“Yeah, Danielle!!!!!!!!” Wait, what? Who is screaming my name? It was like I was woken from a sleep I didn’t know I was having; some mental place I’d gone to, a happy medium that kept me going non-stop the whole race. I turned my head a little to the left to see a fellow LRC member, Sonja cheering me on. And throughout my veins came rushing that burst of energy I needed to sprint to the finish line. The word “team” is nothing, unless you’re actually a team that supports each other. A running team that all waits until the end, regardless of whether members waited 5 minutes or 5 hours, for each and every one of their teammates to finish. Add to that the fact that Limassol Running Club was at the finish line until 6 hours, cheering on non-club members, finding them their medals and space-blankets to keep warm when all volunteers had given up their spots to go hang out by the sandwich stand. Yeah, I said it. And yeah, we were there screaming like maniacs for everyone finishing. Because there is no feeling like having people cheer you on, to give you that extra little boost to keep you going when you think your feet are going to cave in underneath you and that is something LRC understands.
The whole race of 21k was easier than I thought, yet no way do I think I would have made it 42k. Those full marathoners passing by me as I was cramping up towards the finish line (thanks Leigh) absolutely amazed me. How do they do it I don’t know, but I can’t wait to learn. I’ve been running for 5 weeks, and counting in days off with injuries, I think it was a total of 8 times.
Yes… I ran only 8 times prior and managed to get myself to the finish line of a 21k race after I failed to fully finish a 16k twice during training due to injuries. I was so proud of myself, my cheeks were sore from smiling! I was never a distance runner, but in high school I was a fast but never mentally there. I always held my breath when sprinting and when I finished, I’d hyperventilate until I felt like I would die. And running distance? PUH-LEASE. We ran timed 5k’s once a year and only once in my life, as a punishment for not showing up to a game, did I run for a whole 2-hour practice around the track (thanks, Coach).
Speaking of prior-experience, when I Google my name with my high school sport, I find nothing. Yet, I find my teammates names. It was as if I never existed. This is a huge reason why I joined LRC; I want to be good at something- like really good. I want to train hard, I want to pass through that stage of blood, sweat, and tears and just kill it. At I’m quite proud of myself, beating the odds and actually finishing the half marathon but now I’m ready to meet the “impossible”.
To explain the feeling is impossible. Once you get past the first 5k, you’re legs feel stronger and your breath is relaxed. Hell, me and fellow LRC member Debbie were chatting it up, while other runners and onlookers stared at us in disbelief, most likely thinking, “What are these psychos doing?” I also practiced what is known as “Pranayama breathing” and did so the entire race. Pranayama breathing is a special breathing practiced in yoga and meditation where you breath in and out only through your nose. It keeps your heart rate down and allows you to eat and continue to breath at the same time during running. It worked magic for me and kept my heart rate at the lowest it’s been since I started.
But less about me and more about this word called “team”. Because without my team, I wouldn’t have gotten through it, let alone even considered a marathon. Without Michael Rivers positive talks and mathematical formulas and running knowledge, I’d have no clue what I was doing. I wouldn’t have had an idea about pre-, during-, or post-race eating; heart rate monitors, running sunglasses, or the importance of my frenemy, Raw Hemp Protein. I’d have no idea that my shoes were WAY too small, or the horror stories about where exactly people bleed during marathon races (I’m chuckling as I write this part! Haha). I’d also be lost without Limassol Sports Massage owner, Eva and her AMAZING massages and kinesio-taping, and her saving me with second-skin the night before the race because as is typical of me, I got blisters the day before. While everyone was supposed to be relaxing and keeping their feet up, Michael and Eva were still working into the evening for us. That is the definition of team. When you put your own needs aside, to attend to those of your teammates. And in running, every man is for himself, yet every runner is my teammate. We are smiling past each other, pushing each other on. And whether joking or near-tears, my team leaves no man behind because that is “The LRC Effect”.
My friends ask me how did I have the guts to just go on my own to this club- well, it was easy. One day, I got in my car and met them at Dassoudi beach. And from day 1, it wasn’t about speed. It wasn’t about keeping up with the best. It was about finishing. Doesn’t matter if it takes you a minute or a day; doesn’t matter if you sprint it or you walk it; you will finish. And each run, you will get better and faster and healthier. You will see how far you can trick your mind into going- you will see that what you thought was impossible is actually very much possible. So cheers to my team, cheers to Michael Rivers for believing in us, and cheers to everyone who finished a 5k, 10k, 21k, or 42k. Because there is no better feeling than accomplishing a goal!
