By John Griffith, founder of the great UK running site, www.therunningbug.co.uk
John has a love of exotic routes: See John's Mediterranean hillclimb here: Amalfi, Italy Running Route
For more running routes, see the Route List!
For longer than is healthy I’ve had a burning desire to visit Cuba. To shuffle out a salsa in a downtown bar to a rough ‘n’ ready band whose average age is about 76 while drinking dark rum or a Mohito cocktail then to chug back to a forlorn hotel in a ’64 Cadillac where in dim lamplight we smoke a fat cigar to round off a perfect evening. Then after too little sleep and in a haze of cane syrup alcohols and flashing images of the night before to breeze out onto the famous “Malecon” – the coastal main road for an early morning run round the bay.
Well last week my dream came true.
It’s hard not to talk about Cuba without conjuring images of ancient American classic cars and women smoking cigars in brightly coloured headscarves. All these clichés can be seen on almost every corner of Havana. It’s been discovered, invaded, owned, sold, re-invaded and freed several times over in its history so it’s little wonder Cuba has character. And that character is forged not just by the country’s history but to a large extent by the unique sight of the 60’s Cadillacs, Fords and Buicks that make up the traffic. These were brought over by mafia money in Cuba’s only boom time economy which divided the rich (mostly unwelcome Americans) and the poor (mostly angry Cubans). They were left in a hurry when the achingly handsome and very popular Che Guevara won the people’s hearts and their freedom in a successful people’s revolution. As the last Americans left in 1964 he told the Cubans “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine”. Stirring stuff.
|A '59 Edsel in Havana|
But to the run: This loop is an easy, flat route of about 4 miles taking in the old town, the Malecon, a bit of their Chinatown and a piece of, well, just real Havana. The Hispanic architecture, most of which went up in the period leading to the revolution that took place in the 60’s, has mellowed to a kind of crumbling colonial charm which makes for lots of eye-catching scenes, so take a camera if you can carry one (I used a blackberry to take my shots).
|At the Capitolio: a '59 Plymouth|
|Along the Malecon|
|Plaza Viejo in morning light|
Go to Cuba for sun, rum, music by old blokes, dancing, cigars, beaches and value for money but don’t go for luxury - not much works and nobody in Cuba has any money, although of course they'll welcome some of yours.
|The cars are older than the musicians in Havana|