This is not my usual ‘race review’. It’s more a holiday review which includes a race. I’ve put this together in a diary format from arrival to departure.
So let’s get started.
I look nothing like my passport any more!
It’s been a good while since I’ve been away properly. It’s over 6 years in fact since I last needed my passport for anything other than picking up a parcel from the Royal Mail sorting office!
So you may be unsurprised to know that I jumped at the opportunity when it was announced that the UKRunChat group had organised a package trip to the Limassol Marathon weekend.
The time from booking through to actually getting packed to go flew by. This is probably because I didn’t tell anyone I was making the trip until a couple of weeks beforehand. Mostly as I didn’t want anyone to talk me out of doing it.
Off we go
On Wednesday 14th March, I got the local bus to the airport. I soon rediscovered that I am not a fan of airports. Too many people in close proximity. That said, getting through security wasn’t as hideous as I had thought it might be – the world has changed quite a lot since I last flew in 2011. I made the mistake of not buying up gallons of water to drink when I got to the gate, which meant that by the time I landed in Cyprus, I was dehydrated and then some. Schoolboy error!
The flight itself was 4.5 hours. I don’t think I’ve sat still for that long since I last flew. I wondered how I managed the flight to New Zealand (14 hours plus 8 hours) until I remembered that those flights included all drinks. I’ve since become unable to drink alcohol, although nothing to do with the consumption during that flight! (In fact it’s all linked into my food allergies.)
We were treated to a fantastic sunset as she approached Cyprus by air; something we haven’t seem much of in Manchester of late! But by the time we were on the ground it was dark and as such I didn’t get to see anything of Cyprus during the first evening, aside from a post-dinner stretch of legs when I walked down to the beach and got mobbed by cats. Talk about a busman’s holiday!
At the hotel was my race-pack
Day 1 – First visits
My first proper day in Limassol didn’t start too well. The dehydration of my flight day left me with symptoms not dissimilar to a hangover. Which isn’t very fair given I can’t even get the benefit of the ‘fun bit’ prior to the ‘headachey bit’ as I’m not able to drink alcohol.
I was up early and ate a decent breakfast in the hope that my head would agree to stop hurting, but that wasn’t to be. So instead I went out for a local walk to see what Cyprus looked like in daylight.
Having got my bearings I walked back to the hotel, still feeling les than OK.
By something of a strange coincidence, I happened upon a bus and ended up making my first visit of the day to Limassol port area. Having already collected my race-pack I realised the t-shirt was the wrong size. Common sense would have been to take said t-shirt with me. But I’ll blame the poorly head. Still, I got to walk around and I found the expo, as well as a variety of visiting, and ex-pat Brits who were running this weekend.
I took the bus back to the hotel and had a load more water and began to not feel grim.
I then decided i would go back to Limassol and swap my t-shirt over. Whilst waiting for the bus, another member of the UKRunChat group (Paul), and family joined me at the bus stop. So we all went back to the expo together. This time I decided to get a selfie (as seems to be the norm)
We then did a couple of promo photos with some of the RunLimassol team. And then back on the bus to the hotel.
My plan had been to do some more walking, but with tired toes and an empty pool, I went for a swim instead before taking a particularly unoriginal photo by the pool
So that was the sum total of my first full day in Cyprus. With more of the group landing over the next couple of days I’m sure things will get busy. And undoubtedly loud!
Day 2 – Amathus & St Rafael
Well after all the activity on Day 1 including over 23,100 steps (which is roughly what I do during a half-marathon I sleeted pretty well and wasn’t quite as prompt with breakfast!
Seeing a UKRunChat Hoodie being worn I caught up with another member of the group (Kyla) who had arrived last evening before heading off for today’s morning walk.
I decided that I’d put the GPS on so I could see what distance I was covering. I headed out first to get a daytime photo of the hotel.
I headed westwards along the coastal path and towards St Raphael marina where I was able to get a nice view back along the coast to Limassol. There was quite a sea breeze and whilst that’s not good for the running, it was very pleasant to watch the world go by.
I did a loop of the resort but ended back on the coastal path as there seemed to be very little in the way of pavements. And some of the driving suggests that road-side wanderings might not be best ever!
One ruin meets another
On my return I visited the ancient city ruins of Amathus. It was an interesting experience compared to visiting museums / archaeological in the UK. On the one hand it was very cheap to visit (2.50EUR). On the other hand it’s matter of getting what you pay for; it’s part excavated yet seemingly an abandoned project.
There was also no barriers which meant that you could get up and personal with it. Or judging by other visitors, a chance to stand on various bits of it for the purpose of selfies….
Visit over I continued on my way back before getting distracted by a trail going uphill. Two things that I’m known to like! But as I explain to others, going uphill generally yields better views!
Limassol bus journey no 3
Having got back to the hotel I continued straight back into Limassol. I only discovered last night that the Racecheck visorclub T-shirts we were being supplied with were at registration.
