Running the gauntlet
As a runner I have been deeply saddened by the deaths of two academic women who in different circumstances lost their lives while running in Greece. The first, Suzanne Eaton, a 59-year-old American biologist, was last month run over, raped and murdered by a young Greek farmer, the son of a priest, in Crete. Meanwhile, British astrophysicist, Dr Nathalie Christopher, 34, disappeared while running in the hills of Ikaria in Greece. Her body has just been found and it appears that she fell and fatally hit her head on rocks.
It’s odd but female runners worldwide don their trainers and set off into hills, along tracks or by the sea most days and rarely stop to think of the dangers. When I ran in London, I’d often follow routes in Hyde Park, and near the Serpentine early evening, knowing that there’d be walkers and hopefully late commuters around. All the same it just takes one unhinged individual to turn an innocent run into tragedy. Lunatics and felons aside, there’s the simple matter of losing one’s footing or feeling unwell en route. Many carry mobile phones but I much prefer to run with just a bottle of water and some energy gels in my pocket. I have at least stopped listening to music as I run so am always aware of noises around me, including traffic.
Aside from the tragic deaths of these two vital and intelligent women, I was also shocked last year when 26-year-old Spanish art teacher Laura Luelmo, was raped and killed by a neighbour outside the small town of El Campillo in Southwest Spain. Lulled by a false sense of security in a sleepy Spanish enclave the newly installed teacher had little idea that a recently released violent ex-con lived bang next door. He noted her running routine, followed one night and murdered her. Perhaps, a mobile could save a life but it certainly didn’t in the case of these three women.
While training for my South African marathon I needed to do some hill and trail running but never strayed too far around the Soller hills. I’d more often than not schlep up to the lighthouse in the port and down onto the beach to get some deep sand training before making a loop up to the village of Fornalutx. Even if I had felt ill or had a problem, I always saw people during my runs and could have got assistance.
It’s sad to think that women need to re-think the way they train and exercise in public places and must by necessity only run where they think it’s safe. Still, I have many runner friends who refuse to be cowed by the threat of male assailants and continue to take risks. It’s admirable to be brave but frankly, at what cost?
Recently, I had to pick up a huge supply of my updated Majorcan travel titles with my new publisher logo (a thrilling moment for me, at least!) from well-known local removals company, Webbs in Santa Ponsa. The company had lovingly collected the cargo from the printing works in the UK and safely shipped it over to the island, and awaited my arrival. It crossed my mind that loyal Webbs had been shipping my books from the publishers in London for more than a decade.
So, it was good to chat with Bill Webb and charming wife Jo, and to reminisce about the time he’d delivered my very first books, and how expectant I’d been. Six titles later, I’m a little more blasé but there’s still that frisson of excitement when a new book arrives. In September, I’ll be relying on Bill to ship over early copies of my very first Majorca based crime novel, The Devil’s Horn, and I know he won’t let me down. It’s a joy to know that this hard-working family business is still going strong and garnering new clients year on year. They deserve all the luck in the world.
First women-only hotel in Majorca
A new 39 room, women-only four-star is being launched by Som Hotels here in Majorca, no less. Situated in Porto Cristo, it will offer a pink and white palette of shades in the bedrooms, (no surprises there), and cater for women in every way. Of course, such a product has actually been around for a while. Twenty years ago I stayed in the women-only tower of Millennium Hotel in Times Square and that didn’t take off in the long term so you wonder how this one will fare. I imagine the novelty factor will kick in and gaggles of girls will book but in the long run, will it really cut the mustard?
In truth, female travellers are on the rise especially solo adventurers in their fifties and older, and groups of friends. Women-only travel companies have seen a 230 per cent increase in the last six years and around 32 million American women travelled on their tod last year. Having spent a month travelling on my own in Africa, though joining lots of group activities along the way, I can honestly say it’s a fun and liberating experience. Certainly it’s lovely to travel with a partner or friends, but equally it’s exciting setting out on one’s own very unique adventure. It feels more raw and edgy and one is sometimes thrown into adrenaline-led situations that test one to the limit. It’s good for the soul and makes one feel alive, well so I maintain. Whether women-only hotels such as this will kick off, who can say, but being a renegade, I’d rather check-in to a mixed company hotel any time.