24 November 2016
This morning was mostly about resting, sitting on a sunbed by the pool reading in fact. Commando wasn’t reading, he was mostly snoozing, because he had the first race of the Cyprus International 4 Day Challenge ahead of him. When I got fed up with reading and my eyes began to close I went for a little wander in the hotel grounds admiring the bourganvillia growing in huge stone pots in shady areas. There was no time to wander any further, besides, I needed to conserve my energy because, one way or another, I had a bit of a walk ahead.
Just before three o’clock Commando changed into his running kit and we headed for the start line. The time trial began on the beachfront outside our hotel so we didn’t have far to go to the start. Although we’d both had a good look at the course on the 2:09 Events website, neither of us were really sure what the time trail would entail.
The little crazy paved promenade beside the beach was already crowded with runners when we arrived. We chatted to a few and discovered each runner would set off at ten second intervals in the order of their race number. Times would be measured by the chip in the race number and timing mats at the start and finish. This left me with a bit of a dilemma. Earlier Eddie had seemed keen for me to walk the race with him. Obviously I wouldn’t be competing but, having seen the route, I was pretty sure I was up to the task. His number was fifteen though and Commando’s was fifty one. If I walked with Eddie it would mean I’d miss Commando starting and finishing. The dilemma was solved when Eddie said he might run some of the course, letting me off the hook.
Soon the first group of runners lined up and, one by one, they set off. Slowly, everyone shuffled forwards. Eventually, Commando was at the front beside, Mike who was poised with his stopwatch. When Mike gave the word, Commando sprinted off.
Whist we’d been waiting a plan had been forming in my head. The course entailed heading up the hill towards the restaurants before doubling back onto Coral Bay Avenue and Sea Caves Road where there were a lot of twists and turns on and off the coastal path to make up the distance. Rather than walk the whole course, I decided to head straight along Sea Caves Road, missing out all the twiddly bits. Although I’d still have no chance of seeing Commando finish the race, it would be quicker and I’d probably get to the finish before dark.
It took me a while to get through the waiting runners and there was a quick stop to use the loo before I set off. As I reached the point where the runners were coming back down the hill towards Coral Bay Avenue I stopped to look at their race numbers. Most were in the forties so I guessed Commando would be coming past soon, unless I’d already missed him. While I was standing dithering, I spotted him at the top of the hill. Because I’d been planning to walk with Eddie I didn’t have my fancy camera with me but I did have my phone and just enough time to get ready to capture him as he reached the corner.
As he passed I shouted “Go Spitfires,” and he looked my way, giving me a thumbs up. All along Sea Caves Road, runners were whizzing past me. In true Spitfire fashion I cheered each one. At one point a taxi pulled alongside me and asked if I wanted a lift. Of course I declined, although, after he’d sped off, I wondered if it might not have been a good idea, at least I’d have got to the finish before Commando.
There was no time for sightseeing as I followed the road I’d walked with Eddie and again with Sue. It was all about marching along as fast as I could past the marshals on the corners where the route diverted. A couple thought I was part of the race and was going the wrong way so I had to stop to explain.
When I passed the sign for Yailos Tavern I knew I was getting close to the finish at the Edro III and I was feeling pleased with myself for making such good time. What I meant to do was turn off along the track where we’d seen the tractor. The trouble was, there were so many little tracks beside banana plantations I wasn’t quite sure which one it was. When, after what felt like about the right distance, I came to one that looked familiar I turned down it, keeping my eye out for the tractor as I walked.
After a while of looking at nothing but banana plants I began to suspect I was on the wrong track but I kept going, thinking I could probably still get out onto the cliff path and work out where I was from there. After what seemed like a great deal more walking than I’d expected I came to a dead end. To my right there were rows and rows of pomegrantate trees. Perhaps, if I walked through them, I’d end up on the tractor track? Surely it must be close by, running parallel to the trail I’d taken?
By this time the light was beginning to fade so, feeling slightly worried, I walked as quickly as I could along the rows of pomegranate trees. After a while I reached another dead end. The tractor trail may have been beyond the line of trees somewhere but I had no way of getting to it. Now I was beginning to panic. If I turned back the way I’d come I knew I’d get back to the road eventually but I’d have added a lot of distance to my walk. Instead I turned left through the rows of pomegranates, hoping to find my way back to the original track. All the while I was worried the owner of the farm would find me and wonder why I was trespassing in his fields. If he did I wasn’t sure he’d understand my explaination.
It was a relief when I got back to the banana plants but I was still quite some way from the road. As I stomped towards it it occurred to me I’d probably have been better off just following the race route, I’d added so much distance with my accidental detour.
A little further along the road I saw a marshal on the corner and knew I’d reached the final twiddle in the route before the ship. The tractor trail would be just ahead but I daren’t risk heading for it for fear of taking another wrong turning so I took the race route instead. By this time the sun was very low in the sky, the shadows of the runners coming past me were long and the light had that golden quality that comes just before sunset.
Around the corner the finish arch was in sight and it wasn’t long before I spotted Commando standing cheering on his competitors. The race had gone well and, for once, he wasn’t even grumbling about his finish time. As I’d missed the chance to take finish photos I ushered him to the cliff edge to get a post race picture with the Edro III in the background before the light went completely.
The wonderful golden light and the sinking sun reflected on the sea made this a fantastic place to finish the race and, despite not having my fancy camera with me, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. More than two hundred people had started the race, so plenty were still out on the course, including Sue and Eddie. It would be a while before the first coaches began to head back to the hotel so I left Commando to his cheering and wandered off towards the ship.
There was something slightly surreal about standing alone on the edge of the cliff with the shipwreck silhouetted by the golden ball of the sun as it edged ever closer to the horizon. The runners and the finish line were far enough away that I couldn’t hear them above the sound of the crashing waves and it felt as if I was the only person in the world.
After a whike I realised I’d better head back towards the race before the light faded any more. Wandering about on a rutted, rock strewn path on the cliff edge in the dark didn’t seem like a great plan. The white of the cliffs had taken on a buttery tinge as I made my way back, giving the rock formations and the caves an otherworldly feel. I could almost imagine dragons hiding inside.
Runners were still coming in when I got back to the finish line. While I searched the crowd for Commando I snapped a few photos with the sunset and the ship as a backdrop. The golden glow was turning to burnt orange as I watched, a hint of watermelon at the edges. I wished I’d been able to capture Commando crossing the finish line in such colourful surroundings.
This was when I got my second unwanted view of a naked man in as many days. One of the runners had had an unfortunate shorts issue. Rather than going somewhere private like the row of portaloos hidden discreetly behind some trees, or behind the trees themselves, he decided to change his shorts on the edge of the cliff in full view of everyone. Despite averting my eyes, the image of an elderly naked man is not one I will soon forget. Sadly, there is no way to unsee such things.
Commando found me round about then and also got a view he hadn’t bargained for. If it hadn’t been for the naked man I might have asked him to pretend to be finishing the race so I could get the shot I wanted but there was no way of doing that without also capturing the very thing we were both trying hard to to look at. In the end, I settled for him posing with his race bag angling the phone away from any public nudity.
By this time the runners had slowed to a trickle. Yolanda and the marshalls were beginning to pack things away and people were making their way towards the coaches. I was half reluctant to leave while to sun was still up. I wanted to savour every last moment.
We found Sue and, with her walking behind us, slowly made our way towards the road. To Commando’s annoyance, I kept turning back to watch the sun ripening to the colour of blood orange with layers of deep, pomegranate red where it met the horizon. We reached the coach as it finally sank into the sea and the inky sky began to close in. It felt like the perfect end to the first race of the Cyprus Four Day Challenge.
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