I love to go running. I am at my happiest when I’m running. After a day at work, after a day with the children, after any day I get great pleasure from pulling on my trainers, turning up my music and heading off on a long run. Deep in my heart I am a runner, but in reality I am a runner with tendonitis. Tendonitis caused by too much running. It can be a cruel world. So necessity dictated that I find a new, kinder-to-my-knees form of exercise. And so I discovered a new love. Cycling. And now, on most evenings I can be found cycling around Estepona. That was until Monday, because on Monday I had arranged to go out for lunch with some friends in Marbella. For me Marbella is great as long as I don’t have to park there. I hate trying to park in Marbella. In fact the only thing I hate more than trying to park in Marbella is having to pay to park in Marbella. I hate paying to park anywhere actually. And taxis, I hate paying for taxis too. Consequently I will do my utmost to avoid paying for taxis and paying for parking and seeing as finding a free parking space on the street in Marbella is such a rarity I usually end up driving round and round for ages in the vain hope of finding one. So it is no surprise that I don’t often go to Marbella, unless of course somebody else is driving or I’m getting dropped off.
A few weeks ago when our lunch date was arranged my thoughts immediately turned to my parking related stress. Until that is, I remembered my new love, my bike! Right there and then I declared ‘I will cycle to Marbella!’ And so that is what I did. The night before I mentally plotted my route. I’m well used to cycling on the main road by now but I had never really strayed outside of the familiar ground of Estepona. Of course I have driven to (well, mainly through) Marbella many times, and I know the roads well, but roads are a completely different experience when you are on a bike. Things you do without a second thought when in a car can become momentous obstacles to overcome when cycling. Tackling roundabouts, crossing lanes on busy roads to merge into a new road and avoiding the tunnel were just some of the things I had to navigate. So that night I visualised my route, planning how I would manage the tricky bits and eventually I felt content that I was prepared.
When I set out on Monday afternoon there was a lovely gentle breeze and I was in a positive frame of mind. I had packed my backpack with baby wipes, a change of top, two lip balms, a lipstick and perfume thinking that I would need them to freshen up on arrival. However, as I pedalled along from home to the main road I was thinking maybe I wouldn’t need such things on account of it being so breezy and cool. Well those thoughts soon evaporated. Once I reached the main road the cool breeze quickly abandoned me and was replaced by sweltering heat from the blazing sun above me as well as radiating from the road beneath me and which was only exacerbated further by my continuous, energetic pedalling. My sweaty palms made it very difficult to change gears and Marbella suddenly seemed to be a long way off! Nevertheless I continued on through Estepona and past San Pedro getting steadily hotter and redder. I successfully avoided the tunnel and then merged back on to the main road, getting even hotter and redder. I continued past Puerto Banus and finally managed to get into the correct lane to go down Marbella’s Golden Mile, still growing hotter and redder. Now this particular stretch of road has lots of traffic lights which gave me ample opportunity to drink water, wipe the copious amounts of sweat from my face, try and fan away a little of the redness, clear the sweaty fog from my sunglasses and reapply lip balm! I was also able to interact a little with my fellow road users. People would smile at me from their cars, and at one apparently never ending red light I noticed two old men in a van next to me waving through the open window. I smiled and gave a little wave back and then looked back at the light. Still red. Out of the corner of my eye I could see them waving again so I smiled and waved back then checked the light. Still red. Again I caught sight of them waving again and felt compelled to give a little wave back. Hurry up and change light! Eventually after a little more smiling and waving was exchanged the light finally changed to green and on I went. I cycled all the way down to the centre of Marbella and turned down towards the sea. I cycled along the paseo a while longer until I finally found my destination. I locked up my bike and did a quick survey of my appearance.
My top was soaked to a darker shade of pink, my little cycling shorts were uncomfortably damp, my face was bright red, I felt a little sunburnt, I was literally dripping with sweat, my hair was a soggy mess and I imagined I probably smelt a little unpleasantly too. I stood outside what turned out to be a very elegant restaurant where I was met by the sight of my friends pristinely dressed in pretty floaty dresses, with immaculate hair and make up and smelling a lot sweeter than I probably did. I checked my Sports Tracker phone app – 22km! I had cycled 22km! That was further than I had imagined! I went up to the table, exclaimed “22km! That was 22km!” by way of greeting and then hurried off to the bathroom where I baby wiped and perfumed myself into something approaching acceptability, applied a bit of pink lipstick (which completed my red face just perfectly), changed my top and emerged to see that a rather long queue that had formed while I was transforming.
But I had done it! I had cycled to Marbella! I had avoided the trauma of trying to find a parking space! I hadn’t had to pay for parking! I hadn’t had to pay a taxi! Mind you, I also had to cycle the 22km back again but I chose not to dwell on that for too long for fear it may cast a shadow upon my very lovely afternoon. As it turned out though I did 46km in total, due to a slight navigational error on the way home which resulted in me having to do a bit of impromptu off-roading through some unexpected wasteland littered with thistles, broken glass, discarded car parts and other assorted litter before eventually retracing my steps and searching out an altogether more suitable, less hazardous route. I may not hurry to cycle to Marbella again, not before the weather gets a bit cooler anyway, but I had done it and I had enjoyed it!