So having obtained that, it was back for some pool time to cool off the feet. It amused me that, when I was chatting to the team at registration that they were shocked I had braved the outdoor pool. I did point out that it was about to snow back home and so it wasn’t completely mad (even if nobody else seems to be doing it).
And to make my point, having done another set of laps in the pool, I wandered down and repeated the experience in the sea. Which wasn’t much colder, but it was a little more wave-y shall we say…?
By the time the evening came, most of the rest of the group had arrived. Whilst some people had met in person before, for others this was the first meeting away from social media. So much chatting followed by more eating before everyone elected for an early night with a prompt morning start.
Day 3 – PrimeTel Corporate 5k
The weekend had arrived and we all stumbled out of bed rather earlier than we’d have liked. Although the PrimeTel Corporate 5k was a 9am start, we had a bus to catch plus a walk to the start-line due to the road closures.
It turned out the walking bit was about 2.5k so at least that covered us for a warm-up!
The Corporate 5k is the biggest event of the weekend, with something like 10,000 participants involved. I use that word specifically as it soon appeared that many of them had no intention to run, bringing with them kids, buggies, dogs etc. So if you imagine 10000 turning up at your local parkrun you’ll grasp the scale. And apparently a large number of them disappeared off for coffee mid route…..
First run (ish) in Cyprus
Our group managed to fragment and I ended up on my own, so dived into the pen ready to start.
There was a countdown and we were off. Rather more slowly than I would have normally been, but I accepted that whilst this was listed as a ‘race’, unless you were at the very front, you were never going to get any space to run.
It’s a cracking event though, with over 290 companies being represented. I’ve not been to an event like this before but it was great that so many of the local community were involved in the race weekend (which ultimately takes over their city).
After the first kilometre I did get a bit of space and was able to stretch my legs for the first time in Cyprus. It was a good feeling. Here’s the route.
After the ‘race’ the group met up near the registration office and managed the most complete group picture of the holiday thus far.
Not that it was everyone. Paul had gone to find his family, resulting in a hashtag of ‘#wherespaul’ being coined. And a few of the group hadn’t even set off from the UK at this point.
From there it was back to the hotel and an afternoon by the pool recovering from our early morning exertions!
We were back out into Limassol in the evening with a coach tour of the new first part of the marathon route. We then headed out for the ‘ pasta party’ in the race village after which we were entertained by some traditional Cypriot dancing. This included a man balancing a large number of drinks on his head:
It was then back to the hotel for evening meal number 2 before an early night. The main race is a 7.30am start, we need to be there before 6.30am and breakfast is at 5.30am. Ouch!
Day 4 – Limassol Half Marathon
Surprisingly I slept really well and managed to get almost 8 hours of rest before the alarm got me up. Breakfast was simple and by 6.10am we were all on a bus heading to the start of the races.
Half and Full Marathon events started off first, with the marathon going off at 7.30am and the HM a few minutes later to clear the slower runners of the marathon away so the fast HM runners didn’t collide.
The HM route was a simple out and back; essentially going between the Molos area of the city to just beyond the Amathus ruins I visited on Friday.
Conditions weren’t ideal for me. It was warm (although not hugely so) and with a strong headwind going out. I adjusted my strategy to running 6:40 min/miles on the way out with a hope that I could pick up the speed on the way back assisted by the wind.
The first odd thing of today happened during the race when a turkey was roaming amount in the middle of the course. I passed it twice; there were plenty of spectators at the same point and nobody seemed to be claiming or chasing it. I’ll strike that in as a first!
However, by the half-way point I was flagging. All the prep had been fine so I can only guess it was not being fit enough to do that plan in today’s conditions (bearing in mind I effectively did this 2 weeks ago). By mile 10 I was reduced to run/walking sections which was frustrating, but you can’t win them all. Here’s the route.
At least the finishing photo looked the part!
As more of the group returned we set about sorting out some recovery food:
Those ice-creams were huge!
In a moment of madness we decided that, as there were no buses running until the afternoon that we would walk back to the hotel. Which was situated not far from the 10km point in the race! And whilst this was a daft thing to do, it did mean we could get photos of the other members of our group in the latter states of their marathons.
It was during this walk that the second bizarre thing happened when someone completely random wanted to have their picture taken with me. I hadn’t realised I was famous…… (I’m not!)
A bath at the hotel was good and I took a closer look at the HM medal:
So whilst today didn’t quite go to plan, it was a good experience, especially as it was my first proper race outside of the UK. I’m glad I opted for the HM rather than trying to go for the full 26.2 miles. I think that would have been too much (aside from the fact I’ve not trained for that distance).
After a sit around the pool we were off again into the Molos area for the race after-party. We were all in two minds about going back in after the morning’s exertions but actually the event was good. Great live band making a good stab at some classic records. Even the UKRunChat team flag ended up in the dancing area at one point as Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a prayer’ was being belted out by the band.
Meanwhile we went and took another group photo as people start to drift away from tomorrow morning. Can you spot who missed the photo…..!
