License to thrill – Runaway from Istria!

12th of April, 23:00, Advendure Athens.

Troupis Dimitris was sitting in front of his computer screen, inside his office, drinking his espresso coffee and posting articles about trail running. He was doing the night shift and everything looked like it was going to be another boring night. Normally, he and Takis Tsogkarakis should have been in Croatia, by now, trying to spy on Alen Paliska, race director of the 100 Miles of Istria race, in order to relocate advendure’s missing field agent, Theoharis, and establish back communication with him. However, a recorded conversation in a USB memory stick, before a few weeks, changed that plan! Their supervisor, Ioanna Drakatou, asked for the help of Nikos “Zero Lactic” Rhodopoulos. Nikos is a trail veteran who survived many-many wars! He is forged by lactic acid and has got battle scars everywhere so that’s how he earned the nickname “Zero Lactic”. It is said that, once, he managed to turn back time by running a 100 mile course continuously back and forth so that the organizers of that race had enough time to go to the finish line and give him his trophy! And now he was assigned with a far more critical mission, rescuing Theoharis Lezpouridis. None other was aware of that covert operation except than Dimitris Troupis, Takis Tsogkarakis, Ioanna Drakatou and the Boss!

 

 

 

12th of April, 22:10, Lovran-Starting point of the “100 Miles of Istria” blue course. Croatia.

Alen has just announced the start of the blue course, a 110 kilometer race with 4.500 meters of elevation gain. Approximately 370 runners have set off, from Lovran, on to a memorable journey throughout the peninsula of Istria. Lovran is one of the oldest coastal settlements on the eastern shore of Istrian peninsula, next to the foothills of Mount Vojak which is part of the Ucka massif. Its small port, which looks like it came out of the pages of a romantic novel, is the ideal starting point for this race! Ten minutes ago there was music and drums, and laughter and people at the port of Lovran but now it is silent again. The only thing that looks alive is a long, moving, bright line, made out of hundreds of headlights, stretched across the strenuous climb that leads to the top of the mountain.

 

 

12th of April, 22:12, Lovran. Croatia.

  Multiple gunshots break out of a sudden! A dark, short man is running towards the track while six muscular guys are after him. The only known figure is Alen Paliska who is standing still laughing his heart out!
“YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO ESCAPE THEOHARIS! HAHAHAHA! YOU ARE DOOMED! HAHAHAHAHA…… HAHAHAHA…….”

 

 

12th of April, 23:13, Advendure HQ Athens

  • Troupis: Heh…? What’s that? (He sees a blinking message on his computer screen. The message says “incoming radio transmission”. He presses “ENTER”).
  • Theoharis: This is special agent…. 007-009-2415 Theoharis Lezpouridis. Requesting immediate evacuation! I’m sending you my coordinates.  45.292N - 14.274E……… Repeat………. 45.292N  14.274E.
  • Troupis: Theoharis! Thank God, you are alive! It’s Dimitris Troupis! What’s your status?
  • Theoharis: My Status? I’m alive for now and I hope it remains like that…….. I’ve got six boogies on my tail and they are closing……… Alen found out where I was hiding! I was supposed to meet “Zero Lactic” in Lovran……. He was the only one who knew where I was hiding!
  • Troupis: What????? Try to stay alive! Head to Vojak summit, blend with the rest of the runners. This might help! In the meanwhile I’ll try find Tsogkarakis and Ioanna Drakatou. Over.
  • Theoharis: OK….. Over and out…….

Without further delay Dimitris calls on the phone his colleague, Takis, and afterwards, his supervisor Ioanna. He explains everything to them while they’re on their way to meet him in advendure’s HQ.

One hour later….

  • Ioanna: OK Dimitris, we are here! I want to talk to Theoharis!
  • Troupis: He hasn’t called me again since then…
  • Ioanna: This might not be good… (But before Ioanna finishes what she’s about to say another “incoming radio transmission” is displayed on the computer screen.)

Troupis quickly presses “ENTER”.

