Archive for the ‘Races’ Category

Rotterdam, a week later

April 17, 2010

Thinking of a group of pals who wanted to run in Vienna tomorrow but cannot because of another Icelandic calamity, it is time to report on the Rotterdam marathon which I ran last week.

First the Expo. That was a bit of a disappointment. it was not very big for a start and the official merchandise stand had run out of stock quite fast. I had intended to buy a shirt but couldn’t.

Next the weather. Race day was a little chillier and certainly windier than forecast. The temperature was in fact perfectly fine once the race started but we would not have missed the gusts of wind earlier in the race. In the end, it did not matter because overall the conditions were pretty good.

Then the race. I had very high expectations of the organisation and frankly I was a rather disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there were no serious failings. It is just that the start was a bit chaotic and some of the streets in which we ran were too narrow for the mass of runners. Add in the fact that  some of the local runners loved to barge and push, you can easily imagine the somewhat tense atmosphere for the first 10 kms.

If I have one more substantial complaint it is about the distribution of the water stations. The organisers were simply too parsimonious with the water in my opinion. In the second half of the race, water and electrolyte drinks were distributed at the same station, roughly every five kms. A far better system was the one used in Athens – where such matters were generally much better managed anyway – with alternate water and energy drinks every 2.5 kms. There were times when I felt really thirsty in Rotterdam and saw the approach of the water stations with considerable relief.

On the whole, though, it is a good marathon which attracts supportive crowds and many bands and musicians line the way. The course is generally flat but once or twice I was surprised by an incline!

If you really want to know, yes, I achieved another personal best and got round in 3:30:54. Thats about three minutes less than my time in Barcelona. With hindsight, I wonder whether I had allowed myself to recover well enough from Barcelona and had instead been too keen to train during the two races. It is difficult to tell as I felt pretty good during the whole of the race in Rotterdam. Next time, I’ll err on the side of more recovery.

Posted by Xavier.

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Athens Classic Marathon: End of Season

November 9, 2009

That’s it, the season’s over. It is sort of sad but it ends on a high note !

I ran the Athens Classic Marathon on Sunday. What a truly magnificent race it was too.

It starts in the town of Marathon and follows the same route as the one used for the 2004 Olympics. It also more or less follows the route taken by Pheidippides (or Phidippides, or again Philippides) when he ran from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce the victory of the Greeks over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.

The race ends in the magnificent Panathinaiko Stadium built in white marble for the first modern Olympics in 1896. That is also the place where remains of an ancient stadium used for the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece were excavated.

The course was quite hard. The start is near the sea and the finish in Athens is 110 m higher. In between are several long climbs, just to keep things interesting.

Tthe organisation was very good: plenty of buses to take runners from Athens to the start, refreshments and water every 2.5 kms. Dozens of cheerful, dedicated volunteers handed out bottles and provided encouragement. There was even a stand at the airport to greet runners and give them a free card for public transport during the weekend. Greek hospitality at its best !

And what a collection of runners too ! Russians, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, Colombians (in some flash kit printed in Greek and Spanish), Italians, Spanish, French, Belgians, British. Greeks of course. And those were just the amateurs !

My own race was something special. I loved every minute of it. What a pleasure to follow such an historic route! Above all, I met a young English runner, Duncan, who is in the armed forces, on the bus and we discovered we both wanted to run at about the same pace. So off we went together, keeping each other company the whole way. Running with someone like that makes a big difference and I would not have achieved another personal best with Duncan’s company.

The trip to Athens was also the opportunity to catch up with co-blogger Maria who ran the 5 km race that was organised at the same time.

Posted by Xavier

Final Countdown to Athens

November 2, 2009

It is the final countdown to the Athens Classic Marathon. It will take place on Sunday 8th and it will be the third and final marathon of my autumn season.

I’m really looking forward to it. I have to confess that I’m a little apprehensive about this flu business and an annoying ache in my heels. With a bit of luck, though ….

Posted by Xavier

 

Brussels Marathon

October 4, 2009

Two down, one to go !

Just completed the Brussels Marathon in just under four hours (something like 3 hours 57 minutes, subject to confirmation of the chip time).

The weather conditions were perfect: a calm autumn day, nice and cool, dry with little wind. There seemed to be more runners than in previous years too. It is a tough course, however, with some quite tiring long hills. The winner managed it in 2 hours 15 minutes and that shows that the course is not a fast one.

I ran with a pal and we gossiped the whole way. We both decided to run carefully and not aim for a spectacular time because he’s doing Dublin in a couple of weeks and I’m running in Athens in a month’s time.

Posted by Xavier

Eve of the Brussels Marathon

October 3, 2009

Just getting my things in order for the Brussels Marathon tomorrow morning. The usual questions go through my mind: “Am I sufficiently prepared?”, “Will my knees be fine? And my achilles heals ?”, “Are my shoes OK ?”, “Will I remember to set the alarm clock?”

Two thoughts struck me as I queued to pick up my race number. First, the other runners looked so much fitter than I do. Second, I was surprised by the number of other races that were advertised: Barcelona, Rome, Luxembourg, Riga, Prague, Antwerp.