It’s been 3 months since I joined the Limassol Running Club “LRC”, specifically on 22nd of August 2013. I had known about the club’s existence a year before I joined, wanting to join but feeling not yet ready, as I could tell they were serious runners whom I can never compete with, let alone keep up with.
I used to run in Jordan before coming to Cyprus, but that was only once a week for a short 7km, which was followed by plenty of beer drinking and too much silliness – if your guess was the hash group then you guessed right, yes, I was a member of that “drinking club with a running problem” , so I was merely a hasher who ran for the beer.
Being in Cyprus away from home was difficult ands I was feeling homesick; I had put on so much weight since I landed on the Island on the 1st of July 2012. Adding more kilos to the already chubby me was too much to handle – I started losing some weight and by July 2013 I finally managed to go down to my “before Cyprus” weight -
I went on holidays back home “to Jordan” in August ‘13 and was determined upon my return to make things work out here; so with fear and awe I finally joined the LRC and started running steadily twice a week. I remember how on the first time I did the 10km run with them … I nearly died and I was about to call my brother half way through the distance to pick me up, I had my phone on me just in case, but “Michael Rivers” (club director of LRC) - did not let me quit and I had to drag myself back to the starting point.
Needless to say, that the club had a huge impact on my eating habits, turning me into a vegan; which helped me lose about 7kgs in 5 weeks making me stronger & more fit. My fridge which used to be stocked with beer is now packed with veggies and fruits.
Mid October, two months later; the crew said it was time for me to run a half marathon, so with complete disbelief I signed up for the Aphrodite Half Marathon taking place in Paphos on the 24th of November 2013. Time flew and the race was upon us. It was the day before the race; I had butterflies in my stomach & my fear was growing. The time had come, was I ready? I had no idea. Earlier that week I shared my anxiety and fear with my boss, she said to me “You can just quit”. Hello! Have we met? I don’t quit, never have & never will – despite the fact that I’ve been through such dark hours in my life when I almost gave up but I never stopped fighting life back despite all the punches and kicks I suffered - yet my inner demon was whispering in my ear “you cannot do it, you are not ready. You … run 21 km!!! ha ha ha “.
Well it’s too late to quit now, I’ve already signed up, got my energy bars, prepared my mp3 player AND most importantly, I’ve announced to the world on Facebook! There’s no turning back now! So the night before the race, I prepared everything I needed, took a hot shower to sooth my achy muscles and went to bed around midnight, making sure that I carb loaded, drank lots of water, had an energy drink and hemp protein shake.
Race day; alarm clock goes off, its 5.30am & I haven't really slept from the fear & excitement- Lets do this. I got out of bed, fed my kitten – first thing’s first – then jumped into the shower, had the hot water running on my muscles one more time, put on my running clothes and running shoes, had my oats for breakfast with a strong coffee.
I took a ride with one of our LRC fellow runners “Leigh” who picked me up together with his lovely wife who kindly drove us to our destiny. The highway was quiet but my stomach was in turmoil. I felt like vomiting; the fear, excitement, anticipation, all adding up. I tried to enjoy the lovely scenery on the way, we finally arrive to Paphos trying to follow the directions of the map, but after going a long way to the starting point we receive a call from a fellow LRC runner “Cathy” informing us that we’re going the wrong way, so we turned back, tension building up, hoping to make it in time. We finally arrive to the starting point, park the car and head to the stadium where a lot of action was going on, runners of all ages getting ready, putting their numbers on, stretching and warming up. My heart was beating fast, this is it!
I get my number, get help in putting it on my LRC T-Shirt as I was too nervous to do it myself. Get my gel packs, water and mp3 set. That morning before I left, I glanced at the entry ticket that I had kept (hanging on my fridge) from an event I attended in Jordan 3 years ago; the speaker “Nick Vujicic”, a Christian preacher, was born without limbs – no arms and no legs – and was living his life to the fullest, doing so much more things than what normal people dare to do. I then remembered “Hala” a friend back in Jordan, who is on the wheel chair since birth; she is also a big motivator for me with her strong will & cheerful spirit. That’s it! I’m running this half marathon for them both. No… I’m running it for all those who have no legs or who cannot walk.
