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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 06 April 2019
GREECE 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 APRIL 2019 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Monique’s magnificent marathon A runner outlines her experience at the majestic roads to Rhodes MONIQUE ANGELIDES 'Kalimera' he mumbles without looking up at me as I pass him. His familiar greeting welcomes me every morning as I begin my run. For as long as I can remember, he has positioned his fruit cart in front of Elli Beach. His early rise is habitual, as is mine. At this time of day, he is but a silhouette, as the sun is still shy. Unbeknownst to him, his greeting is something that I yearn to hear as I pass him every morning. Strangely, it acknowledges that I have returned to Rhodes, my father's birthplace. That I've made it back to this stunning island that is so familiar and yet, still so unknown to me. Just like the fruit seller who has made his mark on the paved street next to the casino, I too am about to make my own small mark on the pavement once again. I pass him, responding with a quick 'kalimera' too. As always, his fruit looks fresh and ripe. Each morning that I whisk past him, I silently pray that he sells every single piece from his rickety old cart. He will never hear or know my daily wishes. I will not tell him nor will I stop to talk to him. He is unaware that his greeting marks the beginning of my own ritual. No one does. Only I know that for the next hour the road ahead is mine. The early rise is just mine. I run… Runners pass through the town on the Rhodes Marathon. PHOTO: ROADS TO RHODES SITE There's not a single step that I take throughout these mornings in Rhodes where I don't remind myself of where I am, how blessed I feel to be running here again. In Melbourne, the landscape is completely different. By comparison, we are a very young city, quite spoilt for choice when it comes to parks, bike and running tracks. In contrast to Rhodes, where the ancient and the modern position themselves elegantly and harmoniously next to each other like two ageing dancing partners. In the heart of the city alongside the main port, stands the 'Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes' built in the 14th Century. This is surrounded by the medieval city and the fortress built to protect its once inhabitants. Within these walls you will find both wide and narrow lane ways, discover small alcoves or windy paths that seem to have no end. It is during these early runs that I've dared to venture into these crannies and allowed myself to get lost in this tiny city. To weave my way through this majestic labyrinth is simply thrilling because for a few moments you feel transported back to another time. Only to change direction and hear the crescendo of empty bottles being collected, the street sweepers completing the mandatory 'clean up', whilst seeing throngs of barflies spill out of the countless number of clubs and taverns looking slightly weary, as they welcome the morning with the customary frappe and cigarette, or gelato and souvlaki. These sounds fade as I make my way through another arched gate to venture out into the streets once again, leaving behind me the medieval city that truly does have a pulse of its own. As I head south leaving the 'Old Town' I can still feel the hand laid small cobblestones and pebbles under my feet. I come out to face the west side of the palace and I run on the newly placed wooden planks as I head back towards the entry to the Gates of St. Paul. It is a subtle but beautiful entry point with a crunchy, gravelled surface that is protected by its own fortress and look out points. This gateway represents another important historical landmark of the city's architecture. Further along past the marina are the famous deers that are raised on five metre columns on either side marking the entry port of Mandraki, where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood tall in approximately 300BC. And beneath these ancient columns young lovers sit on their Vespa's sharing a moment in silence as they too witness another sunrise together. At almost every corner, at every turning point in this city, there is a paradox. Unequivocally there is no comparison between parks or running tracks and Rhodes. To run in a city where history, modernism, culture and beauty envelope you no matter where you run. This contrast is my nirvana. Time moves us forward and the decision to participate in the 'Roads to Rhodes Marathon' was finally made in 2018. My leave was approved and being a teacher, the date was conveniently aligned with the term holidays, as well as a coinciding with a milestone birthday. Yes, the big 50. And so it began, the actual 'training' for the event. As all runners know, it's the kilometres you 'clock up' and the training you go through to get you to that point of readiness for a marathon that count. Although I certainly don't look like your typical runner, I am no different in knowing the importance of consistent training. No different from constantly telling myself, particularly when the body starts to ache to 'Keep going, push through, just keep breathing'. And so I do. As the weeks go by, I find myself becoming fitter and dare I say stronger. For a runner, even an ageing one like me, these are all important boxes to tick. I've earned these stripes as I've lined Ikon Park and the running track near my home with thousands of my steps, each one inching me closer to my goal. Now, only days remain be- fore my departure to Greece and upon my arrival, the training will continue in the Rhodes marathon is a race like no other The 6th International Roads to Rhodes Marathon will be held on Sunday, 14 April. The race has the official approval of AIMS and IAAF, en- suring international recognition of the top sports event of the South Aegean. The marathon is picturesque with runners racing through some scenic locations, starting from the centre of the town with courses by the beach and through the medieval city of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Apart from the marathon, there are also shorter courses, such as the half marathon and 10K, 5K and 1000m run for children. Runners from at least 45 countries have already confirmed their participation. Apart from the race, there is also a pasta party, free for all runners prior to the race, so that they can stock up on carbs before the big day. early hours of the morning alongside my cousin in Chania, Eleni Stagaki, a wellknown 'dromea' and triathlete in Crete. The following week, I travel to Rhodes just days before I take my place in the marathon. There is no excitement yet, for my mind is still in 'training' mode. The butterflies still dormant in my stomach as there are still kilometres to cover. I look forward to writing about my experiences in the marathon that takes place on Sunday 14 April. To be surrounded by the excitement and the energy from other runners is part of what makes marathons so exciting. The atmosphere is almost palpable and the vibe is always positive. There are two important landmarks that I look forward to passing. Firstly, to be able to make it up and around 'kato petres' – this is a small stretch of road that separates the city from the neighbouring towns. Albeit very short, it does incline and admittedly throughout my runs, I have never ventured that far, in fact I have deliberately avoided it. I have run no further than a few metres past the most significant monument of all, which brings me to the final landmark. This is perhaps one of the most important statues on the island. That being the statue of the famous Olympian 'Diagoras' who is held up by two of his three sons who were also Olympians. Every Rhodian knows the historical significance of this statue and how this great man was said to have achieved the greatest sense of peace and victory both as an athlete and as a father. I look forward to running past this glorious statue, reminding myself that no matter who you are, how old you are or what you look like, through perseverance and determination, you can accomplish anything you set out to achieve.
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13 April 2019