 

  • Theoharis: Hey Dimitris…! What’s the season now?
  • Troupis: It’s spring, it’s April!
  • Theoharis: Then why is it snowing in the middle of bloody April?
  • Ioanna: Theoharis, this is Ioanna Drakatou, ID number: 008 0……..
  • Theoharis: I know who you are Miss Ioanna.
  • Ioanna: What is your problem?
  • Theoharis: Well, it snows a lot up here! Everything is covered with fresh snow! The wind is freezing and the fog is so thick that I cannot even see what’s in front. I don’t have a clue if I’m going right…. Not to mention that I’m wearing shorts… I request immediate evacuation or you’re going to find Princess Elsa (Disney Frozen movie) up here!
  • Ioanna: OK, Theoharis. Let me check this and we’ll call you back.
  • Ioanna: Takis Tsogkarakis what’s the closest evacuation point in Istria?
  • Takis: I’m afraid that the closest one, in Istria, is located in Umag which is another 100 kilometers away from where Theoharis is.
  • Ioanna: Sh%t…! You mean that we’ll have to ask him to run the rest of the blue course of the “100 Miles of Istria” in order to rescue him?
  • Takis: Well, it didn’t sound that bad when I said it…
  • Ioanna: OK, we have no other option. Dimitris! Call Theoharis back!
  • Ioanna: Theoharis where are you now? How are things up there?
  • Theoharis: SSSShhhh…… Very bad……. SSSShhhh…….. Weather……. I think I can see…… SSSSShhhhhh……. Aid Station…… SSSSShhhhh………. I’ll call…… SSSSShhhhh……….. Later……….

 

15 minutes later at Poklon…

  • Theoharis: Hey guys, do you copy? I’m at the first aid station now. It’s a little crowded but at least it’s warm. Moreover the food here is delicious! There are refreshments, snacks, soup, noodles, chocolate, bread, ham, sweet pies and many more! Think I’m going to stay here for a while… I haven’t eaten anything for ages and that steep climb totally drained me.
  • Ioanna: Theoharis, please listen carefully. Evacuation point will be in Umag, near the finish line, tomorrow morning at 11:30. The chopper is going to stay there only for 15 minutes. Better stop eating and start running!
  • Theoharis: What? You want me to go back to the dragon’s lair? I just escaped from Umag a few days ago and now you want me to go back?
  • Ioanna: Sadly, yes…

Gunshots are heard outside the aid station again…

  • Theoharis: F@ck, I thought they lost me in the blizzard. Got to go! I’ll call you when it’s safe again.

 

After 4 challenging hours near Trstenik aid station…

 

 

  • Theoharis: Guys do you read me? I think I’m close to the third aid station.
  • Takis: Theoharis, this is special agent Tsogkarakis. The others had to leave for a while but they will return. I want you to know that we are doing everything we can to rescue you. How was it for you the last couple of hours?
  • Theoharis: Well, if it wasn’t for those guys that want my head on a stick I’d probably stay here for vacation. The place is wonderful even at night! Every single peak until now was snow-capped and there are some really nice chestnut forests here! I think, I went through a nature park which was indeed a unique sight to see during the night. The terrain, though, is very demanding, there are rocks and stones everywhere! Only when the trail leads us inside the forest, the soil becomes smoother. Fortunately, I was running together with some very kind runners of the red and the blue course so I never felt alone. It was, also, the same back at the previous aid station at Brgudac. All the volunteers were helpful and they could speak English which is very important if you ask for instructions. Not that you’re going to need any because the whole race course is marked with orange, reflective, little flags and looks like a runway!
  • Takis: What about the weather Theoharis? Is it troubling you?
  • Theoharis: Have you heard what they keep saying in the “Game of Thrones” TV series? “The winter is coming…”
  • Takis: They, also, say “The night is dark and full of terrors…”
  • Theoharis: Takis, you know you’re not helping! OK, I’m going to call you after I get past the main aid station in Buzet. The place is said to be full of Alen’s people, I might need to disguise…

 

Buzet aid station. One hour before sunrise.

  • Theoharis: (whispering) Guys do you hear me? I’m in Buzet! I’m at the aid station. I’m dressed as a volunteer and I serve food. This trick fooled the guys who were chasing me and I’m going to be safer for the rest of my way. Nevertheless, I should always be cautious because you’ll never know…
  • Ioanna: Theoharis, it’s Ioanna again. Can you describe what you see?
  • Theoharis: I see a tired runner, from the red course, who is waiting to be served… “Here is your pasta sir!”. That last peak, before the final downhill to Buzet, was a freaking nightmare! It was windy as hell! No wonder why everyone looks beaten. Moreover, I’m inside a big gym and I’m standing in front of the counter with food for vegans. There are lots of tables to sit and lots of volunteers ready to assist you. Most of the runners of both courses haven’t arrived yet so it’s pretty quiet for now. It’s a tough night out there. You know, Alen may be the bad guy but I just started to like him. This guy is using wooden knives, forks and spoons, for the athletes, at the aid stations instead of plastic ones. Paper dishes, also! Guys, you have to admit that you don’t see villains with environmental concerns every day!
  • Ioanna: That’s good to know Theoharis but he is still trying to rule the world! Maybe it’s time for you to go now. You have a chopper to catch!
  • Theoharis: You are right, I’d better leave! I’ll call you later.

