I was fortunate enough to have friends, Debs and Andrew Brant, move out to Cyprus in early 2014 when Debs got a job working within the British Military base at Atikori, not too far from Limassol (or Lemoses as it's properly called). They are only there for a definite two years so, despite having a dissertation to work on, I decided to go for it and travel over for a weekend when the Cyprus marathon was on. (the only other marathon in the country is two weeks later, which was getting too close to D-day on the dissertation!) I should add I did do work linked to my dissertation whilst away!
But back to the marathon. This was to be my earliest start ever at 7:30am (and probably one of the earliest times I've run ever as I never train that early if at all before midday!) The race started at the Rock of Aphrodite's (one of the many mythological gods) - but still a stunning sea setting. With a 45 minute drive to the start, we were up at 5:30am and it was 18C by the start of the run. Debs dropped Andrew and I off as she headed to Pathos (where it finished) to run the half marathon. Andrew and I wished each other well and joined the 117 other runners for our countdown to start and head off east bound.
I started off OK - but by mile 3 had inadvertently picked my pace up to just over 7 minute miles! Given the clear skies and increasing temperatures, this wasn't going to help the remaining 23 miles (or 37 kilometres as we were in KM's being out of the UK). I slowed pace a bit and seemed a few others had also set off faster than planned as I didn't lose much ground on anyone for the next couple of miles. However, by the 10km point, I was feeling exhausted already - with no shade and very warm, I dropped my pace and had a brief stroll to get myself back on track. In all honesty, I didn't even think I would finish given how I already felt. The reality being I was still in UK time mode - 2 hours behind and had therefore woken at 3:30am and set off at 5:30am!! I do not suffer jet lag as a rule and would never consider 2 hours an issue, but it seemed on this occasion it was!
At 13km the route turned left and followed the road to the airport. The roads were not closed to traffic for the race and they literally took us to the airport gate before we turned around and ran back along the same road. Andrew was a kilometre behind me as we went through this turning zone - my pace having dropped to around 8:30 minute miles with a couple more walks as I dealt with the heat and poured more water over me than I was drinking! The nice thing about the out and back was you did see the all the other runners - and most people cheered others as they went past - with some mutual clapping. Given the sparse spectators on route, this was a welcome distraction. Unlike the UK and most other runs I've ever done, the Cypriot's volunteers didn't seem fussed on cheering or clapping anyone as they went past
We rejoined the original road just after the half way point (reached in 1:46) - and I now felt I could finish given I had 3 hours 15 mins before the cut off to walk/slow jog 13 miles. A worst case scenario but the sun should no signs of letting up ad shade was sparse. At 25km's, Andrew caught me as we climbed one of the few hills (which weren't excessive) - wished me well and headed on. He'd had 14 months to acclimatise to Cypriots warm winter months - I had less than 48 hours of which 24 had been quite blustery! And they'd taken me cycling in that time (albeit a gentle cycle of 7 or 8 miles max).
At 27/28kms we joined the back end of the half marathon runners - which confused me as they were only 8 kms from the finish whilst we still had 17 to go! I had a brief chat with a British lady (from Oldham) before having a bit of a relaunch and going from 9:50 minute miles to do an 8:30 pace at mile 18 (admittedly it was downhill too!). We then veered right and just after the 29km sign was the 35km one. I knew the heat wasn't helping me but this just confused me - I knew I'd not suddenly upped my pace! (it was slowing again!). I then clocked another marathon runner on the opposite side of the carriageway heading the other way - and the reality of more out and back routing dawned on me. This section was like some new industrial estate with several roundabouts along dual carriageway with little traffic. Not inspiring and it seemed most the runners were flagging as we passed each other in both directions. At 32/33km's Andrew and I passed as he had just turned round and then again near the 35/36km point where we turned again to return on the route we had been on when I'd got confused by the signs! At 37km's the Race Director was marking us off on a clip board to check we were sent straight on or left, depending on if we'd done or tedious lap or not! As I turned left they tried to entice me that in 5km's there was free beer. I will never understand why anyone thinks alcohol is wise after 26.2 miles running, especially when it's hot and your likely to be dehydrated. I'd likely pass out or be sick if I had a pint when I finished!
However, I was motivated by the fact I had 3 miles left! Much to my amazement, I'd not dropped pace as horrendously as I'd feared and wouldn't be too far off the 4 hour mark. We had a few well wishers in this final section - mostly people at bus stops or British tourists - more engaged by my union flag shorts I suspect! The roads were still open so we found ourselves in close proximity to the traffic as we were now on busy town roads coming into central Pathos. My Race Director's training was busy analysing the H&S issues - at no point on the course were there signs to warn drivers of the runners and the only thing that told you a race was happening was the large yellow kilometre signs!
The final kilometre took you along the harbour front towards the fort, where the race(s) finished - now having the extra hazard of roaming tourists to slalom round. As I turned to run the final 100 metres down the small slope in front of the fort there was finally a crowd of more than 2! Belated encouragement, but better late than never! I remain confident this crowd was only as large as it was as the prize giving was outstanding and given the size of the field on all three races (they also had a 10K) and number of prizes (1st, 2nd and 3rd in each age category as well as the overall winner for each race and for each sex) unless you were in the male 18-39 group you had very reasonable odds so it was worth hanging round for. Debs and Andrew cheered me in - a time of 4:05:14, 15 minutes behind Andrew and quite an achievement given it was now 25C and not getting any cooler.
Above: with Debs & Andrew at the Marathon start
Below: In front of Aphrodite’s Rock before the start
Registration - a small affair!
Left: A temporary tattoo for one of this year’s charities - Macmillan Cancer Care
Below: Lucas captured taking a picture for the Ovideo runners from Spain (thanks to Cyprus Marathon)