European Marathon Adventure 2019

Enjoying altbier the night before the Dusseldorf Marathon

My annual tradition of running a spring marathon (or two) in Europe with my friend Sarah has continued into 2019, making it the fourth year in a row that I’ve been able to head across the pond for what has now affectionately been dubbed #euromarathonadventure. This tradition started in 2016, when I won a free entry into the Dusseldorf Marathon, and Sarah decided to join me (she lives in London). While Sarah didn’t run that race with me (she had run the Vienna Marathon the week prior), she was my support crew and cheer squad. We had a fun girls weekend together, and I was sad when it was time to say goodbye.

Heavenly crepe of cheese and mushrooms!

 

 

On the flight home from that trip, I registered for the Paris Marathon 2017. Sarah again joined me for the trip, serving as my personal cheerleader. It also happened to be her birthday the day of the race, and she said she was always happy to find an excuse to visit Paris. So we enjoyed celebrating her special day with a fun breakfast run together, crepes and some evening drinks in the City of Lights.

For 2018, I found an obscure marathon in Bungay and decided to double up with a second marathon the following week in Brighton. Sarah had never been to either city, so off we went for more adventures. Sarah was again training for an Ironman, so she opted to run the half marathon in Bungay and only run the first 10K of the Brighton course with me per her training plan (she registered for the marathon but later decided to not run it, so she was a registered runner with a bib).

When looking at options for 2019, I wanted to do back to back weekends (to make my trip a little more justifiable). After extensive searching online, we opted for a March adventure, starting with the marathon in Barcelona on March 10th. It wasn’t the best run for either of us by a long shot, but we enjoyed the experience, which like the Paris Marathon, started with a breakfast run the day before. The course for this fun run followed the last 4km of the 1992 Olympic Marathon course (all uphill, by the way) and finished in the Olympic stadium. We enjoyed our run/walk, and continued our crepe tradition for lunch. Marathon day wasn’t anything spectacular for either of us, but we both finished and have the medal to prove it. All weekend, we decided to wear matching shirts, as we realized we now have enough of the same race shirts to pull this off. Next year, we will have to choose which of our matching shirts will make the cut.

Barcelona Marathon winner spotted at the airport!

As we flew out of the airport the night after the marathon, we saw the winner of the race. However, we initially didn’t know it was the winner, and he was acting strange while trying to ask us a questions. So we were a little weirded out until he walked away and we saw him limping a little. Between that and the fact he was trying to figure out the flight to Dubai, we thought he might have been the winner (who runs for Bahrain), and we decided to look up the elite athletes. Turns out he was the winner. When our gate was announced, we headed to the gate and saw him again, trying to get a water bottle from the vending machine. I congratulated him on his win and asked for a photo. Of course, I was the dork walking through the airport with my race shirt and medal on, celebrating my 4:32 marathon. The winner, by the way, wasn’t wearing anything to let us know he participated in it. And in speaking with him, he was very humble, which is something I heard from others who had the chance to meet him prior to the race.

The following weekend, our adventures took us to North Wales, to the town of Wrexham. It was cold and rainy, with a bit of wind. Wrexham is the largest town in North Wales, apparently. I have no doubt this would not have been on my ‘must visit’ list without running this race. But I enjoyed seeing a new place, so it was a well chosen spot. Well, maybe not that well chosen. The weather forecast for race day was cold, rainy and windy. Luckily it actually was sunny on the course for about the first 24 miles, only sprinkling the last couple miles as I headed back to the finish line. Honestly, if it was raining at the start, there is a good chance I wasn’t going to line up. I’m not that hard core, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I do this for fun. And if I’m not having fun (per my definition of fun), then I don’t need to be out there.

So I headed off with a couple layers of clothes to keep me warm. I was doing well and feeling really good until about mile 8.5. It as at this point that words I heard at the beginning came back to haunt me – that there was a section of the course that was covered by water and we would get wet. What an understatement. I’ll let you see for yourself.

Running friend Gareth who completed his third marathon in Wrexham.

This was crazy. It was almost freezing cold. It was thigh high. And more than 100 m long. It took about a mile for my feet to not feel like frozen blocks of ice and almost five miles for my feet to completely have sensation again. As a marathon runner, I had to go through this twice due to the way the course was laid out. Apparently the course director went around the course and it was a couple inches deep at 6am that day, so they decided to continue. The race started at 9am, and by the time runners got to this spot, it was much deeper. I saw one woman turn around (first lap), and several people opted to skip the second loop of this section and completed the 20 mile course instead. I almost did that. Almost. But at the place to turn right for the 20 mi course, I headed left to continue on for the finish line of marathon 29.

I had an almost identical time to the run the previous week (4:33); my initial feel good experience during the first few miles in Wales was tampered by the flooded road. Eventually, the hills got to my legs, too, and I slowed down a bit at the end. Oh well! I did it and had another great experience with my friend (who found a swimming pool and a coffee shop to keep her busy while I ran). We saw a friend we met in Bungay the previous year and had beers to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

I’ve been thinking of slowing down my running. I’m tired and feeling a lot of apathy still. However, at some point on this trip, I got excited when Sarah talked about the Marrakech Marathon in late January next year, and I may or may not already be signed up for it.

Bring on marathon adventures 2020!

 

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