Neris River Run - Vilnius, Lithuania
One of the great benefits of travel is the people you meet. I met a nice couple owning a bed-and-breakfast, The Guest House Slenyje, about 30 miles (50k) west of Vilnius, Lithuania near the Neris River. I found their place while searching for a place to stay along the track I had found that roughly parallels the river. My first conversation with him was over email since I was asking how to get from the Vilnius Airport to their place. He quickly offered to pick me up late on Friday when I landed. On the drive in I learned that his wife was a well know specialist in food fermentation and he is an expert fly fisherman who runs tours that attract people from all over the world.
Since we arrived so late, I went straight to bed. Thankfully, I had an eye mask with me since there were no curtains and morning comes early in the Baltics.
I was the only person at the B&B since I was there out of season. That’s my preference as well since it means quiet trails. Soon after I woke up, he brought over breakfast comprising his wife’s fermented specialties:
It was probably the most usual pre run breakfast I’ve ever had! After breakfast I spent about an hour wandering the grounds while I digested breakfast.
I chose this B&B since it was at almost the exact distance I wanted to run from the city and also located right on the trail, nestled within the Neris Regional Park. My run ended up being 34 miles (55k). Just beside the B&B, only a short walk away, you can view the valley from a high point. The park maps says, “The view from the high Neris temple near the café Pušynelis is the most spectacular in the whole regional park.” It was a great way to start the day as it was an indicator of things to come.
It was time to leave as I had a long hot day ahead running to my hotel in the old town of Vilnius. The start was interesting having to cross an extremely ragged and twisted bridge. Was this an omen? After the bridge the path started along a dirt road, then soon turned to follow the river. The river is wide and shallow with dense forest on each side. The views along it were breathtaking with no sounds other than nature. Plenty of opportunities for peaceful reflection.
Even though I planned my route to follow the river I diverted to dirt roads at one point. The reason was that the flies and mosquitoes became insane! On the upside they pushed me to run faster as it was the only way to avoid 10s of them landing on me and biting.
The one area I didn’t plan so well for on this run was for water. I started with 2.5 liters but given the heat it was quickly apparent that would not be enough. Most tracks almost always cross a populated area with a small store or gas station. Here it wasn’t true. I could divert about 6 miles (10k) but didn’t feel like tacking more mileage on. Looking at Gaia GPS I saw a cluster of roads ahead that I assumed would mean commerce. Once there though I realized I was wrong as it turned out to be a large cemetery. I really wish I’d packed my GRAYL water filter at this point (I’ll write more about it in another post). I slowed way down so as not to sweat so much and conserve what water I had.
The rest of the run was beautiful with forest trails, some even with steep ascents. At some points on the trail people had built houses, so I had to divert all the way to the water’s edge. This meant traversing through some tall grasses on the shore. As my disclaimer says, please always research the routes on your own. Trails constantly change for many reasons.
The end of the run was through the Vilnius City Park where I saw many people out enjoying the day and swimming in the river. I stopped at a gas station and got water and a coke since I was dry at this point. I had about 5k remaining which was a nice run through the city. The great thing in Europe is there is almost always a walking path even along the busiest highway.
Sunday morning in Vilnius provided a nice opportunity for a recovery run. The Kalnai Park is located nearby the hotel. Within the park is the Three Crosses. These three large white crosses are located on a large hill. Getting to the top gives a nice leg workout. After seeing the crosses, I finished my run with a pause on a park bench along the river to take in a quiet Sunday morning.
The Neris River was a great place for an ultrarunning destination. Lithuania has much more to explore, but you can’t beat getting to be within this kind of nature so close to a major city.
Vilnius is well connected via many low cost carriers in Europe and the airport is convenient to the city. I found the stay in old town quite nice with many good options and places to go walking. Definitely a great city for a weekend away as an ultrarunning destination.