As I reached the top of the hill, I stopped running, I paused the music, I could hear my breathing quite loud and my leg muscles were rather tense, but nothing of these really mattered once the entrancing beauty of the landscape struck me to my very core. Standing there alone beside the old windmill, shortly before dusk, the quiet stillness blanketing everything around me, the open sea, stretching out in its boundless infinity, breathing in the dense, heady smells of sage and thyme blending with the smell of sea salt in the air, I was in an odd state of perfect lucidity; I felt so clear, my senses were so acute, I wasn't really thinking, more like sensing, everything.
Looking back at my run that summer evening, I wonder if that moment would have been different if I had just taken the car and walked around for a bit. I believe that somehow the magic would’ve been diminished, my experience would have been less vigorous, less earned, less real.
Summer holidays on an island are inextricably associated with the sea and activities related to it, however it is worth exploring other forms of recreation and contact with the natural surroundings. Through my relatively recent personal experience with running, I discovered another way of seeing and experiencing the island, which eventually proved to be quite "addictive". I was certainly not alone running up and down the hills of Astypalaia, as quite a few visitors to the island seemed to share my “addiction”, setting out in the early hours of the day/night on a run, or rather on a “journey” of connecting with themselves and with the nature. Actually, one of the highlights of last summer was running together with Charlotte, a guest, and more importantly a friend, from Livadi to Agios Constantinos beach and back, giving us the opportunity to share a different experience, full of loud laughs alternating with heavy breathing, in a setting of immense and inexhaustible beauty, which certainly gave us the satisfaction of achievement and brought us even closer.
Undoubtedly, the hilly terrain and the variation in surfaces renders running in Astypalaia, especially for beginners, a not so comfortable and easy activity to engage in; nevertheless, for every conquest of an uphill road, you are compensated for your effort by the boundless blue of the Aegean sea unfolding before your eyes, the image of the neighboring islands dotting the horizon and the view of the majestic castle standing proudly on the top of the Chora’s hill, and at that very moment you forget the frantic heartbeat, you inhale deeply and you are suddenly feeling a renewed urge to keep on running.
Running offers a way to see a new place, that is faster than walking, simpler than biking and more intimate than driving. Just going for a jog is an all-purpose activity with benefits that go far beyond just staying fit, you get a profound sense of freedom, a different perception of time and space, the senses are heightened enabling you to come in contact with the energy of the surrounding environment. To cut the long story short, when you visit Astypalia do not miss to add a pair of sneakers in your suitcase, and let the true beauty and spirit of this unique island be revealed to you.