A. Pambakas: The 82-year-old marathon runner from Limassol, reveals his secret!

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If things were different, he would have been one of the great athletes in the country. he started working at the age of 14 years old, originally at the asbestos mine on Troodos, in rural jobs for some time and at the cement factory in Moni eventually, for a total of 44 years. His course of life may have deprived him the opportunity to study, which was one of his dreams, but he managed to seize the opportunity, even half a century later.

When he was at school, gymnastics was a true pleasure for him. When the students were racing, the teacher used to hold him back, until the rest would get some distance, before he let him go, but he still managed to finish first. “Better late, than never” is probably the motto that suits him the best, since he found himself participating in a proper race when he had reached 62 years old.

The 82-year-old Andreas Pambakas from Limassol, the oldest marathon runner in Cyprus, started exercising regularly merely 20 years ago, but he made up for the time he lost. His love and strong will for running did not fade through the years, even though he had to postpone his dreams. On 18/3/2018, he run at the Limassol semi-marathon, crossing through the distance of more than 21 km as if it was a game for him, after he had already finished dozens of times in several Marathon in Cyprus and abroad.

At the starting point fro the half-marathon race, at the Limassol Marathon.

He was born and raised in Dymes, a small, mountain village, 40 km away from Limassol, the exact distance of a marathon race. This distance was in fact his first training route. He counted the kilometres with his car, when he decided to start racing in marathons at 62, and he run from the village to the city, in order to train.

“I drove to the village from Limassol, leaving bottles behind in certain places on my way there, and I would return running to the city”, he explains.

No matter how much he loved exercise, he never had the opportunity to exercise before. His daughter, Christiana, remembers how he used to make all of the children in the house exercise, following the directions of morning routines, as they were broadcasted on the radio.

“Fitness was always a thing for him, as well as a healthy diet. He was very strict about what we ate. Sodas, chocolate candy or fried food were not to be found in the house”, his daughter explains.

After all, he always has his own garden to provide fresh fruit and vegetables. Agriculture remained his second job and a hobby all these years, until now, and this was one of the few opportunities he had to exercise. Thus, Andreas Pambakas, reached 82 years old, without any of the health issues the elders usually have.

With his daughter Christiana, his son in law Yiannakis and the rest of the runers participating in Ef Zin club, at the Limassol Marathon.

Which was your first race?
Around 20 years ago, there was a race around Yermasoyia, where I have been staying ever since I got married and created a family. Then, my son in law suggested that we should run together and so we did. Eventually, I came second in the age category of 40+ and they gave me a trophy, which I liked a lot. Ever since then, I subscribed at “Pericles Demetriou” club and I participates in every race the club was going to.

So, ever since I was 64, I have been going to the Marathon in Athens, for 16 years in total. It felt like a pilgrimage. At 68, I did my best time, 42 km in 4 hours and 8 minutes.

I have travelled to many countries to run. I run in Jordan, in the middle of the forest, which was an amazing experience, because the finish was at an oasis. I also run in Poland and I remember how we left Cyprus with short sleeves and when we arrived there the temperature was really low, so we had to run at -4 degrees. Another impressive race was on the bridge that connects Denmark with Sweden, crossing over the sea.

His example has inspired many younger people to get into running and his daughter, who first started running at the Limassol Marathon 3 years ago, is one of them.

What is your training schedule?
I run 4 – 5 times per week, 5 – 6 kilometres each day. But, when I have to train for a marathon race, I have to run a 25-kilometer distance on a single day. The training for the marathon begins at 4 – 5 months earlier. This year was too rainy and I did not get the chance to train properly, so I had to run se semi-marathon race.

I usually run at Dymes village, on the upward routes, because I have been living there permanently for a few years now. If I happen to be in Limassol, though, I run at the beach, at the Old Limassol (Amathus), towards the port and back, and then I take a dip in the sea.

How do you know all these information about what to eat, how to train?
I ask specialists to find out. I used to ask physiotherapists, coaches, I used to read a lot by myself, too.

Did you ever have to take ant medication or some special supplement?
No, never. I don’t even take Panadol. I like salads and fruits, as well as pulses, and these help a lot. I use aloe vera in my salad, because it gives me power, it detoxes my body and rejuvenates me. That’s why I keep pots with aloe vera at home, to use it any time I want. 

At Kallimarmaro Stadium, after the completion og the classic marathon race in Athens.

I also eat carob syrup with my bread in the morning, as well as pollen. I used to keep bees when I was younger, so I had read that the queen bee lives approximately 3 years, while a common bee dies within 10 – 15 day. Thet’s because they feed her with royal jelly. Herbal tea is also helpful for the body. Sage, mint and fennel are the best and I always used to drink them, but it has become a regular habit, since I started running.

I am happy to see young people running. I did not like it when I first started, when very few people used to race. Since then, many have told me that my example inspired them to start running.

In fact, my son in law and some others decided to found a club for this purpose, Ef Zin. Around 3 years ago, my daughter decided to start running at the Limassol Marathon, too. Back then, the entire family, with my children and grandchildren, was participating in the race.

He has run along with his grandchildren several times, since he first started running.

Have you run at the Limassol Marathon before?
I run once a long time ago at the 42 kilometer race, but I run the semi-marathon several times, just as I did with the 10 kilometer race, too. I have also participated in races in other cities in Cyprus, like in Paphos the other day.

As long as I feel able to run, I will do so. I feel younger, more alive and stronger when I finish a race. If I stop running, I feel that my life will end, too.

Why is running good for you?
Apart from a boost for you mood, it is also great for detoxing, for fighting obesity and preventing heart diseases. I used to be around 78 kilos before I started running and then I dropped at 60, which I kept for 20 years now.

Which was the longest time you has to stop running, within these 20 years?
At some point, I my arm was severely injured after an accident and I couldn’t run for 6 months. I felt ill. I could go for some waling, but it is not the same if you are used to running regularly. Yes, there might be times I don’t feel like running anyway, and I won’t push myself to do so. But I can’t keep away too long.

Running turned out to be an excellent opportunity to travel and explore foreign lands thruogh his most favorite activity.

With 4 children and 7 grandchildren, the 82-year-olf Andreas Pambakas is a happy man. These past few years he chose to live at his village, Dymes, where he enjoys fresh air and tranquility. A healthy way of life seem to have had always been his choice. Even though he was not wealthy at all, he always found a way to take good care of himself, proving that everything is a matter of decision and choice.

His children may worry sometimes, because he keeps running long distances, but doctors reassure him that running is the best thing he can do for his health. The sure thing is that, keeping up with this schedule, runnig and racing with every chance he gets, he makes the best example for his children, his grandchildren and the children of the rest of the world. And, maybe, the fact that the oldest marathon runner in Cyprus comes from the city that hosts the official marathon race of the country, is no coincidence.

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