I finally see “Cathy” among the crowd and say hello. She was freaking out too as it was too her first Half Marathon experience. “Look Revda, they all seem like professional runners”… “Well” I said “I hope they are looking at us in the same way, we can do this Cathy”! I then see “Effie” the bravest LRC member, its her 3rd Half Marathon, she was looking strong and confident. “Quintin” was also there, he is the brave LRC runner who travels around the city on his bike. “Tony” and “Konstantinos” our fellow Russian LRC runners were also ready, feeling strong and sure. "Michael Rivers" was acting cool and giving us our final advice and instructions.
Its slightly raining now and the sun is hiding behind the clouds; that pleased me, as the last thing I need is to burn under the heat of Sunny Cyprus. The whistle blows and the race starts. “Cathy” and I were at the back, after all we didn't want to be shoved and pushed by the eager fast runners. I start running off at a slow pace, my muscles were still sleepy but my mind was wide awake, I could feel my heart beating inside my chest. My mp3 music was playing loud; it motivates me to run with music!
The track was full of loops; we were running to the end of a road and turning back. Before the race I thought to myself that it would be demotivating to run the same route up and down but in fact it was quite the opposite, we could see the front runners already coming back and it made me push myself even more. I ran past the “3km mark” already feeling a bit more confident, but alas it’s still a long way to go, I still had 18km more to go, what was I thinking?
I push through, I could see an elder runner, may be 60 years old, pushing through with determination; so I feel motivated and step it up. I pass through the “5 Km mark” feeling good but thinking of the remaining 16km. Almost all of the runners had Garmin watches, except me. I wasn’t interested in knowing neither my heart rate, speed nor how far I’ve gone; I was just running with the determination not to walk at all, not even for one single meter. Another elderly is pushing through, a lady this time, but guess what … she had a “hunched back” oh my God, what great determination and such an unbeatable will power!
3 runners have been running right in front of me for quite some time now, in a parallel line. I was watching them and it was clear that they had different fitness levels, a brunette on the left (very fit and running at ease), in the middle a guy (with a good build but I could see that he was struggling a bit), and the third was a blond chubby girl (she seemed to be struggling more than the guy), yet despite their different fitness levels, they were always running in parallel, they were the true manifestation of camaraderie, I decided to call them “the 3 musketeers” .
Passing through the “8 km mark” we start passing by the hotels area, you can see tourists on the pavements, clapping and cheering for the runners, for me too! It’s time for my energy gel pack, I swallow it while I keep running, no stopping now, almost half way through.
We are moving downhill towards the harbour, I could see the sea, we run through the relatively busy street, people at cafes having their lazy Sunday coffee, tourists still cheering for us!!!
At this point I feel my demon shrinking inside of me, getting smaller and smaller, while The Tiger inside of me is now roaring with pride & strength.
I push through running towards the Castle which is the final turning point, I see LRC fellow runners turning back, waving and cheering… I no longer feel I’m dreaming, it’s real, it’s happening, I’m really doing this! I finally start heading back, I’m pushing through and fiddling with my mp3 player searching for my top motivating songs “Eye of the Tiger” & “Living on a prayer” and many more.
I pass through the “15km mark” with a rush of emotions and thoughts running through my head and heart, I could feel the heat of the sun, now no longer hiding behind the clouds, I swallow my last energy gel pack … Now I really wanna vomit… but there’s no quitting now, I push through, heading back up towards the finish, the harbour behind us.
I hold on to my positive thinking, I could see now some battered runners who are WALKING on the track… My body is weak and is slowing down but The Tiger in me is roaring with determination, I shouted at one male runner who was walking “Don’t walk just run”… I push through and to my excitement I’m now passing through the “18 km mark” I now see the big flash lights of the stadium “The Finish Line” !!!
In no time I reach the “20km mark” and I push through the pain and remember our LRC moto “Make friends with pain” … I could see the Finish Line now, I sprint with all my might and cross the finish line… the guys of LRC already at the Finish line cheering…FOR ME !!!
The Tiger inside me has won and is roaring with victory, my demon is now locked up in his cell, so small so insignificant, well at least until the next battle.
Today a new marathoner is born.
LRC member ~ Revda.
Life on the run.
Limassol Running Club is a Michael Rivers production.