Why Florina Trail Challenge…

Άνοιγμα μονοπατιου Κ2 003

A few years ago in a conversation, without remembering how and what, two words were mentioned that surprised me… Olympus Marathon. “What is it?” I asked and they said that this was about “…trail running”. The answer had puzzled me more than the question and, as I wanted to know more, they explained to me. What struck me from the discussion was that there were some “crazy people” that love to run up and down the mountains. It was something that really impressed me!

At that time I cycled by myself, discovering my personal limits. My friend John from Litochoro, was fooling around telling me that “I couldn’t ride on the mountain” with my bike, while he frequently went up and down the slopes of Olympus and I teased him not to be able to ride on tarmac.

Gradually I began to discover the joy of long distances, where you are by yourself, day and night, where any problems are left behind every time you step on the pedal. At some point, I decided to step behind the cameras and organize for others, what I used to organize before only for myself. Meanwhile, John was going as a volunteer “…to some competitions in Drama…”, while continuing to do more mountain bike. He often invited me to Litochoro to climb the mountain, but I always refused stubbornly. Perhaps to keep alive the joke between us, perhaps because it was not a priority for me, perhaps because I did not want to give freedom to that voice inside me…

After a few years of cycling events and having ridden many times the asphalt routes of Florina’s prefecture, and also the neighboring prefectures, I have climbed all the ascents’ but in reality, I had not really seen the mountains.

In 2015 the idea of running events began spinning in my mind. I saw that people had the need to go out and run, asphalt or dirt, it did not matter, just to run. Because when pedalling or when you put one foot ahead of the other, necessarily you are moving yourself and when you move, you always leave something behind. And everyone nowadays, with those things that experience daily, had and still has the need to leave a lot behind. But none of them had run in Florina, and even more important, they had never run on the mountains of Florina’ neither did I…

21η συνάντηση στο Οροπέδιο

After September, when our 2nd cycling event has finished, I decided that the time had come. I start making contacts with Mountaineering Club of Florina (MCF) and at the first opportunity I went up to a meeting on Oropedio. People were amused by drinking and eating on the mountain, a scene that reminded me the picnic we made as a family, those old days…

Ίχνη αρκούδας

It was a beautiful scene. This was the beginning of many lonely mountain walks, mapping trails, losing and finding their tracks, along with traces of bears, wolves and deer.

The walks continued and when I first went up to Taima, looking down the valley to Florina I felt that I had landed on another planet. The beauty of the landscape, the autumn colors, the complete absence of human sounds… I wonder, I thought, is this what all those who climb running the mountains are seeking for? Without a reason, I cried to the ravine and the ravine turned back my voice.

Φτέρες με αγριογούρουνα

One afternoon when the daylight was leaving fast, descending the ridge from Taima, I lost the trail and found myself in a huge clearing of ferns. After a while, I understood that the multiple openings that I saw, was passages of wild boars. I began to make noise and 2-3 were cast from the ferns and began to descend the slope. It was like a scene from a documentary… I followed them and shortly after I came out of the forest and found myself on the dirt road. This little adventure was over.

In all these solitary wanderings, under the copper like foliage of oaks, I had begun to understand what motivates so many thousands of people in recent years, literally and figuratively, to “climb the mountains.” The contact with nature, the scents of leaves, the colors of the sunset behind the peaks, the sound of the cracking of the branches and dragging on the dried leaves, all these beam you to another parallel universe, where you are really experiencing each moment` where all of your problems seem tiny… However, I still could not solve the riddle of running, and not walking.

After two months of continuous ascents, I had partially walked almost all paths of Varnouda, the mountain that dominates over Florina. Having made several meetings with the guys, in the wooden wagon that houses the MCF and many phone conversations with John, I had concluded on 3 beautiful but demanding routes, which logically would satisfy any lover of trail running. Even though, the riddle remained…

Ηλιοβασίλεμα

In an effort to map the routes, I had to walk for several hours each time, resulting in my legs to get stronger, the climbs to become quicker and the descents less painful. One evening, I was returning from Trifillitsi. I had left the dirt road and I was now moving quickly on the broad trail of beeches towards Oropedio. I was relaxed and cheerful, now the puzzle called Florina Trail Challenge was almost finished in my mind. The sun was slightly illuminating the trail through the tree tops. I started going faster, until at some point the walking became light jogging. After a while I was running without a reason, just giggling throughout. That was it!

I returned back to my walking, but I had now solved the riddle, the great mystery of mountain running… It was basically the same reason that for a decade I spin the pedals. It constituted an effortless, natural movement that brought you back to your carefree childhood, when you run or cycle with your friends without any real reason… Just for the fun of it!

In early summer on June 12, 2016, the 1st Florina Trail Challenge will welcome people who yearn to run free on trails, reviving memories of relaxation and absolute pleasure. Personally, I continue to walk into uncharted trails, unfolding the secrets of Varnouda. This fun seems endless…

S.K.

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