Coming to Cyprus at first was exciting; it was magical. The summers were hot, the nightlife was fun, and life was just so easy; not like back home where everything was work, work, work. I loved it at first, envisioned a beautiful life here. Then a couple years later, I only liked it. I was travelling back and forth to work in the states and coming here every few months and summers to see my boyfriend. Another year later and I didn’t want to stay; I was ready to go back. I wanted to go back to my family, to my life, to my culture- to those familiar things. The longer I was here, the more foreign Cyprus became. Such a drastic change in lifestyle would make it difficult for anyone to stay here. I felt trapped in a way, because they say, “home is where the heart is.” But for me, my heart was in two places. It was here with the love of my life and back in the U.S. with my family.
But life is all about obstacles right? And all about confusion and finding oneself and dreaming and loving; and let me say it isn’t easy. Having half your heart pulled in one direction and the other half pulled in another. Fighting within your mind, those little daily debates in one’s head, contemplating what is the right thing to do. “You’re only 24”, they say, but what does my age matter? This is my time; this is my life and this is when I have to decide where I want to be, not when I’m 40. I’ve always been 10 years ahead of myself, my father can account for that one. I remember him always telling me, “Baby, slow down… one step at a time.” But for some reason, I don’t think I’ll ever fully comprehend that state of mind.
The last year or so, it had gotten a bit worse. I fell into a slight depression- feeling lonely even though I was next to the person I loved the most. I closed myself off to the world, hid in my home, engulfed myself with my studies, and the social, happy person I was before seemed to get lost; my interest in life was lost. No matter what occurred or how hard my poor husband tried (God bless his patient soul), I never felt fully content- I never felt happy. Day in and day out seemed redundant and I kept thinking- “This is going to be my life here? My life is worth so much more than this!” I went back and forth about what to do and made it worse by comparing every little thing between the USA and Cyprus- jobs, economy, opportunity, & money. Most importantly, however, was my family; my fear that I will regret not spending every minute with them that I can. Because if I’ve learned anything in my short twenty-four year on this planet, it is that you can’t get back lost time and you can’t relive those moments that have already passed.
It was about this time I realised, time is of the essence and I want to leave something behind- something I can’t take back and something I would be proud to leave behind; a legacy, perhaps. Something that all the money in the world can’t get you but a determined mind and a strong heart can. In high school, I was big on sports. They always came easy to me and I was a fast sprinter. Field hockey and lacrosse were my two chosen sports and I excelled in them. It makes me proud to remember that I, at one time, had talent. And this allowed me to believe that I still have some sort of talent lurking- and why let that go.
I started my search to see if there were any women’s lacrosse or field hockey leagues in Limassol. I know field hockey is a sport played in the UK, so I thought maybe I’d get lucky. But I came across nothing, so instead I tried “Limassol athletic clubs”. The Limassol Running Club was somewhere around the fourth result. I chuckled because I have always sort of despised running. I remember running during preseason training, sprints upon sprints, timed miles, running as punishment, etc. And the icing on the cake was the time I attempted to go on a leisurely run around my neighborhood in New Jersey and someone threw a water-balloon at me. I remember it like it was yesterday- I actually thought someone stabbed me, that’s how bad it hurt! (At least I can laugh at the memory now, but I was so scarred I swore never to go street running again… I was 17).
I clicked on the site and I liked what I saw. It was a diverse looking group of people of different ages from different countries with one same goal: to run. “I’ll try it,” I thought to myself and sent in a contact form from the site. I got a sweet reply from Michael Rivers, Director of the Limassol Running Club, inviting me to come that Thursday to try it out.
My nerves were in knots that day because I didn’t know what to expect yet I was super excited. Were these all professional runners? Was I going to look like a fool? Would I puke before I finished the first mile? (And those were just a few of the questions that went through my head!). Luckily, I’ve kept in shape by doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts quite regularly for the last year and a half but I haven’t run since 2008! At 7:00, I pulled into the parking lot at Dassoudi beach, mentally told myself to stop being a nervous idiot, got out of my car, and walked up to the group. Instead of realizing I was the “new girl”, the group started talking to my as if they’d known me for months! It was so warming and welcoming, I felt right at home. We did 5k interval training that night and I was immediately hooked. The best part about the club is that you go at your own pace and everyone waits for you at the finish point and cheers you on. There is no pressure, only supportive teammates. No person is better than the other, we are all there for one reason: to run. The immediate support and friendship I felt from the group was what kept me going.
Running is also like meditation. You can loose yourself in counting steps, feeling your feet hit the pavement; listening to your breathing increase until you feel like your heart may explode; forgetting all those stresses life has put upon you. You can loose yourself in the pain of a twisted ankle, a swollen knee-cap, or burning shins- but you keep going because that is what runners do. We don’t stop. We don’t give up. We prove to ourselves that limits are meant to be broken; that when you feel like you’re about to die, there is always more strength inside of you to keep going. That’s the mental game of running- how long can you keep going? How fast can you get your feet off the ground; how many strides can you accomplish in a minute? Running with a group is even better because even though running is a one-man sport, there is a team to keep you going. A coach to tell you that pain is temporary but winning is forever.
I have been part of the club for one month now and my life has completely changed. I have been given the opportunity to see the true beauty of Limassol through the eyes of a runner- a completely different view than that of one in a vehicle. It is hard to describe this unless you experience it for yourself. Cyclers speeding pass you; couples walking hand-in-hand along the seaside; cats snoozing in the sun; and the little stray dog that ran alongside me the last 2k of my very first 16k run. And let me not forget the relaxation and therapeutic of putting my poor, little, sore feet in the freezing yet glass-clear water at Dassoudi beach after that run while soaking in the sun post-run. It was that day, for the first time in I can’t even remember how long, that I was truly happy to live here, on this small island. Sitting alone in the sun, with my feet in the water, watching all the people walking by.
Since joining the club, things have fallen correctly into place for me. I have met wonderful new people, from different places in the world. I have enjoyed the city I live in and I’ve been given the opportunity to see it in a different light. I have become happy and complete within myself, which has benefitted all aspects of my life. The clearing of the mind, that feeling of satisfaction you get from pushing the limits you never thought you could, is all indescribable. I hope to see more people benefit from a club like this. Because I know I am not the only one who has completely changed his or her lifestyle by moving here. What I’ve realized is that this place may not be like home but there is beauty everywhere and it is up to us to see and understand that beauty.
I hope to see you all at Limassol Running Club- change your life, it will!
Life on the run.
Limassol Running Club is a Michael Rivers production.