The Limassol Marathon has been much more than a marathon for me, it was a week long family holiday. Therefore this blog will be broken down into sections. The first will focus on the actual marathon, which I completed, that’s why you are reading this right? The second will look at the weekend; pre race, the corporate 5k and the kids race, of which my family took part in. The final section will look at Limassol as a holiday destination, what we did, what we thought, and our recommendations.
Limassol Marathon 2017:
With a 7:00 am start I had to rise early on marathon day. My hotel prepared breakfast early for Runners, which was available from 5:30 am. This was really nice of them, but there wasn’t anything I really fancied. They prepared the usual spread which included a full English fry up, but all I wanted was a banana, which they didn’t have. Luckily I had packed some Grub bars which would be ok to keep me going. I like to be early at races so made my way out to the bus, especially as I had already experienced how relaxed with timings the buses are. I waited 30 minutes for a bus, and by this time there were about 20 runners waiting with me. When the bus turned up it was free, as we had been given a 3 day pass on the buses which was worth 15 euros. I’m glad I wasn’t at the next stop, because the bus went past without stopping as it was full.
When I got to the start it was very lively, as expected with a 5k, 10k, half and full marathon planned to start at the same time. It was a great atmosphere. I put my kit into the storage truck and made my way to the start where I met Lee and Jo.
Shortly after we were met by Bec’s who took us to the elite/VIP start where we joined Susie, Shaun, Andy, Kirsty, Elise and Ben. Gill was not there as she was set to do the half. It was really nice to catch up with everyone from UKRUNCHAT and the UK crew before the start.
They delayed the race by about 10-15 minutes (not sure exactly as I was gps ready), as they were accounting for any delays with the buses. Then we were off…
I had my race plan, and in this order of priority: enjoy the run and my holiday, try to break 3:30, go for sub 3:15, beat my PB (3:08), go for GFA 3:05. I’ve not PB’d for 4 years since I’ve had kids, as I’ve not trained for speed or put the specific training in, but I still feel strong. My plan was to go out at 7 min miles and see how long I could hold it for, and ease back when needed to maintain at least an 8 min mile. I’ve blown up many times and wanted to avoid this so always planned to pull back so I could maintain at least a comfortable 3:30 pace and still feel good. Lee started running with me and it was great to hold pace with him for the first 10k. His PB was 3:25 so I was really impressed he was holding the pace and really hoped he would hold on. Part of me wondered if he had gone out to hard, but I thought if we got towards 20 miles together I would run whatever was needed to finish together. Unfortunately we got to around 10k and just after a water station he eased back. I saw him behind me for a while but before long he was gone.
The course itself started at the marina which is a beautiful setting. We headed to the old port and completed 10k by the time we were back at the marina. This area was populated by lots of spectators, and a pleasure to run through. The rest of the course was predominantly one straight, flat road that we go out and back. It was beautiful and scenic with the ocean on our side, and water stations every 2.5k (in bottles). This course did suffer from a lack of spectators though, but the marshals did make up for it.
It was a really hot day so I was happy to receive water so often, which I always picked up and drank/poured over my head. I completed Lucerne Marathon last year that claims to be the most beautiful in Europe. Limassol is real competition for this title (based on my experience) and I would argue Limassol is more beautiful.
As we approached 14k I started to pass half marathoners, which was really good, as it provided a more populated course. After about 18k I think the half marathoners turned off so I was left with only marathoners in front which were far and few between. We soon started hitting inclines, something I wasn’t expecting. At this point I was going strong still averaging 7 min miles as planned.
Anyone who knows me will know I don’t like hills and most of the out section was now pretty much up hill, slight but continuous.
