Naxos Trail Race 2019 – Zeus came for a good reason!

Από 03 Μάι 2019

Why Naxos? Why travel to a remote Greek island? Why leave trail-running heavens like the Alps, Pyrenees or the Vosges behind? Though many of us, who like to roam nature whenever possible, are locals to beautiful surroundings, we tend to travel far to (for us) unknown places. We seek new experiences, different atmospheres and many of us tend to look for adventure.

The moment two weeks ago, when I boarded the 4-hour ferry from Piraeus to Naxos, I wasn’t thinking about competition. Actually, I wasn’t thinking much at all. The beauty of travelling tends to fully absorb you; tends to let you experience more intense feelings. Though windows and the open boat-deck give you a glimpse of what is to come, the moment the ferry’s belly discharges you out on the concrete gangplank you have a moment of raw and archaic appeal. Surpassing an often rough and open sea you are welcomed by a calm village, covered in white marble with occasional blue nuances. A location which signals comfort and purity of some sort. A contrast that makes sense without explanation. And only meters away from the port of arrival the remains of a temple constructed 530 B.C. finally drag you into this historically rich place.

 

 

It’s an authentic encounter here on Naxos. Once you walk the winding alleys, which directly lead away from the little harbor and towards the towering castle, you realize it is real people that live here. Not only the gods. And it is here where you find the real beauty of it. It’s the, sometimes fading, paint on the crumbling white walls. It’s the occasional stray cat crossing your way. And it’s the very earthly variety of seducing smells that encompass everything. Grilled octopus or fried cheese with honey. One could easily forget about running and lose oneself in the countless taverns.

 

 

The Castle Trail, taking place the day before the main competition, leads about 2 km right through the village of Naxos. Offering a handy opportunity to explore the heart of it, you’re left with a pleasant feeling of familiarity and comfort. Locals guide you the way, confused but simultaneously intrigued tourist cheer you on. And you might already consider your trip a success.

 

 

But obviously neglecting the treasures nature has to offer would be a mistake. On Sunday morning 8:45am all runners are released out on the main race-course and towards the wild side of the island. Though participants gather at the harbor only meters away from the slowly awakening sea-side restaurants, they are guided straight out of town. Under a steadily rising sun and an often hefty breeze (don’t forget: we’re on an island!) the runners quickly move out of town. It is obvious, the brains behind this event know what we came for. After less than 500 meters on tarmac the trail-shoe moves straight into its comfort-zone and right on a pebble-rich beach leading towards the high places of the island. The first rocky and windy climb, which only moments later finally leads you away from civilization, promises an adventure in the making.

 

 

Here, you don’t need to be a mountaineer, nor a very accomplished mountain runner. The terrain is forgiving and might even invite you to practice your skills and experience your first trail-running moves. At any time you’re allowed to let your eyes drift and soak in your surroundings. And even though you came for the ponderous paths, which lead up and away, you can’t help but set your sight on the flowing blue sea below.

 

 

Yes. Zeus came for a good reason!

 

In Greek mythology Zeus, as a child, was taken to Naxos to be saved from the fury of his father Cronus. The island meant a shelter for him, a place of serenity. Maybe this is also the reason why Dionysus, god of wine and frenzy dwelled here. Not least because of this story-telling the runners might very well experience a heroic feeling once setting foot on the final trail leading back to the harbor. The constant view on the Aegean Sea automatically sets you back in history. Time to embrace the downhill frenzy followed by a glorious finishers’ moment including ice-cream and maybe some local wine.

 

 

The bottom line is that the Naxos Trail Race offers a fantastic opportunity for newcomers and experienced trail-runners alike to visit a place of fantastic cuisine, welcoming people and surprisingly entertaining trails. While it has some of the characteristics of a world-class event like perfect markings, smart course concepts and a beautiful finishers arch, it surprises with an ever so relaxed atmosphere. In addition, the distance between the managers of this event and the individual participant is short, thus making this race a family-like excursion.

 

 

But a little critique must be allowed. Though we all like to call it a pasta-party, I believe that traditional cooking as well as local products would provide the last feed before race-day a much more authentic touch.

 

 

Moritz auf der Heide

Moritz auf der Heide

During his studies at university Moritz discovered trail-running. What began as a hobby turned into a passion, which nowadays occupies all aspects of his life. Since his first election to represent Germany at a world championship he has worn the national jersey several times and is constantly searching for new trail experiences world-wide. Based in the south of Munich the Alps are a mere 40-minute drive away and this is where you will usually find him. His motto: Run.Travel.Grow.

https://www.instagram.com/run.travel.grow/?hl=de
https://www.strava.com/pros/3274076

Photo (c): Lukas Sörgel

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