 

Near Oprtalj. 9 hours and 30 mins after the start of the blue course.

  • Theoharis: Guys? Are you still there? Do you hear me?
  • Troupis, Takis and Ioanna: Yes, Theoharis, loud and clear. We are still here with you. What is your position?
  • Theoharis: I’m following a trail road now. I had to cross a dense part of the forest a little while ago and there was a steep climb, also. The vegetation was like a jungle due to yesterday’s heavy rain! Furthermore, I got my feet wet when I crossed a stream. The water was freezing! I’m still wondering if it’s spring… Hopefully, the rain stopped, the sun came up and I, finally, feel like everything is going to be alright in the end.
  • Ioanna: Better cross your fingers, Theoharis, because the last part of the race is said to be a mental challenge even for professionals!
  • Theoharis: I’ll try to keep that in mind. Thanks! Hey, guys! Do you want to know something cool?
  • Troupis, Takis and Ioanna: Sure! What is that Theoharis?
  • Theoharis: I went past the ruins of a really ancient castle. It was the Pietrapelosa castle! Many of its walls were still intact! This part of Istria is full of medieval towns so I have a feeling that I’m about to see more spectacular places like this one. Over and out.

 

Buje aid station. 10:00 am.

  • Theoharis: Guys! I need help! Alen’s sidekicks have set me an ambush! They are after me, again! It’s a miracle how I managed to get away!
  • Troupis: Theoharis, you are only 13 kilometers away from the finish line. The chopper will be waiting for you there and then all your struggle will be over! Make haste!
  • Theoharis: Dimitris, I’m trying but I don’t know if I can… I’m exhausted! It seems that the blue course is gaining the upper hand. The last couple of hours I’ve been running in the mud across long, flat trail roads that look endless!
  • Troupis: Keep yourself together Theoharis! I know it’s hard but you’re a trained special agent! You are going to make it so “Run and let die” (Live and let die was a 007 James Bond movie filmed in 1973)!

11:20 am. A little outside Umag.

  • Ioanna: Theoharis, how are holding back there?
  • Theoharis: Guys! Please take me out of here now! I’m losing my mind! The last part of the race is a cruel torture! I’ve been running through mud for the last two hours! I can see Umag but I don’t think I will ever reach there! These fields I’m crossing have totally consumed my energy, they destroyed my motivation! I don’t think I am ever going to make…
  • Ioanna: Theoharis, I beg you, don’t quit now! You have to hurry, the chopper is almost there!
  • Theoharis: I’ll do my best Ioanna but if something bad happens I want you to know that I truly appreciate what you did for me the last couple of hours. It’s been a real pleasure. Over and out.
  • Ioanna: Over and out Theoharis. Over and out…

 

11:42 am. Sports Hall, Finish line. Umag.

  • Theoharis: GUYS! I see the chopper! I’m running towards the finish line! I did it! I did it! Do you hear me?
  • Ioanna: Nice job Theoharis! We have never lost faith in you! We will be waiting for your arrival. Over and out.

Theoharis runs the last couple of meters full of joy! His adventure is coming to an end. He cannot even remember the last night, the bad weather, the gunshots, the challenging course… It’s as if none of all these ever happened! Crossing that finishing line is like being in heaven for him! He dashes into the chopper which is taking off at that moment. He’s looking down at the crowd which is cheering as if this is all part of a show! Theoharis now sits back as the chopper flies above the coast. Suddenly a twisted laugh is heard very loud!

 

 

  • Helicopter pilot: HAHAHAHAHHAHA…….. AHAHAHAHAHAHA……. HAHAHAHAHA!!!
  • Theoharis: What the hell?

The helicopter pilot turns his head and takes off his helmet. It’s Alen Paliska and he’s pointing Theoharis with a gun!

  • Alen: I think this is where you get off agent Theoharis! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

 

Theoharis Lezpouridis     

Photo copyright: Hrvoje Sarson, Zdenko Mlinar, Dejan Hren, Goran Jakus, Jan Matsrovic, Vanja Stokovic

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