On 18th March 2018 I took part in the Limassol Marathon for the second time. I came last year and ran reserved towards the end as I had many pacing events coming up. I was surprised with myself to have finished in 3:12, take a look how last year went HERE.
This year was a pinch myself moment. Not only would I come to Limassol to pace my second International event, after Berlin 2017, but I organised the whole pace team. After conversations with the organisers of Limassol Marathon and Breatheunity, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to bring the #pickupthepaceteam to Limassol. This had been long in the making, but it was finally here, the 12th edition of Limassol Marathon was bigger and better than ever with its first ever Pace Team.
As always I got my kit ready the night before. This was a special event for me, and here are some stats: it was my 2nd Limassol Marathon, my 34th official marathon and 40th event towards the 100 marathon club. It was the 2nd time I’ve paced internationally, and the 46th event I have paced (6th of 2018).
On race morning we had a quick breakfast and then I jumped on a bus with the #ukrunchat group. I was very nervous. I have ran plenty of marathons, and 4 hours is a comfortable pace for me, so why so nervous? Helping people achieve their times means so much to me, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right. Not only do I want to get the Pace right, but want to do my best to motivate those around me, to calm their nerves and give them confidence to stay with me to achieve their goal. I also find that running a slower consistent pace is more tiring on the legs than if you run at your natural pace. So, I usually have these nerves before a race, but at Limassol I had hand picked a team that I believe share my passion for pacing, all of whom want to ensure everyone around them has fun whilst achieving their target. I therefore felt even more pressure, not only being responsible for the sub4 #funbus but for all the groups running. I had absolute confidence with everyone I picked to run with us, so I wasn’t nervous that they couldn’t do it, but I had everything crossed willing a successful event.
I’m so proud of all the pacers who turned up to pace Limassol for the first time, and everyone did a fantastic job. My first duty was to make sure everyone had arrived. Then I was chief choreographer. I wanted to ensure we got some good pre shots so I took us all over to the harbour to line up for some group shots. First up in the half we had Paul at 1:30, Will at 1:45, Darren at 2:00, Phil at 2:15 and Emma at 2:30. Then for the full we had Danny at 3:30, Beppe at 3:45, me at 4:00, Kev at 4:15, Garry at 4:30, Chris at 4:45 and Matt at 5:00.
The marathon started at 7:30, with the half marathon lined up to start just after. The 10k then started at 8:00 with the 5k starting just after. The size of these events are much smaller than the corporate 5k, which actually makes a more relaxed atmosphere. As this event grows the organisers will need to look at logistics to maintain this atmosphere and keep it running smoothly. With the current numbers (600 for the marathon and about 3-4,000 overall for the day) everything went really well, the pacers lined up and this helped to guide runners to the best place to start. I would suggest that as the event gets bigger waved starts and pens would be needed, but we aren’t there yet.
I immediately had a decent size group form around me to make the sub4 #funbus. I briefly explained how I would be pacing the course and tried to set everyone’s mind at ease, finding out how everyone was feeling. One thing I always try to do is encourage engagement between all the runners around me. The reality is I will be the main person trying to set the pace and keep people motivated, but I am less able to adapt with those around me, having to keep things steady.
By ensuring everyone in the group form a good team ethos it means that everyone can continue to support and motivate each other whether I’m there or not, and this is exactly what they did.
What a location for a run, this picture taken by a drone captures in one shot why I love to run in Limassol. This year it was much warmer than in 2017, far removed from the snow being experienced in the UK. The early start meant we had a slightly cooler beginning, with a strong wind in places creating a welcomed breeze. All events start and finish in the same place, and all events apart from the marathon carry on in the same direction, before turning to come back. That is it, a simple out and back route along the main road parallel to the sea. The marathon however takes a left turn taking you on a winding road out to the Mall. This year they extended the course beyond the Mall in exchange for the loop whilst on the return stretch. This section is less scenic but definitely a good replacement, and well placed at the beginning of the event.
