It was supposed to be an easy flat race on a track that I know as well as my shoes. I have been running along the Coastal Road here in Limassol for months now so when I found out that the annual Limassol Marathon pretty much copies my favourite training route (with the start some 500 m away from my office) and that I would be on the island exactly at the time when it takes place, it was hard to resist. Out of the 4 offered distances (full M, 1/2M, 10 K and 5 K) I opted for the 21.1 K, a distance that I ran once before during a race (Leiden 2012, pre-babies) and several times during my training. With enough ‘winter kilometers’ in my legs, I felt confident that I would be able to run this race well, if only I could get some sleep one or two nights before the D-Day.
As the race day was approaching, the kids were getting a bit ill, sneezing and coughing. On Saturday, I myself woke up with a head that felt as if it were hollow but decided not to pay attention to it. We all went out and enjoyed the sunny day and light breeze. During the afternoon, E did not feel too well so we made a steam-bath for her with Eucalyptus oil, made sure she drank enough and put her to bed early. Ignoring my own cold, we ate pasta (the only item that I found in my runner bag) with tomato sauce and I allowed myself one small beer and went to bed too. At midnight my Camelot ended: while E was sound asleep, S started crying and was not to be calmed down. She felt really warm and to our surprise, her fever raised to 39.7. Of course we were panicking. To cut a long story short, early on Sunday morning, after hours of cuddling, singing, walking around with her and attempting to put her to sleep, she was quietly asleep in her bed, with fever under control. I still had 1.5 hours or so before it was time to get out and race.
At 7.00 I announced to V that I was not going to leave the house and running was out of question. At 7:30 she forced me outside the entrance door and told me that if she needed me, she knew where to find me because at any given time, I would not be further away than 10 km. Yet again, she was right.
By 8.00, I was in the office changing myself and attaching my bib number to my shorts. Then 2x number 1 and number 2 (how great not to be depending on the portable toilets down the road!), check check double check and off I went. Out of 4000 registered runners, some 3500 participated in corporate runs (5 and 10 K). As the corporate teams were lining up near the starting point at Molos, it seemed like everybody knew each other there and I felt a bit lost, thinking about my girls at home… What distracted me was the fact that the marathon runners were lining up at the start gate while half marathoners and 10K runners were supposed to take place behind them. Weird, I thought.
Around 9.00 I heard the gun shot and as the crowd started moving, I crossed the start line some 3 minutes after that. I went with the crowd, the pace was around 6 minutes per km and it went well. After about a mile I suddenly saw a pair of bare feet running next to me. They belonged to a tall blond guy with light blue eyes. As we plodded on, we started talking. Funny enough, he was Dutch coming to Cyprus to enjoy his ‘old days’. Being 60 now, he was never a runner till about 3-4 years ago when somebody advised him to try barefoot running. His life story was quite amazing and so was his running story including the barefoot runs in Himalaya’s. He was happy to be able to talk to me in Dutch while I was happy to be just listening. The pace remained slightly above 6 min p/km and when at 9 km I realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep it forever (or for the next hour or so), it was too late to do anything about it. We passed the 10 km mark at 1:03 and I told my guy that it was time for us to part.
The turning point at Amathus excavations caught me in a bad shape. I was hot, my throat was sore and most of all, I felt no urge to run as my thoughts were wandering to the kids. What looked like a well started race turned into a nightmare as I suffered through the last miles with some kilometers slower than 7 minutes, not being able to come to a good pace and focus. At the eighteenth km, I was only about 1.5 km from home and the idea of leaving the track and turning home was quite tempting. At the end, the biggest achievement was probably simply the fact that I finished.
I crossed the finish line at 2:20:51 official time. To my surprise, I was not the last one – about one fifth of the runners was still on their way. I quickly walked to the office again, called V (to find out that the girls were sort of ok) and biked home. There was still half a day ahead of us to continue curing the little ones and I was left with mixed feelings.
P.S. On the organisational side of the race, it was quite a chaos. My email inquiries with regards to the advertised car rental discounts and bib numbers pickup remained unanswered. Also, I have never experienced a volunteer refusing to pass me water arguing that “there is another water station several miles further, this water is for the full marathoners.” But despite all this, I might be back next year :-).