Running The Camino De Santiago

What is the Camino

The Camino Frances is a 790 km pilgrimage route from St. Jean Pied de Port (a small town in the French Basque Country) to Santiago de Compostela. It’s the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago network and is walked by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year. 

The Camino starts in France, crossing the Pyrenees mountain range into Spain. It crosses four autonomous Spanish communities and seven provinces: Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y León (Burgos, Palencia, León), and Galicia (Lugo, La Coruña). There are 141 towns providing a serviced town (at least one bar or grocery store) every 6 km. 

Accommodation is facilitated by 270 hostels for pilgrims, of which 102 are publicly owned (by an administration, religious community or association) and 170 are privately owned. There are also plenty of pensions, rural houses, hostels and hotels. In warm weather there’s the possibility to sleep outside under the stars.

This infrastructure of shops and beds, make it ideal as a long distance running route, where the towns can serve as aid stations for food, water and sleep.

The longest distances without services are: 

  • from Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza (17 km);
  • from the Orisson refuge to Roncesvalles (17 km), 
  • from Villamayor de Monjardín to Los Arcos (13 km); and 
  • from Villafranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega (12 km). 

Most pilgrims walk the Camino in 33 days, called stages, which averages about 24 km / day. This allows time to explore the local culture and build friendships along the way. It is always nice to see a familiar face for a communal meal at the end of the day, even if you spend the day on your own.

Why I Want to Run The Camino

I walked the Camino Frances eleven years ago and had a great experience culturally and spiritually. By travelling light in an unstructured manner, one gets a great sense of freedom. I had always wanted to go back and do it again, but this time I wanted to incorporate my enjoyment of running into it.

The last time I walked the Camino, I followed the John Brierley guidebook. A guidebook is not essential but useful for a greater appreciation of the culture and history and serving as a stage planner which brings together other pilgrims following the same guidebook. Following the recommended stages allows you to get to know other pilgrims finishing the same stages each day. 

My plan is to do the daily stages just as I had walked them, but running them instead. Not necessarily running each stage continuously, but punctuating it with stops for breakfast, lunch, photo opportunities and visits to local attractions. So it won’t be a case of running, say 24 km to the next destination, but more like: running five kilometres, then having breakfast; running another five, then visiting a cultural monument; and then maybe after another ten km having lunch. In other words, I’ll stop when I feel like it. The only real rule is that when I’m moving, I’m running. 

It’s not a race, but a way to embrace the spirit of the Camino while also incorporating my love of running.

Running The Camino

The Camino could be considered like a self-supported multi-stage ultra event, running about a half marathon every day. “Self-supported” means availing of any support that is equally available to everyone, such as an albergue or a shop for food, but while still carrying everything that you need.

This is similar to a self-supported FKT (Fastest Known Time) event, except it’s not about being the fastest, but rather about doing it as enjoyable, easy running that is slow enough to allow for reflection. 

Camino Primitivo – Completo

Midway upon the journey of my life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost


After a hard push through the last few days, I’ve just finished the Primitivo.
The Camino has a special significance over long-distance walks in that it has a long tradition of Pilgrimage. People often walk pilgrimages expecting a road to Damascus conversion but that seldom happens and when it does it’s usually short-lived or superficial. Finding real meaning is a process that can take a lifetime. Walking is a good way to reconnect with nature and by extension with oneself.

Walking is the perfect pursuit because it’s so accessible to so many; it has low impact (both to the body and the planet); it’s cheap; and it’s great for your mental health. It doesn’t even require trips to exotic locations. Some of the best walking can be done from your own front door.

People often travel to far flung places to escape from themselves, but the fact is that wherever you go, there you are.

They change the sky, not their soul, who run across the sea.

Horace, Roman Poet

Yourself always turns up no matter how far you travel. Walking in nature surrounded by mountains and forest is the best type of walking, as it allows you to connect outside yourself with nature and reconnect with your unique innate self.
If the mountains and forest are not accessible to you, then becoming an “urban hiker” around your own city is beneficial too.

Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home.

Ralph Waldo Emerson 

So where to next is the question. As a minimalist and non-materialist, I have come to value experiences over possessions. But now I have to ask myself, am I trading one of societies old addictions for one of societies new addictions and at what cost. Are experiences becoming the new possessions at the cost of making real connections.

Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we are addicted to experience and novelty. And the end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s real, sometimes suffer.

Mark Manson

For the moment, I want to explore my own country more.

My next overseas trip will probably be to the Kom-Emine, a 720 km high altitude route, in Bulgaria. This is much wilder and more isolated trek than doing a Camino route.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! Happy Travels!