I suppose it is time to start planning the spring 2010 season ! Fortunately, with the Internet and relatively cheap flights it is possible to run in all sorts of exotic places now. During the Wolverhampton Marathon last month (not the most exotic of locations, I suppose) a fellow runner with whom I chatted described how difficult it was in the pre-Internet age to find out about and sign on for different races. Word of mouth and contacts made during races were so much more important back then, he said.

I wonder what the running-tourist trade is worth ?

Posted by Xavier

Wolverhampton Marathon: All’s Well that Ends Well

September 7, 2009

The season’s started ! And started well too….

I was a little apprehensive because the last month before the race on Sunday 6 September was chaotic: a change of jobs, packing up the office, a series of little injuries. 

In the end, everything turned out well. 

This year the Wolverhampton Marathon was better organised with chip timing and an improved route. The weather conditions were pretty good too. I started off gently to test the limbs to see if they could stand it and in particular whether my achilles tendons were up to it. They were. So I pressed on at a comfortable pace and finished in 3 hours 55 minutes.

Perhaps I could have run faster, perhaps not. I simply did not want to because my goal for this season is to run three marathons in three months. Innocently I thought that was quite an ambitious goal but during the race I chatted to some really pleasant runners who are members of the 100 Marathon Club. They are really hard-core marathon runners ! Have a look at their website and you’ll see what I mean.

Brussels 20 km

June 1, 2009

I ran the Brussels 20 km race yesterday. It is a traditional, festive run that takes place on the last Sunday in May. This year was its thirtieth anniversary and it attracted 25 000 runners. Those who had run all thirty annual races received special commemorative t-shirts with their names listed on them. 

The weather was warm and sunny. Fortunately, there was plenty to drink. The course is actually quite a hard one with a number of hills including quite a tough one two kilometres from the finish. 

This year it was both a sad and happy event for me. Sad, because some friends I run with regularly were absent, including Maria. Happy on the other hand, because I went round with another friend attempting it for the first time and who got round really well, running at an even pace throughout. 

I have to say I enjoyed running at a gentle pace, not racing against the clock, and just seeing to it that my friend was fine. It was a great way to recover from last week’s marathon and to remind myself that running is about enjoyment, not about times, performance, personal bests and the like. 

That sums it up. Running should be a moment of pleasure, of joy, a break from the ordinary. 

The Brussels 20 km also marks the end of my running season. Now it is time to recuperate, do something else and, of course, get ready for the autumn season and its new challenges. 

Posted by Xavier

Luxembourg Marathon – The Night Run

May 24, 2009

Luxembourg is a small, usually quiet town but it really came alive for the marathon and half-marathon on Saturday night. What seemed like thousands of people lined the streets and cheered the runners as they (the onlookers) sipped their drinks in bars and cafés or enjoyed their evening meal. In the residential districts, some families set up barbecues in the street, brought down chairs and sofas and made a night of it. It was a truly festive occasion. 

Frankly, it was all pretty exciting and the home crowd very welcoming. 

The course, though, was pretty tough. It seemed that the first half of the marathon was downhill and the second half was uphill. Negative splits were just not going to happen. 

The organisation was good (apart from a crush at the start) and there was plenty to drink along the way. That was just as well as it was a warm evening. 

The finish was quite something too. A four hundred metre dash along a torch-lit path at dusk and into a sports arena fitted out with lights and sound like a disco !

Oh and I managed a personal best of 3 hours 48. I felt comfortable all the way, no aches or pains, and no stiffness the following day either. I tried as best I could to keep a decent chi-running posture and foot strike and that seemed to help quite a bit. 

I’m really happy and that brings this season’s marathon running to a close. I have big plans for the autumn, though!

Posted by Xavier.

Some Running Websites

May 21, 2009

I did a little surfing of the web the other day to find some good running sites.

If you are looking for a general site with lots of different tips and discussing many different topics, have a look at “Best Running Tips“. It contains lots of information.

Looking for different races around the world ? Then go to “RunAbroad“. It is a wonderful site that provides information on races, usually half-marathons or marathons (but not exclusively), in all sorts of different places. You can sign up for a free weekly newsletter here. That newsletter is very good indeed: it describes the race, how to sign up for it, how much it costs, where to stay and how to get there. 

Then there’s “Fetch Everyone“, a mega website where you can log your training, participate in discussions on all manner of topics, find races and so on and so forth. 

Posted by Xavier

Antwerp 10 miles (part 1/mind games)

April 28, 2009

I cannot believe it even myself but I participated in the first race of my life on Sunday. It took place in Antwerp, Belgium and it was 10 miles (or 16 km). The whole experience was so intense for a new runner like me that I cannot decide from where I would like to start my narration.

It was the first time that I ran such a long distance. I cannot really make up my mind if that was good or bad. Immediately after the race I thought that it was bad because I did not have any idea of the lenght of the distance and that I could not “see the end” in my mind. Now I think that it was probably good because if I knew how long it was, I would not have participated in the first place.

And this gives me the opportunity to tell how much I consider running to be a mind game. The most important thing for me is to know/feel that I have to go somewhere, to reach a point. Having your mind set on an even finctionary finish line helps you so much to continue running. And an actual finish line in a race is the greatest incentive to keep you going! This, and my running mate!

to be continued…

Posted by Maria