I arrived in Bailleul, gateway to the range of mountains. After passing through Grand’Place, I decided to park next to the sports complex.
I wasn’t yet technically in the mountains, but I’d have a few kilometres of flat running before tackling the uphill stretches.
It was time to go; I tied up my shoelaces and I was ready to try my luck on the paths.
I headed towards St Jans Cappel and the Mont Noir, and I was immediately captured by this impression of calm and abundance on these little pathways. From my first strides, I could already contemplate my goals for the day: the Mont Noir, the Mont des Cats, and further away I could make out the gentle slopes of the Mont Rouge or the Mont Kemmel but this Belgian part of the range would be for another day.
The kilometres went by, the pathways unfurled, the landscape became more and more undulated, always curved, round and smooth; I was sort of drawn into the route, my legs were responding well, so I continued my discovery.
I tackled the hills like a running pro. This playground is accessible but demanding. I was continually recovering from my efforts but the views that I discovered pushed me forwards to see more. From St Jans Cappel, I headed into a forest of beautiful beeches and hornbeams, then at a turn in the path and past an abandoned farm, there was a view that takes your breath away (but not too much, I needed the air!) over the village and further away, the city of Melusine and its belfry.
I continued on my way, crossing through fields and pastures to get to new hills, scattered with straight posts on which green gold AKA hops would grow this summer.
I went back down and headed towards the famous Mont des Cats and its almost bicentenary Trappist abbey. Once again, another forest, the smell of the undergrowth reminded me of some walks I’d been on, and the feeling of coolness was overwhelming. I continued my run and got to the foothills of this Mount, with a panoramic view over the Flemish plain, and I could see the Lys flowing peacefully in the background, Hazebrouck, meaning “hare’s marsh”, which is aptly named in its basin, and here and there, the latest landslides around Strazeele or Merris.