So you’ve come to the remote and wonderful island of Kalymnos. Most likely you didn’t pick this as a running holiday and are here for the top-notch climbing… Or to make your fortune in the sponge diving trade. All the same, it’s raining and climbing is out of the cards for the day. So…what should you do? Grab your shoes and pack a bag. You won’t regret it.
Hitting the trails;
Believe it or not, Kalymnos actually, has trails. They may be disguised under spiky bushes, sharp rocks and…ok the trails are essentially well-worn goat paths. And they are marked, though with unassuming rock piles and small paint spots, finding the next trail marker can feel like a game of Where’s Wally. So, if you looking for PB times and to bang out easy long miles, then, sorry, you are out of luck!
That’s not to say that trail running here is not worth packing your trainers! Kalymnos is a beautiful island and is well worth exploring by foot and with fantastic ascents, descents, and agility training. With these conditions, by the end of the holiday you will be able to run down ANYTHING.
Introducing the Kalymnos Trail…path…rough direction. 100km of scenic hardcore running terrain through the friendliest, most undulating and epic island Greece has to offer. If your looking for a real challenge that not many people can say they have walked, never mind ran, then get to it! Just make sure you pack smart…water (plan your stops), map (I got lost and I had the thing!) money (in case you bail), mobile phone and taxi number programmed in and, last but not least, plasters. The reason will become apparent.
Best time to hit the trails?
It’s obviously a bit daft to go running around hills with massive cliffs and caverns in the dark.. don’t be that eejit. Save the trails for your rest days, when it’s raining or you have a cooling strong wind. The rain cools the place down dramatically and provided Hayley and me with a perfect day to explore the close by the island of Telendos.
Hitting the road;
Flat terrain doesn’t exist in Kalymnos.. It’s either up steep or down steep. So if your looking to put in some hard hill training miles, you have arrived at the perfect place!
To put it into perspective.. a short 5k run had me ramp up 600 ft.. And that’s me taking the flat roads. The same run, but adding in the 2k hill brought it to 1,818 ft…and you thought I was kidding about the hill training!
Best time to run on the road?
Morning is your best bet as it is coolest and you’re not going to find yourself overheating too much. Though, as a pasty guy from Scotland, I was still sweating buckets 2 miles in.
The evening was my go to stretch the legs after a day out climbing. This seemed like the more social time to run as you could say hi to the locals/tourists as you were running and, staying in Myrties, I could catch the sunset from a high point.
Morning/ Evening – Bring a head torch! Pavements aren’t a thing here so it’s always best to keep yourself visible to the speedy motorists on the road sections.
–Map (available in every shop at the same price)
–Kalymnos climbing guide if you are there to climb. Make sure you get the newest version as it will have the most up to date information on the crags. Super detailed and incredibly useful!
–Sunscreen duh..It’s hot.
-Water/ running vest if you are going for a longer run (make sure you pack enough water, again it is very hot).
You really can’t go wrong staying anywhere in Kalymnos as the island is so small and you will probably want to rent a scooter anyways. The villages of Armeos, Massouri and Myrties are the central hubs for climbers, all a short ride from port and with plenty of cafes, tavernas, bars, and beaches. We stayed “Sunset studios” in Myrties which was fantastic with Elysee, Nick and their mother taking fantastic care of us.
With frequent 10 minute ferry trips at € 4 return, Telendos is perfect for a day trip. The island is well worth exploring with great trail paths! Though bring your map…we stupidly forgot ours and got lost! Great view points from the islands high point and the best wee cafes.
Come for Easter!! – BOOM! Easter is more important than Christmas on the Greek orthodox calendar and they celebrate it in crazy style by throwing dynamite (yes, actual explosives, none of this fireworks and pretty lights nonsense; let’s shatter windows and blow chunks out the ground!) from the cliffs of Pothia. Allegedly this whole thing got started after the end of the World War I, when local sponge divers started finding undetonated bombs on sunken military aircraft and ships. They brought them to the surface, and, well, found a new use for them.
Vegan cuisine is surprisingly abundant. While some Greeks do seem to struggle with what you mean when you ask at traditional tavernas, they are always happy to accommodate with stuffed vegetables and vineleaves. Massouri is unique in that there are quite a few restaurants offering vegan dishes. Some of our favourites were:
“Street food to go” – Falafel!
“Monster Cafe” – Vegan waffles, omelettes, tasty snacks and friendly German hosts!
“Glaros Snack bar” – Vegan Burgers!
What shoes should I wear?
On the road – Simple. your usual road shoes. A lot of the road here in Kalymnos is just concrete so a little extra cushioning for those pounding downhills wouldn’t go amiss. For Me? Brooks Vapour 4. Hayley was packing light so she put up with her trail shoes on the road! A good Idea and a decent pair of door to trail shoes would do you wonders and save that extra bit of room for the billion meter rope you require for Kalymnos.
On the trails – A tricky one! Definitely, aim for something mid-range in terms of outsole aggression and ideally with a rock plate as the sharp stone does hurt after a few miles…And you really can feel them jabbing your foot. I ran in the Inov-8 Roclite 290’s and Hayley ran in the Saucony Peregrine 8’s. I would lean more towards Hayley’s option as I could really start to feel my feet without the rock plate and Hayley’s shoes seemed to take a lot more wear and tear!
To sum up, I wouldn’t pick Kalymnos as a running holiday; but if you’re visiting for a few weeks to climb, it’s well worth strapping on your shoes and pounding out a few miles. You will quickly find that the climbing hubs are full of very active people and you may even get some company… Or just a cheer as you run past.
The terrain of the island and some of the inhabitants’ daily life may seem harsh here on Kalymnos, but its people are far from it. You will struggle to find a more welcoming people anywhere in the world. Generous, caring, and forever helpful, the Greek people are the best hosts I have ever encountered, with the Kalymnions right at the top.
Love – Live – Run and get out and hit them trails!
Thank you for reading!
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