Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Running Wild!

6:40 am: Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep beep beep beep beep. Bang. Ugh. Fuck me.

6:50 am: After drinking a glass of fresh orange juice, I am tempted to stuff my face with a slice or two of leftover cold pizza. Energy, I think. I desist once I picture myself writhing in pain as I approach the two-kilometer marker and dropping on the median like a lumbering uncoordinated adolescent trying to run the 3000-meter steeplechase. Or pole vault for that matter. The sexy paramedic of my daydream--her name is Morphine--does however spoon-feed me chocolate-chip pancakes and crispy bacon before I pass out on the gurney.

6:55 am: I read four pages of Gary Shteyngart's Absurdistan. Figures I would be reading a novel about an overweight Americanized college graduate trying to find his calling in life prior to my first official race. Satire inspires more satire.

7:00 am: The French Connoisseur picks me up for the drive to Limassol to participate in the Atlantica 10km organized by the Limassol Marathon. He is as fresh as a celery stalk.

7:07 am: We pick up the Disney-Obsessed Man-Child. I thought he would wear Mickey ears, a Goofy t-shirt and a Pluto snout for the race but instead he just looks drunk.

8:00 am: We are enveloped by dark clouds, strong winds and inconsiderate rain showers as we park the car near the start/finish line. We fear for our lungs lives. I do point out that if it continues to pour, the race might metamorphose into a rather fascinating Spring Break wet t-shirt contest. Here's hoping there are tons of women jogging in white. Shit, did I just say that out loud?

8:55 am: The menacing weather is gone. The sun we are so used to as The Rock's proud inhabitants has returned to stake claim over his land. Rain is always welcome on this island burdened by water shortages. But I think we are all glad the reservoirs will not be further replenished today.

9:06 am: I cross myself and invoke the spirit of Jefferson Perez, Ecuador's all-time greatest athlete. Ironically enough, he is not even a runner; he is a race walker. Still, he "walks" twenty kilometers in under an hour and twenty minutes so I assume he will be of assistance. The race commences. I bid farewell to the Disney-Obsessed Man-Child, wishing him a pleasant race. He pumps his fists like a mad man and runs off while blasting Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits on his iPod. You go girl.

9:15 am: Music-less and in dire need of motivation, I decide to focus my attention on the gluteus maximus of an attractive Eastern European woman clad in a fluorescent lime green top and tight Lycra leggings. Her firm glutes move up and down like engine pistons, and I get into a nice rhythm immediately behind her. That is until she picks up her pace and leaves her ogler in the dust.

9:25 am: Roadkill is not uncommon in Cyprus, particularly that of the feline variety. You see, The Rock is overrun by undomesticated cats. Legend says that Saint Helena, worried by the surge in snakes on the island following a drought, asked her son, Emperor Constantine I, to populate the land with cats that would feed on the vermin. So it was only slightly disturbing to catch a glimpse of a trampled and bloodied cat by the side of the road as I buzzed over it at the mind-warping speed of nine-point-five kilometers per hour.

9:45 am: I wonder who cleans the roads and sidewalks of the hundreds of half-empty water bottles and moist, dirtied sponges handed by eager volunteers to the runners. Cheers to them. I also hope the leftover water is poured into a nearby dam for future consumption and the plastic bottles recycled. [This message has been brought to you by The Wife, Ph.D's Cyprus Recycling Adoption Program or CRA...]

10:05 am: A Pole, both in build and nationality, darts past me and claims first place in the half-marathon. A few seconds later, a Russki half-marathoner does the same and finishes second. God I need a brewski. This is pathetic. All that is left now is for The French Connoisseur, also a half-marathoner, to slap me on the ass, briefly turn around and make those silly faces that entertain newborns as he rockets by me.

10:10 am: I turn left into the Limassol boardwalk. Electronic music blares from the speakers ahead of me. Fans line up against the right-hand railing that marks the final two hundred meters of the race; they clap in unison, they cheer, they encourage us to give it one last push. Amateur photographers, one knee touching the asphalt or standing on the short wall that meets the crashing waves to the left, snap away. I pick up the pace and I am now supersonic. The clock ticks forth. As I close in on the finish line, the alley narrows. I feel closer to everyone: the crowd, the runners, the journalists, the volunteers, the casual spectators, even the Gods in Olympus who are mocking my dearth of athleticism. I can touch them, I can hear them, I can smell their effort, their envy, their praise, their passion, their pride. It is all a blur as I cross the finish line in 1:03:49 and a volunteer places a medal around my neck. I never understood the joy of running just for the sake of running. Now I do and I might have caught the bug.

11:30 am: Talking about bugs. The Wife, Ph.D., and Minnie Mouse refuse to join us for a celebratory lunch up in the mountains unless we shower. So the Disney-Obsessed Man-Child borrows a friend's apartment in Limassol for about an hour. While lathering up, Gregor Samsa's long-lost third cousin pays me a visit. At first, I believe the ticklish sensation is cold water streaming down my tired right calf. But then I look down to see the horny roach running its own race up my leg. Where are the damn cats when you need them?

2:00 pm: A well-deserved lunch at Orea Ellas, a wonderful Greek tavern in Vouni, Troodos Mountains. We polish off two bottles of the 2007 Tsiakkas Bambakada (Maratheftiko) along with the grilled cheese, Greek salad, parsley dip, tyrokafteri, garlicky tzatziki, zucchini croquettes, feta pies, grilled florina peppers, biftekia (pork burgers), wine-soaked sausages, baked potatoes, perfectly roasted chicken and pork, village pasta, stuffed rice and luscious desserts set before us. All of this while making plans to partake in a Sprint Triathlon in September and a half-marathon in 2012. The Wife, Ph.D., you've been warned: book the masseuse or pick me a cheap coffin.

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