And then a taxi ride back to the hotel for dinner!
Day 5 – Rest, recover, relax
Well after the busyness of the last few days, today was always going to be a slow day. Sunday was a long day for everyone, and that’s aside from those who were up drinking late into the night.
I think my stamina for doing such things waned a good while ago; a 17 hour day was plenty long enough for me.
A few goodbyes
Today was also a bit downbeat as the group began to drift off home. By the evening, there were only a handful of the group left, with most of those heading off tomorrow.
Breakfast was leisurely, especially compared to the last couple of days where we had to be in Limassol for a particular time (and an early one at that). So it was nice to sit and chat and just enjoy the fact we were in a warm sunny place whilst back home it was freezing!
We actually spent most of the day (in between goodbyes) sat on the sun loungers staring at the sea:
Conversation centred around how everyone was after the races yesterday and how good the band was at the after-race party.
The sea was very inviting and four or five of us went for a decent swim. It was a little choppy at times but was otherwise very pleasant to cool of in.
Today was definitely warmer than during yesterday’s races; far better to be able to enjoy being sat in it rather than trying to run 13/26 miles in it.
Today was probably also the first day in ages that I managed to do nothing but relax. A novelty in itself.
Day 6 – Temples & Castles (and more running)
I started my week away as a solo traveller and with most of the remaining members of the group catching their flights home this morning, I was back to the start again.
Before they went we had a good chat with Breathe Unity who were involved in the organisation of both the event and our trip. It was nice to find out how things had gone and exchange tales of what worked and where things didn’t quite come together.
After that, I decided that I would go and follow a trail or two. I’d been tipped off that there was an ancient temple ruin to see and with my track-record of religious building bothering I set off to find it.
Not only was the temple worth a visit, the vista around it was spectacular too.
My other plan for the day was to return to Limassol to visit the castle, which had also been recommended as worth a trip.
No buses to Limassol
However after sitting at the bus stop for about 10 minutes, someone came over to say that there were no buses, due to a strike.
Having had a sit-down day yesterday I was actively trying to avoid another one and so did a wander around the vicinity of the hotel. Sadly behind the glitzy (ish) buildings on the main drag were a load of tired other hotels and apartments. There was also a mixture of new builds too, but it wasn’t particularly inspiring to visit.
I returned to the hotel and double-checked online; turns out the strike is 48 hours so there will be no buses tomorrow either.
Of course, I could run to Limassol…….
This time it was the inward run that was into a headwind, and it was blowing quite a bit harder today.. But with no race schedule or deadline it wasn’t a bad run, with half of it along the beach path which is far prettier than the main road!
The castle didn’t disappoint, with lots of interesting artefacts to view. And of course some great views from the top.
From the top my religious-building-bothering radar picked up a new target and so after seeing all there was a to see in the museum, I was off.
Of course I managed to take a circuitous route and had an enjoyable wander around a lot more of the old-town which I’d missed last week. Sadly a lot of graffiti everywhere which was a bit of a shame.
Anyway, eventually I located my target:
After that I decided that it was time to start heading back to the sea front, but not before finding another grand building to photograph!
And with that I was back to the seafront.
A run for home
I thought I’d get a quick shot of the bay from Limassol itself along with a gratuitous selfie in the sun.
It was a reasonable run back and then straight into the shower. And everything outside to dry ahead of packing up tomorrow.
Day 7 – Departure Day
Today is really a culmination of the inevitable, that I’ve got to go home and leave the sun behind.
Rather than doing a blow-by-blow account of packing my suitcase I thought it would be more interesting to reflect on my week in Cyprus.
The RunLimassol experience
If you’ve read my previous race reports and thoughts, for me racing is actually quite a solo experience. This event was different. It was much more of an ‘experience’ than running 13.1 miles. Going out and meeting up with a group to share that experience was something really special. Although on race-day we were all focused on whatever distance we’d signed up for, it really was only a part of a bigger picture, and that was great to experience.
This too was reflected in the way the race weekend was organised, with the team very keen to promote the whole experience.
More than just a race
As a race route, it wasn’t quite what I’d imagined. I had expected a road running directly along the coast for at least some of the race, rather than being a road running through the town instead. I think had it just been about the race itself, that might have tarnished the overall experience; if it was in the UK it wouldn’t be a stand-out race at all.
The Corporate 5k possibly wasn’t an event designed for a group of travelling runners however I think it was a good thing getting local businesses and people involved in the weekend given that we were taking over their space for that time. And if it gets more people to try running and aid with their personal fitness, it’s all good.
I would like to thank Joe at UKRunChat for organising the package, as well as helping to create the wonderful community that is UKRunChat. And also Becs at Breathe Unity for ensuring the overall race experience was so good.
Would I recommend Limassol Marathon? Yes, I definitely would. The setup caters well for the international market and certainly with the race packages and arrangements, it made for a very straightforward foray into entering a race abroad.
Right, now where’s my passport………!