I slowed but managed to hold on. It wasn’t until the return trip that I started to struggle to recover after the inclines, and after about 18 miles I wasn’t naturally able to pick up the pace again. I was still on for about 3:03 and a massive PB. I felt good, and this run gave me a real confidence boost, that although I’m not training as hard as I did 4 years ago, I have a good basic condition, and my body is ready to try and tackle sub 3 soon. I refer back to my earlier priorities, the first being to have fun and enjoy the run and holiday. I could have pushed here and maybe got a GFA, and certainly a PB. But at what cost? I would have been useless after the race and no good for my family. There would also be a risk that I would not be able to hold on and blow up, which I have done before, meaning I would get a worse time and feel terrible. Or even worse, I could get an injury, and with numerous pacing gigs lined up this spring including Manchester, London and Liverpool marathons, I did not want to risk it.
I settled more into an 8 minute mile pace, something which was my strategy from the start, but let’s be honest, not something I had actually wanted to do. I tried a couple more times to push the pace a little, but it wasn’t coming easy. I was really happy with the time I was looking at, so not too bothered. At about 32.5k I passed my hotel, and was heading towards a little loop back which would add another 5k to the route. This was the only part of the course that looped back on itself, a bonus for this part was that it populated the course some more. What was extra special was that just before the turn my family were waiting for me. I had not expected them to be here, but very pleased they were, it is great sharing these moments with my family. Because of the loop around I got to see them twice and give my boy two hi-fives.
I asked Kirsty later how I looked, and she said I looked like I was running really strong. She has seen me PB hunting years ago, and although I was running faster times I often struggled and was exhausted at the end of the race. This time I’m building up so that I can be much more comfortable and enjoy the race, this is what comes first. But it’s great to get that boost from your family.
At this point I knew that the PB was now not likely, but I had thought I would hold on to sub 3:10 but this soon started to slip away. I tried a little push towards the end to tuck under but it wasn’t coming easy, and I was feeling good with my performance overall so I settled and knew it would be sub 3:15; my second fastest time and best performance for years.
I slowed at the final stretch but again I was happy with this and by now we were back surrounded by lots of supporters and I was enjoying the beautiful views and taking in the atmosphere. I passed my family again at about 40k as they headed towards the finish. This was a cracking race that I finished in 3:12:58; 42nd overall and 15th in age group. I’m very happy with that.
At the finish line I was met with my medal and sprayed by Ice Power. I’ve never used this before but it gave a welcomed tingling and cooling sensation to my legs. I then noticed a number of stations for a massage and I was lucky to come at the perfect time. I got an awesome double massage by two friendly Cypriot women, and they really went to work. I must have been there for about 10 minutes and this massage really helped my legs.
I felt really fresh afterwards and really enjoyed my beer. There was an after party with Guaba Club hosting, and a beer tent in the middle. I met up with my family for a drink, and then caught up with all the UK finishers I knew from Twitter.
We had a couple more beers before everyone went their separate ways for lunch.
We had a lovely pizza from Remezzo (somewhere we went back to 3 times as it was that good). The Guaba after party went on until 20:00 hours, and I’m sure would have been a great atmosphere. However with two young kids it was time for me to focus on the family.
Overall a fantastic marathon, with real PB potential. It was on the hot side, and there were some fairly isolated areas. But it was a beautiful, mostly flat course which was well supported, with a great atmosphere throughout.
Pre-Marathon at Limassol:
Looking back, our first experience with run Limassol was the registration area. Part of the accommodation package was for race packs to be delivered to our hotel. We arrived on the Wednesday so they had not delivered them yet. We wanted to go to the marina on the Thursday anyway, and were there as they set up the registration. I thought I might as well check it out. We asked about our packs and ironically they had been delivered to us on the Wednesday night. We purchased hoodies at a reasonable price and saw that there was a kids race. I had forgotten about the kids race as the earliest age group was 6-9 and my boy is 3. I had a chat with the organisers and they were happy for Benjamin to take part as long as I stayed with him (which I would have done anyway) and if we started at the back. Benjamin’s longest race to date, a 1k. The registration for this event was free, and included a race tshirt and finishers medal, great touch.