Primitivo – Day 06 – Grandes de Salime

After yesterday’s breath-taking walk, today’s walk was a bit more mediocre with mainly road-walking around the Salime hyrdo Station.

Since I have started this walk, I have stayed in the municipal Albergues for €5 / night. Tonight the Albergue is €6 / night.

These Albergues are great value containing all the facilities that you might need, such as warm showers, full kitchen facilities. There is also a choice if private Albergues which cost between €10 and €12 which offer more such as free WiFi and so forth.

As an extreme outdoor person, I have hiked in the wildernesses for weeks without a shower, so having a shower every day is beginning to feel decant, but still nice.

My pilgrims credencia is filling up with a history of where I’ve been with many blank spaces for where I will be going. Life is a blank book with each new chapter waiting to be written.

Primitivo – Day 05, via Hospitales

The route from Borres to Berducedo, via Pico Hospital, is a stunning route. Starting sr 7:30 there was no let up in the awesome beauty of the landscape.

The route quickly climbs to an elevation of 1200 metres giving exceptional vistas of the local mountains and the Pico de Europa in the distant.

Farm animals relaxing the sun along tge way.

A few cows blocking the path.

Mainly open mountains but also beautiful forests.

This is spectacular landscape. Definitely the best Camino for landscape.

Primitivo – Day 04 – Borres

Today has become a rest day with only 15 km walked. There is very little in Borres except one very basic Albergue and a small bar.

A folk singer and songwriter from Forth Worth, Texas kept us entertained with very good music.

One beer, became two, which became cider which became wine.

Well it is Sunday so it’s probably proper to treat it as a day of relaxation and feasting.

Despite being around lots of people, I’m beginning to feel somewhat lonely now. I just have this feeling of melancholy and sadness about goals that have fallen by the wayside and people who are no longer part of my life.

Long-distance walking can be brutal in forcing you to think about things you would rather forget. It’s a time you come face to face with your own vulnerability and mortality. It’s a time to consider what it’s like to be truly alone in the world.

Long-distance walking can be like this, where without the daily diet of distraction, you have the time to experience these waves of emotions from euphoria to sadness.

Well tomorrow is another day. By all accounts, the harder variant though hospitales tomorrow is the best section of the whole Camino Primitivo. We shall see…

Camino Primitivo – Day 03 – Tineo

This is undoubtedly the best Camino that I have walked.

Picos de Europa

I make this comparison with the two Caminos which I have already done — the Camino Frances in 2013 and the Camino Norte in 2017. It is certainly more strenuous, but well worth the effort.

The whole lush green alpine vista is breathing-taking. If it’s possible to fall in love with a place, then this has to be the place.

Most of today has been spent walking in the shadow of the majestic Picos de Europa – the main mountain range in the north western part of Spain. I am very tempted to return here alone with a tent and spend a few weeks traversing and camping in these fine mountains with only the sound of nature.

On walks like this, there is a real letting go of what is wrong with the world today and just doing something so simple that dates back to our distant ancestors.

Tonight, I’m staying in another Municipal Albergue for €5 / night.

On this caminio, I have met ten Spanish, four French, three Americans, two Canadian, one Swede, one German and one Israeli. The Camino has a very cosmopolitan feel to it.

My pilgrim’s credencia is expanding with good memories.

Live is too short for one not to appreciate the wonder in it all. We spend too many hours running around taking ourselves much too seriously, when we should just be letting go and living the one life that we’ve got.

“Buen Camino” means “Good Journey” which can also be taken metaphorically.

Buen Camino!

Camino Primitivo – Day 2 Salas

The walk today is truly stunning with more Alpine-like features.

My pilgrims credencia is beginning to fill out nicely with a good memento of where I’ve been, but not necessarily where I’m going.

The Camino is not just about the walk, it’s about the people that you meet along the way and the time you take to think about what is important.

Today, I met David from Canada and Ravit from just outside Tel Avive, Israel.

David from Canada on the left. Ravit from Israel on the right.

Apparently, Ravit is Hebrew for “I quenched you’re thirst” or something like that.

Speaking of thirst, the water infrastructure on this route is superb with water fountains every few kilometers.
Today, I am staying in Salas, which is an exceptionally beautiful village with Alpine-like vistas.

After a long day of walking, I have availed of the Menu del Peligrino, which consisted of six courses. Yes, you’ve read right. Six courses including a complementary bottle of wine for the princely sum of €9.50. The Albergue tonight will cost €5.

