We were travelling across Iran. Trying to balance training, family and travelling, the plan was to run every two days. It was such an amazing plan – it meant that with every new city/village/location that we visited, I’d find a route, put on my running shoes and run to my heart’s content. Early in the morning, as the city/village was starting to wake up, I’d run past beautiful buildings, mosques, palaces, forests, sea, desert (depending on which leg of the journey)… It was a spectacular way to explore each new location, experience their different nature and climate, and witness their unique architecture and way of life.
I have to admit that I was missing my bike quite a lot, though! When we got to Shiraz, I saw a picture of someone on a bike in the place that we were staying, so I enquired a bit further and asked if there were cyclists around and whether I’d be able to borrow/rent a bike and join them? The lady got back to me a little while later saying that I could join the bike ride the following morning, and arranged a meeting point.
The following morning I waited for the cyclists to turn up, excited to be getting back on a bike, and even more so, to get to know and cycle with fellow cyclists. I knew I was in for an adventure… but had absolutely no idea of which variety! Finally a guy appears with a cream jacket, immaculately polished black shoes… and a bike. One bike. Am I going cycling with you, I asked. Yes! He said. I’ll be driving alongside you!
Not exactly what I had envisaged. But I was so looking forward to getting on a bike anyhow! So he bundled me and the bike in his car, and drove me out of the city. As we approached the mountains he said: so, when there’s an uphill I’ll drive you up and when there’s a downhill, you can cycle down. Errr… I would also quite like to cycle uphill, too! I said. You won’t be able to, he said bluntly. After some convincing, I get on his 26” mountain bike, its gears stuck on the highest gear and refusing to shift, the dry chain scraping noisily as it rubbed against the surrounding metal, cranks clicking and giving way with every rotation. There was no complaining after all that convincing! So I worked my way up the mountain reassuring myself it would be fantastic strength training. My cycling buddy in the car would pull up by my side every few minutes and ask: but aren’t you tired?! I’ve brought some tea for when you get tired, don’t you want to stop for tea?
It was a slow, but beautiful cycle. There’s something special about mountains and the barren countryside. I rolled past a couple of very small villages, but apart from that, it was me, the beautiful nature, and my newly found friend who’d by this point wait for me around the bends whilst fiddling on his phone.
As we approached the city, we finally stopped by the roadside for tea. He’d made green tea which had been brewing in his flask all morning with a cinnamon stick and sugar candy – possible one of the best teas I’ve ever had. As the saying goes in Iran: ‘It stuck!’ (i.e. everything about it was just amazing!).
As we drove back into the city, feeling content and energised by the beautiful bike ride, the guy said, frankly, I didn’t know it was possible to cycle uphill, as well. Next time, when I’m out with other cyclists, maybe I should ask them whether they would like to cycle uphill or not.