Cyprus, the most easterly island in the Mediterranean, is a land rich in history and legends. The island is said to be the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love and beauty but not all in antiquity was sweetness and light. As a second home to the Olympic Gods such as Zeus (thunder), Apollo (health/music), and Hera (women), it was a place where passions were high and suffering and jealousy rife. Fortunately Dionysus (wine/partying) was also a visitor and if you add a dose of Athena’s wisdom, courage and inspiration, we have an ideal location for a marathon weekend!
Limassol is on the south coast of the island and hosts the OPAP Limassol Marathon event. With over 16,000 participants, covering distances from 5k to full marathon, it is the largest sporting event in Cyprus.
The marathon course is flat, uncrowded and, if you don’t mind a “#RunintheSun”, potentially very fast. With runners from 40 different countries attending it is a truly international event and we were delighted to be invited to pace. The race itself was extremely well organised and included a pasta party on the Saturday afternoon, complete with traditional dancing and a post-race party with live music until midnight on Sunday evening.
Never having been to Cyprus before we didn’t know quite what to expect from the weekend but we generally find that each marathon trip has its own character which evolves during our stay. In Limassol two over-riding themes emerged – one of fun and one of support and both were present in numerous ways, some more obvious than others. Here are some examples.
Support from the city
Marathon weekends are always special but it is particularly good when the whole city gets behind you. In Limassol there were posters throughout the town, buses painted with #RunLimassol and local people welcoming us to their home. The inclusion of the Prime-Tel Corporate 5K on the Saturday (over 10,000, mainly local, runners/walkers) was a big factor in how the event was accepted. This race was crazy and chaotic (think the world’s biggest parkrun without a run briefing and not enough volunteers) but it meant that many people living and working in the city felt more involved in the weekend and more appreciative and supportive of the Sunday runners.
Support from other runners
The marathon route consisted of two out and backs which meant running through the start/finish area halfway through the race. This can be a bit dispiriting sometimes but on Sunday it was great for us on our marathon journey to be cheered along by large numbers of 10k and half marathon runners (happy in the knowledge that their journey had finished!) as we headed out for the second part of our run.
The Phenomenon that is ‘Run Mummy Run’
Run Mummy Run is a UK online running group/community that was started in 2012 by Leanne Davies as a means of keeping herself and friends motivated to run whilst juggling the demands of having a young family. It has since grown and now has 55,000 followers on the RMR Facebook page. The ethos of the group is based on mutual support and kindness to others and aims to help women of all abilities to build confidence and run. Members of the RMR were out in large numbers in Limassol to run and have fun. Mainly running the 10k and half marathon, true to form, they were incredibly supportive of each other and everyone else on the course. It was a joy to meet them.
Supporting others as pacers
Something we both feel passionate about is trying to inspire others to run. We have gained so much from running ourselves and really enjoy helping others to fulfil their running goals. Pacing is one way we can do this. It also gives us the opportunity to meet and talk to other runners and hear their stories. We all run for different reasons and everyone has a story to tell. During the race we enjoyed hearing some more of these stories. One aspect of pacing that is not so good is having to leave runners behind if they can no longer keep pace. Sadly on Sunday this was the situation with many of our pace groups mainly because conditions were much warmer than than those in which most of the runners had trained. The sun was out, temperatures were up in the low 20’s and there was little shade on the course so target times needed to be adjusted and plan B’s put into place. The switchbacks on the course afforded a chance to give a little more encouragement to those dropping back but it is difficult, especially if you are last pacer and know that there is no one behind to give support. It is always good, if its possible, after the finish to catch up with runners who you have spent many miles with and be able to join them in celebrating their achievements. The post-race party provided a perfect opportunity to do this – and even the stormy weather didn’t dampen spirits.
Support for us as Pacers
As we said above we were both delighted to be asked to pace at Limassol and this invitation came from Paul Addicott on behalf of Breathe Unity who look after the PR for the event. Cam was pacing 4:30hrs and Jacquie 5:00hrs. As pacers we expect to be there to support others but it was so good to also be supported in return. It was brilliant to be part of the pace-team and to be so well looked after from beginning to end. We really appreciated the meal for pacers on Friday evening, our hoodies and the company of the team throughout. Alongside the races we had so much fun and made new friends. A telling quote from the weekend was from Jacquie on returning to the hotel on Sunday for a quick change of clothes – “ I’m glad we’ve got away – I needed a break from laughing”.
For us Limassol definitely lived up to its hashtag – Run with a Smile – and we look forward to returning in 2020!