By Alix Norman
Tanks filled with ice. Long, tight underground tunnels. An ever-tightening net. And giant walls that few can climb alone: these may sound like the latest torture methods, or a particularly cruel bout of marine training, but they’re not. They’re part of a huge obstacle course packed with barriers designed to mentally and physically challenge. And it’s something people do for fun, by choice, to prove to themselves they’ve got what it takes and then some. Rough, tough and muddy, a test of self, this is The Legion Run. And it’s not for the faint of heart.
Based on the top obstacle courses in the world, The Legion Run is the first event of its kind in southern central Europe, and it’s starting right here in Cyprus. At the end of this month, a huge area just outside Larnaca will be turned into a heart-stopping, five kilometre obstacle-strewn course, and thousands will flock to the run. With over 18 world class, professionally constructed, civil-engineered obstacles (and a social and environmental responsibility policy that ensures the area is returned to its natural state), it’s a course that promises an event of a lifetime, a bucket list must do. From the Rubicon (deep mud channels under a cage) to the Teutoberg (a forest of barbed wire), each of the obstacles is designed to push participants to their limit…
“It’s definitely a challenge,” says Antonis Alexopolous, Communications Director of the eight member team who have put together this extraordinary event. “Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it, and this is what the Legion Run is offering: a personal challenge. Each participant will choose to run for their own reasons; but they will all finish it as a changed person, able to see themselves in a different way. As one of The Legion. One of the many.”
And this is the emphasis: The Legion Run is not a race. It’s a run. There are no winners and losers, no prizes for finishing first. The reward is in the personal accomplishment. “It’s not a competition,” Antonis avers, “but an event that welcomes people of all fitness levels who want to challenge themselves. The only competition is against yourself and the course, the challenge of overcoming your own fears, attaining that feeling of liberation and pride that you’ve achieved something monumental.”
In the case of The Legion Run, people seem more than willing to put their money where their mouth is: the website is hot with hits, the Facebook page has over 6,000 likes, and in the first 20 days of ticket sales, over 2,000 people signed up to participate. “We’re currently standing at 3,500 entrants,” says Antonis, “and we estimate a conservative total of somewhere over 4,000.”
It’s a staggering number when one considers the relatively small population of the island, but as a holder of a PhD in sports science, Antonis is more than qualified to explain the psychology behind the event: “Given the current situation in Cyprus, people are looking for a release, a personal test that – basically – symbolises life. Being part of The Legion Run is all about challenging yourself as part of a team; it’s about using cooperation and teamwork to overcome obstacles.”
With the majority signing up as part of a team, individual participation is rare. “One of our aims is to cultivate teamwork, companionship – for us it’s pointless to cross the finish line alone – ‘We Are Legion’,” he adds, quoting the tagline and emphasising the plural pronoun. “Our website lists a number of training facilities which welcome those who want to join a team, though, on the day, I think everyone will be helping everyone else; you can’t make it over the Colossus without assistance!
“The only stress will be overcoming one’s own fears. People will finish the course at their own pace, there’s no time pressure; it’s totally okay to skip an obstacle, though I have a feeling the group psychology of the legion will help you to try at least. But if you really don’t want to, nobody will force you. Safety comes first.” The organisers have ensured that, on the day, more than 60 volunteers will be manning the obstacles, instructing, motivating and helping each 30-minute wave of 500 runners. Paramedics, doctors and an ambulance will be based at the on-site first aid station, and no one under the age of 16 (and even then, parents or legal guardians must sign a waiver) is allowed to participate.
With all ages and abilities (“Some people are training. Some are drinking beer and eating crisps, and that’s fine!” grins Antonis), and almost as many female participants as male, the Legion Run is an all-encompassing event. And not just for those who will be facing the course: if you don’t want to run but are keen to see the excitements or support friends and family, a spectator ticket allows access to the area and the all-day festivities. From 9 o’clock in the morning, the party area will be open: sponsored by Shark, Carlsberg, Lays Thick Wave crisps and AFX Capital, the event promises a day of excess and extreme diversion.
DJs, fire dancers and the best bands in Cyprus (including Neon Knights, The Zilla Project and Minus One) will entertain the crowds, while competitions (the craziest beard, maddest costume and craziest tattoo), games (mud tug-of-war, rope-climbing) and an on-site tattooist from Easy Rider will ensure a non-stop party atmosphere. Food and drink will be available throughout the day, and those who haven’t had their fill of fun when the event ends at sundown can head on down to the after party at Savino Live. “We’re guaranteeing an event like no other,” declares Antonis. “When you look back at your life, the day of The Legion Run will be up there in your top five.”
Veni, vidi and – when it comes to personal attainment, hopefully -vici.
The Legion Run
On Marc 29 just outside Larnaca, from 10am until 6.30pm. Participation costs €55 for teams of 4 to 9 people, and €45 for teams of 9 people and above. The price includes participation in the run, entrance to the festival area, a free drink and branded tshirt. Tickets are available until the day of the event. Spectators’ tickets cost €5, children under 12 go free. For further information visit www.legionrun.com or contact Antonis Alexopoulos on 99 524645