Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A rock and a hard pace

The rock of Gibraltar stands tall and proud, keeping a watchful gaze over the Straits of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean. Situated at the far south point of the Spanish mainland, Gibraltar’s distinct formation is instantly recognisable to mariners the world over. With Spain to the North and Morocco to the South, the independent British overseas territory is at a strategic choke point as well as an attractive sightseeing spot for tourists. It has been in British hands since it was captured in 1704 by a combined British and Dutch Naval force of marines and sailors who bombarded the town and later invaded during the War of Spanish Succession. Despite many attempts to regain the territory, the Spanish have been unsuccessful. The rock itself is awe-inspiring. The peaks and sheer faces are rugged, coated with vegetation and home to the celebrities of the territory, Gibraltar’s Barbary Macaques Apes (or Rock Apes), who serve to delight visitors shortly before stealing and trying to eat their cameras.

After arriving here recently (hence the lack of posts lately) I decided to join a couple of friends in a ritual known as “The Rock Run”. For the uninitiated the Rock run can be described simply as running from sea level up to the two peaks of the Rock (1,390 feet high). Whilst it may sound insane I can assure you it is well worth the substantial effort. On Sunday morning, at 8am, 30 minutes before sunrise, my friends and I started jogging from an area close to the port. Following the winding roads up the ever-increasing inclines of the mountain we passed the waking town and left its white-washed buildings behind as we continued our ascent. The sun rose in the east but we were in the shadow of the rock and, although it was light, we could not yet see the new day beginning.

The light spilled over the Western Mediterranean and highlighted Spain the West and the dusty mountains of Morocco to the South. A steady stream of commercial shipping was silently slipping out of the Atlantic and into the Med, and vice-versa. Every now and again we would hear the high-pitched yelp of one of the rock’s furry inhabitants and occasionally we would see an ape lazing in the morning heat. As we puffed and panted our way to the top we were overtaken by a stream of mini-vans and taxis ferrying tourists less inclined to run up to the rock’s peaks.

After 42 minutes of hard work we reached our goal of the second peak and rested, admiring the panorama of the bright, warm October morning. A group of tourists came up to us looking puzzled. We had obviously been running; we were out of breath, dressed in sports kit and sweating profusely. One man asked what we had been doing and I answered, plainly “we ran up here.” He looked shocked and asked where from so I pointed out the harbour in the distance below and he looked back again and asked me why. I didn’t have an answer for him. Perhaps we did it to challenge ourselves, perhaps because we had enjoyed the exercise, but looking back now I believe my answer would be “Because we could.” What I mean by that is that despite the effort, the hard breathing and the now painful calf muscles, I wouldn’t have changed that Sunday morning for anything. The idyllic scenery at the top of the rock coupled with the great feeling of achievement having made it up there, as well as the camaraderie of doing it with your friends, combined to make a wonderful, if exhausting, morning, and one I won’t soon forget.

1 comment:

  1. that's quite a run, but the view is so worth it. good job.