand you're happy the sun isn't shining, but on the other, you feel like you're in a steam room. But mostly, it was hard because that jet-laggy feeling still lingered.
Fortunately, at mile 11, it started to pour—a welcome cooldown after a hot race. And when we crossed the finish line (just a few minutes after the two-hour mark!), I knew the race had been the perfect antidote to jet lag and a great way to stay on-track with fitness. It also helped in crafting a successful honeymoon full of exploration and activity and fun. (Related: Exactly What to Do—and Not to Do—After Running a Half Marathon)
If I hadn't planned for the half, I'm sure I would have snuck in a few workouts on my honeymoon, but I definitely wouldn't have had something to look forward to, something to work toward, and something to be proud of when those post-wedding, post-honeymoon how-did-everything-happen-so-quickly? feelings snuck up.
Most importantly, I certainly wouldn't have made that 12-mile trek around the Tuscan countryside that day. That day is one that we've reminisced about every few days, thinking back to the sights and the sounds and the energy—memories more valuable than the medal.