Seven fifteen on the promenade at the point where Maspalomas turns into Playa del Inglés. The sun was still hazy as I joyfully sprinted down the hotel steps and propelled myself round the corner to join the promenade which would take me in about six kilometres to the end of the path on the other side of San Augustin.
At this point I found myself quite unexpectedly alone on the promenade. Presumably most of the joggers and sprinters that had whizzed past me two days before begin their morning exercise at bang on 7. 30. The elderly German couple that had proceeded me down the steps in worn casual, but definitely not sportive attire were ambling down the many steps to the beach behind me in let’s-get-a-whiff-of-the-sea-before-breakfast mode.
So the first person to catch my attention was the cat-feeder. A local cat-feeder, I assume. There are cats of all shapes, colours and sizes on the promenade in Playa del Inglés and they all look remarkably well fed for strollers. The feeder was also well fed, a quiet, swarthy-skinned, wrinkled fellow hiding behind a full-brimmed hat. Fetching handfuls of food from a plastic bag, he spoke gently to the animals and stroked them as they lapped up the offerings from his outstretched palm. He was at one with the cat world and took no notice of me.
Neither did the tall, angular, athletic-looking woman who passed me from behind, her pony-tail bobbing up and down to the rhythm of her large, even strides. As she passed, she cast hectic, worried looks at her watch. Now this was a serious sprinter, a woman intensely concentrated on her technique and determined not to fall behind her self-allocated running time. She had no eyes for the emerging sun, now rippling in the flat water by the shore. A German? Possibly. Definitely a Nordic type of woman. Several male runners also overtook me, single and in pairs, aged from early twenties to late fifties, dark- or fair-skinned gents announced uniformly by even panting and footsteps that resounded on the tiled path.
At the bottom of a very steep hill that could be negotiated either via a series of flights of steps or a very long, sharp slope a sporty, middle-aged Brit in a red, fitted sports shirt prepared to climb towards me. As we passed each other, he called out “Hello there” in a deep, companiable voice. A few hundred metres further on, a Russian couple I had noticed earlier in the week walked towards me over a wooden bridge with uneven planks in almost matching floral shorts and light-coloured T-shirts, babbling away non-stop. Although they seemed to be strolling quite casually, their strides were long and I knew they were faster than me, even though this morning, the lady was clutching a camera to her left eye, filming everything in sight. It occurred to me that in the unlikely case that she would ever process a holiday film, most of this particular footage would have to be cut out.
The curvy path that starts at the boundary to San Augustin is rather neglected and the holes in the tarmac filled with an uneven, rough mass. Strange coconut mats have been left along this path outside the stone walls that protect the villas within. Here I was surprised by the sight of a stout little bespectacled Asian gentleman, wearing a bandana with strange characters, who was puffing his way down a slope towards me. You do not see many Asian tourists on the island, though there are a few Asians who work here. This little man was no youngster but obviously used to having his morning run. By this time there was no beach to be seen; the damp sand had been replaced by dark rocks. The waves seemed to whistle as they crashed into crevices between the stones. Later I met the Asian man again on our return paths baring a pale, hairless torso and with his shirt in his hand.
The asphalt came to a rather abrupt end at a point where a sign warned of falling rocks. I looked back to admire the clear view of the winding path I had conquered and tried to make out our hotel in the distance, feeling very smug at having completed my course. The return path is always easier and I knew the sun would be on my back from now on, making things a little easier. A middle-aged Spanish lady with the trim figure of one who is accustomed to sporting activity walked briskly up the hill towards me, the type of woman I admire, well-groomed with short, well-cut hair and a healthy aspect. Behind her, a very different Spanish woman was leaving her house and walking somewhat cautiously down the hill in the same direction as myself. She was dressed very simply and wore plain, flat sandals. The cotton bag hanging limply in her hand suggested she might be going to the baker’s to buy fresh supplies for breakfast.
I overtook her and a couple of German ladies dressed in black sportswear, one running slowly and the other walking fast, keeping pace with one another. From a nearby hotel, the sweet scent of hot chocolate made me feel quite hungry. Another red-shirted runner approached grimly, a complicated monitor strapped to his left arm.
You have to cross another wooden bridge across a small river at this point. A group of particularly typical Germans of roughly the same age as myself were walking towards me across this bridge. They were not especially ambitious and took the time to peer over a concrete wall, under which dogs were barking noisily. Despite their casual gait, they were dressed in the latest fashion of sportswear, flashing designer labels. It almost made me giggle to realise that my own shorts had been bought in the last millennium and in fact, on reaching my hotel room, I discovered that a series of rather large holes were eating into a seam at the inside of one leg. I discarded them there and then.
The promenade was no longer an abandoned place since the joggers and walkers had been joined by multiple amblers and strollers and saunterers, as well as sitters and chatterers.. In the cafes that were just beginning to open in the Tropica Centre, aproned women were sweeping and wiping and scrubbing. The shore was also spotted with lines of tiny, black exercising silhouettes and the first eager holidaymakers, burdened by more or less heavy bags, were bagging deckchairs on the sand. And I was ready for breakfast.