Later that day, when we got back to the hotel, I was disappointed that my race pack wasn’t there. Kirsty’s corporate 5k pack was, but not mine. With so many to deliver they had left it behind. The receptionist called and I was told it would be delivered in the evening. To be honest this was the excuse I was looking for to go for a run, so I got my kit on and ran the 5k from my hotel to the registration. Would you believe it, when I got there someone had just left to do the bag drops with my bag included. I was not too bothered as I started my watch again and ran back to my hotel, in a pretty quick time. My bib turned up later that day, and they had included a race top for me and my kids because of the mix up. This was not necessary, and I already had a race top in my bag. It meant that Kirsty could have one, and Amelie had a top to match Benjamin. Good result all round.
We had an early start on the Saturday with both Kirsty and Benjamin running. First up was the corporate 5k with over 8,000 runners. This is designed as a fun run and the biggest of the two days. Of course Kirsty should not have been able to have taken part in this. I however, contacted the organisers and asked if we could make an exception. All 4 race distances on the Sunday start at the same time, which meant it was impossible for Kirsty to run as we have two little monsters to look after. I am really fortunate that the organisers went above and beyond to contact one of the teams that had a drop out, and explained the situation. The team was happy for kirsty to join them. The 5k started at 9:00 am, and it was a big mass start. I will let Kirsty tell you what she thought:
“I’m used to our holidays centering around Paul’s sporting events so it was refreshing to get the chance to participate too! And this was made possible because of the hospitable organisers of the limassol run series asking a participating company if they minded me using one of their spare places, so to them I am grateful!! The journey to the run was a bit chaotic with two kids and a slower than usual bus service, then factor in that half the journey to the start was closed for the run, we ended up speed walking to the start line! But it was a relaxed event, everyone was chatting and the sun was shining, it felt unlike any races I’ve done in the UK. As we passed through the barriers to the start we were offered a free hat, provided by one of the sponsors. A nice touch given that the sun was pretty low still and slightly blinding! After a lot of chatter in a language I didn’t understand, the wheelchair participants got going, followed by the masses ten minutes or so later. Again, the start of the race was a little different to what I’m used to… being a fun run, many of the participants decided to walk the event but started right at the front of the pack… some were carrying lattes, others their handbags. As a result it took a good five mins to actually get to a running speed! Nevertheless the atmosphere was fab, and the route clearly marked. At points the course was marked with cones and I saw a fair few people trip on these; but that’s my only gripe. Despite the slow start and the heat, I actually ran quicker than my current park run pace which I was pleased with. A basic but nice medal and as many bottles of water as I could carry were waiting at the finish line, a thoroughly enjoyable and well organised event”.
I am really proud of Kirsty. After only recently getting back into running, and running a half marathon the week before, she ran a post baby PB. It was lovely to see her at the end, and before long it was time to get Benjamin ready for his big moment.
The race was to start at 11:00 am, and there were to be 3 waves. First the 6-9, then 10-12, then the 13-16. Before I give you his feedback I will tell you what I thought.
This is a great concept, and a really nice thing to do. We tried making our way to the start at about 10:30. We didn’t know where to go so went to the viewing panel right next to the start. What I know now is that you were supposed to follow the route from the race village and not go straight to the start. Unfortunately when we got to the start area I asked if this was how we got to the start, and the security guard said yes, but come back in 20 minutes. I took Benjamin to play in the park then we came back 20 minutes later. At this point I saw loads of people lined up just a few metres away. I asked to come through but she said, no come back in 10 minutes. At this point I gestured to the people lined up and said I need to be there, and she unhelpfully said “I’m just following instructions”. I then went to the next barrier with two women stood next to the opening. I asked them to come through, and it was literally the back of the queue. But they would not let me and said I had to go all the way around, which would mean we may have missed the start. I was really frustrated at this point as I had plenty of time to go around, but only waited because the first women told me to come back. We went to the next barrier and this time the guy was much more sensible. Sensing the urgency in my voice he let us through and we got to the start on time.
