The racing calendar in Cyprus is, like most places, waking up from a long and totally unprepared for global pause. For a few years before this hit the world, new races were popping up every season here in Cyprus. And as trail running grew more in popularity, so did the new challenges, new routes, new distances on both trails and roads. Here are some of the races that have been announced for the rest of 2021, with many having been rescheduled from last year.
The island offers an incredible variety of terrain, along the coast and on the mountains, and a number of new races on both roads and trails have become more popular. There are even a number of races that would be designated as “cross-country” since they are easier and less technical than the trail, but equally fun and offer stunning views and authentic experiences of many rural parts of Cyprus.
In addition, because of the growing number of local running clubs and teams, there are opportunities to participate in smaller races almost every weekend. You wouldn’t have to travel long from where you are staying to get to the start line.
ROAD MARATHONS IN CYPRUS
The Cyprus Marathon
The Cyprus Marathon has been taking place since 1999 in the coastal town of Paphos. It starts at the iconic and stunning site of the birthplace of Aphrodite, where you cannot help but marvel at the beautiful sunrise above the Mediterranean sea as you take off. This being a point-to-point event, the organizers will bring you to the start on a bus, and once the starter pistol goes off, you are onto a magical road trip along the coast that goes through traditional villages and fields of gold. This is where I ran my first ever full-distance road marathon and I always try to return.
The finish is at the quaint port of Paphos by the medieval castle, where there would already be a party-like atmosphere, with music and traditional dancing – and a lot of beer! A half marathon and a 10km are also finishing there, making the whole event a fun and friendly place to be at. Traditionally the Cyprus Marathon takes place in the spring, but like many races that had to reschedule, it is now planned for December 5, 2021.
The second biggest city of Cyprus, after the capital Nicosia, is Limassol. And it also hosts a well organized full and half marathon, a 10km run, and a 5km corporate-run. The local athletes are also competing in it for the island’s championship. It is a relatively flat course, mainly along the coast, starting and finishing at the famous and recently upscaled, sea-side Molos Park. With a nice fun atmosphere, it is very popular with locals and visitors that enjoy the run under pleasant weather. A dip in the sea will await you at the finish. (May I admit that I have run the Limassol Marathon 7 years in a row, and it is where I got my Boston Qualifier time!)
The Limassol Marathon is now announced to take place on November 28, 2021.https://www.limassolmarathon.com
Larnaca, the 3rd coastal town of Cyprus, has recently entered the Marathon scene quite successfully. As the town has done a lot of improvement work in all aspects, including the arts, sports and its infrastructure, the announcement of the Larnaca Marathon in 2017 was well received and well attended. I only ran it in its first edition, and although the course is a double loop of the half marathon course that also takes place, it doesn’t lack the thrills and beauty of a coastal and relatively flat course. The event got excellent reviews, and it’s established itself as a well-organized event.
It is announced to take place on November 21 2021.
And now it is time for the capital, Nicosia. Back in the day, when the only runners competing in a full marathon were the ones that were registered at the athletic clubs, I remember watching them near my house. There were probably a dozen runners racing, maybe one or two females, hardly any spectators. And I believe the marathon consisted of several loops around the centre of the city. Running was not yet a popular sport, and this race, as far as I know, was not open for non-registered athletes.
Eventually, the running boom hit the island big time. However, the capital didn’t have a full Marathon until 2010 when the first open Nicosia Marathon was announced and created a wonderful festive gathering of runners, from beginners to more experienced, by introducing a fun 5km corporate event. The organizers used an iconic spot of the old town, the Famagusta Gate, one of the Medieval gates of its walls, for the start and finish. It was an event that was much needed in the capital and was embraced by locals. Many people admit to taking up running because of that event that continues to be part of their lives. Now things will be a bit confusing if you google Nicosia Marathon.
Unfortunately, the original event had to be cancelled the past few years due to unforeseen events of the main sponsors, but we hear it’s coming back in December 2021. In the meantime, another marathon was organized twice in Nicosia. It was also named Nicosia Marathon, plus the name of the sponsor, with a start and finish in the municipality of Strovolos.
TRAIL AND CROSS-COUNTRY RACES IN CYPRUS
Several trail and cross-country races are expected in 2021 – now that there is some relaxation of the measures against the spread of Covid.
Cyprus Trail Runners
The Cyprus Trail Runners introduced trail running to the island in a friendly and rather relaxed and low-key way, more than ten years ago before its popularity exploded. I was lucky that I met and joined them back then and got hooked to trail running since then! Their events and races are still very friendly, innovative, highly respectful to the local communities and the natural environment.
Be it mountain or coast, it’s all about running free and wild, exploring and appreciating the different parts of the island and not so much about gathering large crowds or handing out glossy trophies. One of their events, appropriately called “Midsummer Madness Coastal Marathon and Half” usually takes place in the middle of the summer heat. This year it is planned for July 11. They are now introducing a brand new ultra race on November 20, called “Sea to Sky Trail Ultra” – 120km. It promises to be an exciting and challenging event, offering 5,500 meters of elevation. There will be options to race it solo, in a team relay or even on two consecutive days. Bring it on!
Troodos Terra Races
Dromea Racing Club, probably the biggest and most popular running club on the island, introduced a Green Trail Race on the Troodos mountains for the first time about ten years ago. The distance was 15km on some well-known trails and a climb to the peak of the island. Since then, and with higher demands for longer and more challenging courses, the Dromea Running Club has added in the past couple of years, two more races on that same day, which took place at the end of June after being cancelled the year before, a 29km climb to the peak, and a 44km-Trail marathon. Always very well organized, with sufficient aid stations, support and beautiful views of the mountains.
Mylikouri Trail Run
A new trail running series of races has entered the running scene this year, organized by the group behind (the newer) Nicosia Marathon. It offers different distances starting July 4 with 30km, 20km and 10km on trails in the Mylikouri village area. The area is beautiful and offers stunning views.
A recently formed running team, Cyprus Elite Crew has also announced a number of challenging trail races of different distances. The Stavrovouni Challenge is taking place in July on an iconic peak and site of a monastery in the Nicosia district.
Under the Moon
A very popular and fun night city-run, named “Under the Moon” has been rescheduled for July 9. It is running its 5th edition this year and promises to be, as always, a meeting point for all runners just before the summer holidays begin for most. The two distances of 10km and 5km usually sell out fast as its festive atmosphere on a warm summer evening in Nicosia has proven to be very popular.
Lefkara Country Challenge
Last but not least-I simply have to mention yet another addition to the racing calendar 2021, at the historic and well-known traditional village of Lefkara. A vertical 4km challenge on the road, just all straight up rescheduled for July 3. In October, the village of Lefkara will host the 23km and 13km “Lefkara Country Challenge”.
A dozen more races are scheduled for the rest of 2021, from 5km to ultra distances. You can find most of them here.
As more details are announced, I will come back with an update.
Pola Hadjipapa – City Manager Go Running Tours Nicosia