We paced the first 10k in what felt like no time. The whole group that started with me had stayed with me and the splits were perfect within a couple of seconds of each other each kilometre. The markers were perfectly spaced and everyone was having a great time. I had a few with me from #ukrunchat including John who had broke 4 with me at Berlin and was looking for more, Jonathon who had run Birmingham with me but not managed sub4 so was after it for the first time, and Drew who was running his first marathon. We also had Bunty from #Runmummyrun looking to break 4 for the first time, along with a handful of other runners.
At 11k the KM was out by 250 metres, this is a simple mistake that I expected to rectify itself. I reassured everyone around me that worst case scenario we would gradually increase the pace, and I didn’t consider us to be off pace. For those that don’t realise the significance of this for pacers, I went from being about 30 seconds ahead of schedule, a comfortable cushion I always aim to maintain, to about 40 seconds behind schedule. All within one km that was ran consistently. I gave it to 13-14 km and it hadn’t rectified (the markers remained consistent with the 11k marker until 26k when it evened back out). So at about 14k I decided to start increasing the pace by about 5-10 seconds a KM in order to get us back ahead of schedule, and I communicated that with everyone around me before I did.
As we reached the main stretch at about 18k many of my original group had pushed on (I didn’t take it personally). What was great to see, as I could see them ahead of me the whole way, was that they formed a group and pushed on together. With a single lap and lower numbers on the course for the marathon, it meant that I was often left with only a handful of runners with me at any time. On bigger events I don’t usually notice so much as you have a big group that want to stick closely with you so it’s less noticeable when other people pick up the Pace. Of course I had a group with me that were working hard to go as fast as they could. So I picked up those around me whilst I watched others pull ahead. This is the thing about pacing, often you will help runners at the start to not go off to fast and get off to a good start, and that’s all they need to get them going.
It was a warm day, so the water in bottles every 2 km was welcomed. The bottles were 500ml so more than needed really, but it was good to have them so frequently. The course is basically flat with a few bumps between about 25-35 k. Whilst heading to the turn point there was a strong head wind, which at the time I couldn’t wait to be behind me. However at the turn point rather than feeling the wind on my back it felt like someone turned off the wind and turned up the heat.
The out and back course meant I could see all the other Pace groups run past at some point in the opposite direction and all were doing a fantastic job. By the turn I didn’t have many still with me but was beginning to pick up new runners who had fallen off their target pace. I picked Drew up who had ran ahead, but unfortunately he could stay with me, next time he will smash it for sure, he did fantastic especially for his first marathon. I had seen many in my original group after they turned and they were looking so good. John was absolutely flying and had almost caught the 3:45 Pacer, and Bunty shouted out that she had cramp, I shouted out a little encouragement as we passed. From this moment on I was willing her to keep going, and getting ready to grab hold of her to pull her along (but I never had to).
At the 39k point my flag fell apart, which must have been because of the wind. At this stage I had picked up a few others and had got myself to a good 60 second cushion. I reassured everyone around me about the time and planned to ease off gradually for the next few km to pick up some more runners and get them over in under 4 hours. The 40k marker then didn’t come when expected, and all of a sudden my watch was recording that I was 20 seconds down. Although I knew this couldn’t possibly be correct you can’t take any risks this close to the end. Most were ahead of me so I increased the pace to build back the 20 seconds. As I did this I picked up Mike and his mate who had been running ahead of me. I passed them and called at them to keep chasing me. As I got onto the finishing straight it was clear that I had nothing to worry about and the course would measure accurately, so the 40k marker was just placed wrong. I kept going and what a wonderful finish, full of spectators and those who had ran the other distances there cheering us on.
I managed to cross the line with two others and a couple more runners came in just behind but still under 4 hours. I had a dozen runners waiting to see me at the end and it was fantastic to hear they had finished between 3:54 and 3:59. This is a smaller race than many I take part in such as London and Berlin, but this finish line is one of the best, I love running in Limassol and can’t wait to return for the 3rd time.
I finished in 3:59:28 and am very happy with that. What’s next? Well this is the beginning of the Marathon season and in April I will be pacing the sub4 #funbus at Manchester and London, who will come and join me?