Unfortunately they decided to change it around for the oldest first, and we now had to wait. It was cramped, busy and an out and back course. The organisation for this event was never going to work, and needs to be worked out for next year. It needs to be a loop, or the out and back need to be sectioned off, otherwise you will have kids running back in to each other. I think they realised this and this is why they changed it to the oldest first. As rather than a few minute gap in between they realised they would need to wait for everyone to finish before starting the next. What this meant was the youngest kids had to wait a long time before the start which is not good, and we did not start until 11:30. What I also noticed was the second group finished far too quickly, there was no way they completed 1k. I found out I was right when we did ours, they halved the course. Now this was the right decision based on the situation they found themselves in, but a real shame nonetheless. The oldest were the only ones to do the 1k, the rest did 500 metres. This is better than waiting longer to start though.
The race itself was great. Benjamin was absolutely fantastic and ran the whole way without stopping once. He is going to be a natural runner and I’m so proud of him. He got a medal for his effforts and is very happy for his achievements. Overall opinion on this race is it’s got great potential but some organisational issues to sort out for next year. Benjamin tends to dwell on things (not sure where he gets that from), and although he had a good time, and is loving his holiday, when I asked him 3 days later if he wanted to come back to Cyprus he said: “no those mean men wouldn’t let us through to do our run and then we had to wait a long long time”. He later told me how he really enjoyed the run “I ran like this (pumps arms) faster and faster”. He also loved his holiday, but sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference for kids.
We came back later for the pasta party. This was the first time we met up with the UKRUNCHAT group and there were many familiar names of people I knew only by twitter.
Becs and Carole from Breatheunity were there looking after us, and it was nice to get together and say hello. The pasta party was only technically for Sunday runners, but again the whole family were able to enjoy free of charge.
Our Limassol holiday:
My children our fortunate to be well travelled. We have taken them away to numerous locations, but Limassol was our first proper “sunny/seaside holiday”. We decided to go for a whole week to make the most of what Limassol had to offer. With young children we were restricted to how far we were willing to travel, and we soon realised that Limassol is a small place. We were given 3 days free travel on the bus and outside of this it was only 1.50 euro for any journey or 5 euro a day. The first couple of days were warm, but we experienced rain. This was short lived as the rest of the holiday was lovely and warm. In the shade, and in the evening it could feel a little cold, but during the day it was certainly beach weather.
We spent a lot of our time in the marina. This was where the race village was set up, but was modern and full of places to eat and drink.
There were lovely places for the kids to play and a pedestrian walkway for us to wonder away from the main road.
Some highlights include Remezzo that had a wonderful margarita pizza, at a really reasonable price. It was so good that we went back three times. The childrens meals were large and big enough for the kids to share. We also had a special treat at Haagen dazs .
The old town was near by and full of places to eat, and shops that would be good for tourists. We didn’t spend much time here but imagine we would have without the children. We also went to Cyprus’s “largest shopping Mall” (MyMall), which was the end of the line on our bus.
Limassol Zoo was another attraction for the children and somewhere Benjamin wanted to go back to, so we went twice. It was a nice few hours, and pleasant enough, and very cheap. But be warned it is only small, so only took us a couple of hours including drinks and playing in the park. The first time we went we were pretty much alone, the second time there were a number of school groups 😱
Near by the zoo was “Big Ben’s” restaurant, it was cheap and cheerful, with friendly staff. The local beer was also half the price of most places. I consumed a lot of Keo here and elsewhere.
We also went to Cyprus land. The kids enjoyed it, we played archery, pottery, had a fight and watched a fighting show. It is medieval themed, so the kids loved it. In all honesty it was small, felt a little overpriced when comparing to the rest of the holiday, and I wasn’t a fan. We were given a ticket for a free return when we arrived as we were the only people there, and they weren’t going to do the planned fight. Luckily more people turned up as the need at least 6 for them to do this. I would suggest a weekend may be better to guarantee the fight, without this it wouldn’t be worth the trip.
It was lovely weather to walk along the beach, and our hotel staff and food “Park Beach Hotel” were fantastic. We realised towards the end of our trip that there was a playground and cafe right next to our hotel. Again, it would be even better with slightly older children or couples. The only issue we found was the pool was to cold for the children and the beach was not a traditional sand castle type of beach.
We had a lovely time and will be back for more. Benjamin’s face on the plan home tells the story. We are all sad to be leaving Limassol.
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