Stunning views, pristine trails, one punishingly steep climb, and all the sweet almond twists you can eat at the finish are just a few of the treats awaiting at Cyprus’s newly created Kato Pyrgos TrailRun.
This is a must-run event for anyone looking to experience a fascinating culture while exploring new routes and meeting new friends. There’s a wonderfully welcoming local community, not to mention plenty of tradition and food to experience.
On race day, for instance, there’s song, dance, and cuisine to suit every taste from Elvis to haloumi! Plus, if you’re feeling brave in the minutes leading up to the start, you’re invited to try a local favourite: strong Cypriot coffee. But be warned, it’s got a kick, so be ready to be turbocharged for those early miles. And then of course, after you’ve finished there are those fabulous almond sweets laid on as you sit in a laid-back café and cheer on anybody behind you.
Choose your distance
Runners can take in either a popular 15km (actually a bit further, but more of that later) or an amazingly picturesque 30km route. Both of which take you from the seaside town of Kato Pyrgos – a sleepy coastal resort with perfect sand beaches that somehow have evaded the travel tour giants’ attention – up into the surrounding hills before returning for that all-important complimentary breakfast (and even a beer if you so desire).
I opted for the 15km, which like the 30km started at 6.30am just as the Cypriot sun began to rise over the mountaintops. The first few kilometres, which take you out of the village starting from the foot of a century-old oak tree, are fast. They lead along a dried-out riverbed which clearly does see water action in the winter, but is dry and rocky in October when the race takes place.
It’s at this point things get serious. More than half of the race is uphill, a fact you’re only too aware of as you climb the switchback paths heading to the high point of 444m. That said, the forest paths winding through dense Cypriot pines might be on the steep side but they are most definitely runnable. And by that, I mean you can move at pace if you find your rhythm that is!
Think of the Alpine paths you see in the Tour de France, and you’ll get the picture. Put yourself in that low hill climbing gear, chop your running stride, work your arms, and concentrate on form. It’s effective and very rewarding.
You might even – as I did – start passing people! Mind you, to get to that summit both the 15km and 30km hit a 50% climb at about 6km, which to put it mildly is very challenging indeed. Fortunately, the organisers are nothing but thoughtful and have laid on a rope to haul yourself up the 400 metres or so to the top path.
Admittedly, it’s a challenging five or ten minutes (what runner knows how to use a rope effectively?), but once at the top you’ll find yourself reaching not for an energy gel, but for your camera. There are no kit requirements for this race as there are feed stations and although remote, you’re never too far from safety. But one thing you must carry is a camera. The sea sparkles in the distance and as you’re high above the tree line, the world is yours to enjoy. Like plenty of other runners in the 30km, you’ll stop and take in the panorama.
And then it’s all downhill. And fast as well. The groomed paths are steep to run up, but for all but one short descent they allow you to lean forward and really fly. There’s no braking, and you’re safe to allow gravity to take over safe in the knowledge the path is smooth and predictable.
But it’s about now, with roughly 3km to run, having cruised the previous 5km, you begin to realise that perhaps the shorter advertised race isn’t exactly the 15km claimed. Given there’s the 1km riverbed to renegotiate, not to mention the final few kilometres on the road back into the village. But do you know what? For once, a longer-than-advertised race is a plus! Truly, this is a fun event that you don’t mind enjoying for an extra 20 minutes or so.
For a first edition, the race proved amazingly popular – international in fact. First across the line was Sherpa Ngadi, a Nepalese runner based in Cyprus with the UN. Second was Yiannis Effe, a Cypriot, while a Brit (myself!) was third. In the women’s race, it was equally international as Christina Dzigmovicova from Slovakia won from UN teammate, Norwegian Dorothea Bade; while Cypriot Persephone Nicolaidou was third.
And that perfectly sums up what this country is all about and has been since the Romans. It’s a meeting point of cultures where runners from countries across the world can make new friends and new memories. Plus, the food is good too!
Plan your run in the sun
Plenty of us have holidayed in Cyprus, but few will have explored Kato Pyrgos and its amazing hills and trails. Let’s start with the seaside community that plays host to a great weekend of sport – it’s a tiny village, but stunningly beautiful. Time your visit right and you’ll have miles of welcoming sandy beaches to yourself.
We stayed in the Tylos Beach Hotel, which has all you need as a trail runner on holiday. It’s close to the hills, has that all-important beach, sea views and great local food. So, it’s no surprise it’s a popular weekend destination for runners and walkers who live in nearby Nicosia and it’s easy to see why.
Kato Pyrgos is also popular with cyclists and kayakers – so much so, infact, that the weekend includes just that. There’s a 100km road race for the cyclists or a more relaxed afternoon on the flat sea for the kayakers. There’s also a hugely popular walking tour to enjoy, taking in medieval churches, Alpine-like pastures and local restaurants and bars.
So, if you’re looking for late autumn sun, warmth and a great race, this is certainly one to think about. All the details are at run2d.com
The 2022 event was organised by Nicosia Tourism Board and the 2023 dates will be released soon. If you can’t wait that long, check out the race in Lythrodontas village on December 4th.
For more details check out NTrails and VisitNicosia on Facebook.
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