Camino Primitivo – Day 01 Grado

Starting the Primitivo from the Cathedral in Oviedo.

This is a beautiful Camino which I would describe as quite country roads and beautiful alpine-like scenery.

It reminds me a bit of Austria but with much cheaper prices and a very friendly people.

Along the way, I meet another countryman, Cathal from Donegal and Corey from Minneapolis in Minnesota, USA. After 13 km my fellow Countryman bailed for the day and so I continued on to Grado with Corey.

At the end of the walk, I stay in a Municipal Albergue, which works on a donation basis of €5 per night including breakfast.

Checking into the Albergue, I’m greeted by two very friendly hosteleros, Herman and Sita, both from Holland, in Nijmegen and Friesland respectively.
Herman tells me I should do the greatest walk in the world, which happens to start from his hometown, Nijmegen, and is called the Walk of the World – Four Day March.

Later, I had a “Platos Combinados” consisting of a salad, potatoes and chicken, followed by a desert for €8.

I’m sleeping in a mixed dormitory with 15 other walkers. When staying in an Albergue, the general protocol is a curfew from 10:00 PM and the Albergue must be vacated by 8:00 AM.

A necessary prerequisite for this type of accommodation is a good set of earplugs, as the cost of such a low price is having to endure someone snoring.
A Camino such as this is like a mental reset, just like a fast is a dietary reset. The stamps on the credencia represent not only a physical journey but also a journey of freedom. Walking the Camino, while carrying everything on your back, helps you separate the necessary from the unnecessary, both physically and metaphorically, to truly realise how little you really need. Just basic food, basic shelter and good friends.

Camino Primitivo – Getting Started

The Camino Primitivo starts in the Spanish city of Ovie

Before starting any walk it’s necessary to get to the start of it which for me involved a flight and three busses.

Travelling Light

I’ll be travelling light on this one as I’ll be able to stay cheaply in Albergues (Hostels for Pilgrims) and Monasteries for about €5 / night. However, as a backup, I’ll be packing my trusty bivy bag along with a sleeping bag.

Weight Loss and Menu Del Dia

A walk of this distant would take a typical hiker about six hours per day, causing one to lose about three kilograms of body weight over the entire route. However, it’s worth mentioning that a typical Spanish Menu del Dia, costs about €10, which comprises a three course meal with a complimentary bottle of wine, so finding those extra calories shouldn’t be a problem. Speaking of money, if you’re spending more than €26 per day on total costs including food and accommodation then you’re either doing something wrong or living high on the hog. Walking the Camino should be less than the cost of doing a standard thru-hike through Europe.

Pilgrims Office in Dublin

Before embarking on my journey, I paid a visit to the Pilgrims office in James Street, Dublin. This office is staffed by volunteers who have already walked different routes of the Camino.

People walk different routes of the Camino for many different reasons. Even though it’s a religious route, less than 30% of those who walk it, do it for religious reasons. I, myself, as an agnostic, would like to think that I’m walking this Camino for spiritual reasons or at least an immersion in nature and culture. Perhaps simply being immersed in nature qualifies as being spiritual and then maybe the reasons are do not really that important after all.

The volunteer that I spoke to had some good tales from the Camino. In my enthusiasm, I splashed out on a “celtic” Camino passport for the princely sum of €10.

A Camino passport is necessary to stay in the cheaper Albergues and Monasteries and also as evidence that you have walked the way if you want a Compostela – a certificate stating that you have completed the Camino.

I am not particularly interested in the Compostela, but the passport is a nice memento of the walk. The passport can be had in Spain for between €2 and €5.

The Camino Primitivo

The Camino Primitivo is considered to be the original way to Santiago, when King Alfonso II of Asturias was the first pilgrim to walked there in the year 814CE from his capital, Oviedo, to the present location of Santiago de Compostela. This was a time when most of Spain was under moorish control.

The Primitivo is the fourth most popular Camino behind the Francés, Portugués Central, and Norte, with about 12000 pilgrims walking it every year, which is about 5% of all the walkers on all the Caminos.
As the toughest of all the Caminos, the Primitivo would appeal to more seasoned hikers. Starting at the cathedral in Oviedo, the Primitivo crosses the mountains of the Picos de Europa, while passing through the Spanish provinces of Asturias and Galicia, finishing 320 km later at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
The Primitivo joins the more popular Camino Frances in Melida which is about 50 km from Santiago. The Primitivo section, before it joins the Camino Frances at Melida, is 270 km. The suggested time for walking the Primitivo is 11 days averaging about 25 km a day with 800 metres of ascent.