By 8am on Sunday, Troodos square was bustling with enthusiastic runners and cyclists, getting ready for the most talked about race of the summer. I was told that the Troodos 15k Challenge would be a grueling, yet fascinating course to explore, I was cautioned to watch out for stones and roots while I was also promised that it would be memorable. I was READY, or so I thought… the 1st 5k: The race took off at 9am and after a few hundred meters, we were greeted with a steep, slippery hill which prompted most runners to start walking. ‘So that’s what they meant by serious hill work?’ I asked, and my fellow runner grinned: ‘this is nothing compared to the climb to Mount Olympus.’ At 1952 meters high, Mount Olympus is the highest point on the island of Cyprus, and the mere thought of accomplishing that, was enough to get my adrenaline sky high. Having climbed that first hill, I was happy to see a flat terrain… but not for long. I picked up a faster pace while a fellow runner’s words echoed in my ears: ‘Make sure to keep your feet high off the ground so as not to stomp on stones and tree roots.’ As I hopped around like a rabbit, I realized how priceless that advice was. Minutes later, I was face to face with the most abrupt slope… Jolly bunny rabbit soon turned into a nervous chicken and for minutes I simply froze. ‘That’s the steepest ski slope,’ someone said, to which I replied, ‘yes, without the snow..!’ Walking down that hill seemed endless, and that’s when I lost sight of every runner. the lizard at the 6th k: ‘Pssst…! Do you want me to show you around my kingdom?’ I thought I heard a brown-striped lizard whisper. So I began to run a little faster through the most gorgeous rugged terrain amongst pine, olive and oak trees. ‘What a breathtaking landscape and panoramic views to all corners of Cyprus,’ I thought, while a minor slip reminded me to keep my strides well above the ground. 12th k: On the 12th k, right after a refreshing water stop and cheering by the Dro.Me.A. marshals, I was thrilled to finally get a glimpse of other runners. As I looked up to see which runners were in front of me, I forgot all about the stone alert and fell face down, becoming one with the red soil. Ouch! Seconds later, the First Aid was with me, and following a thorough clean up of my scraped knees and elbows, I was back on those trails. A friend’s encouraging advice resounded in my ears… ‘Remember to keep smiling, with and without pain.’ And so I did. Another hard fall on the 14th k and a little after 2 hours, I completed this 15k challenge with tens of fellow runners cheering for me at the finish line. Who can beat that awesome feeling of completing a race and being embraced so warmly by so many people? It’s all about the love for running, coupled with the beauty of sharing this exceptional runners’ spirit. The Troodos race surely had its share of challenges, yet it was that magnificent journey leading to the race, which made it so exceptional… And it was moments captured through that journey which kept me going to the finish line. My journey included: – training with a great team (thank you Dro.Me.A. for your guidance and precious tips). – Running buddies for life (cheers Maria and Coach). – Words of encouragement to smile with or without pain (thank you dear warrior!) Above all, I decided to embark on this specific journey as a personal dedication to a very Special Lady. A Phenomenal Lady who kept ‘walking’ despite the countless challenges in her path. A Lady, who simply stole my heart with her genuine smile, beautiful heart and gracious warrior’s spirit. My dearest Kika, I could feel your presence throughout this race and I am presenting my medal along with the beautiful energies, which this run has left upon me, to your lovely family.