The bright side: Bucharest 10 km
Was it Shakespeare who said, ‘expectation is the root of all heartache’?
When I registered for three half marathons over three weekends in October, I had fully expected to be 100% Achilles pain-free. Seven weeks of heel raises, supplements, and reduced running and I am still left with morning stiffness and pain during daily activities. While I am nowhere near where I expected to be, I am also determined to look on the bright side. I am truly happy that I can still run at all.
I was scheduled to arrive on the outskirts of Bucharest at 18:00 on Saturday night and had to get my racing bib in the city center before 20:00. This challenging feat became near impossible when my flight came in 20 minutes late. While Ubers in Bucharest are convenient, reliable, and fast, there seems to be an invisible force field around the airport that turns them into quite the opposite: inconvenient, unreliable, and slow. I am used to multiple canceled rides and long waits next to the terminal. At least once you finally secured a driver, and met up at the correct section, you can sit back and relax in the car while the driver queues endlessly to pay the airport parking ticket.
It would be a stroke of pure luck if I could reach the city center before 20:00. The organizers threatened to deny bibs to people on race day that could not prove that they arrived in the city the same day. I also considered changing my entry to the 10 km but was not entirely sure if they had a 10 km and what time it would start.
Unexpectedly there was no one in front of me in the passport queue and I found my Uber driver within minutes. Like all Bucharest drivers, he wasted no time on the road and got me to the expo at 19:40, including a stop at my hotel to drop my bags. (It later turned out I dropped my bags at the wrong hotel, but they were still friendly enough to keep them while I rushed to the city center.)
When I signed up for the Bucharest half marathon, I had the chance to select custom text for my bib. I registered after the deadline for customized bibs and was pleasantly surprised to find The Heelstriker’s number waiting for me.
Unfortunately, I had to immediately return it in exchange for a nameless 10 km bib. At this moment I was beyond disappointed that I would only run half of what I had set out to do. I tried to look on the bright side: I would still get a shirt and goody bag.
I expected quite a bit from the goody bag. “Personal care products in the registration kit bag” was one of the reasons the website named for signing up for this race. Another reason was a “safe street running track for 33 km” (I can only assume the other 9.12 km was shared with ever hazardous Bucharest Ubers?)
With high hopes, I opened my bag to find 1 liter of unsweetened, unroasted almond milk, a magazine, and a roughly cut sponge. While I am not an expert in ‘personal care products’ in Romania, it would be an understatement to say I found this slightly unexpected.
I was still trying to look for silver linings but there was nothing sparkling about getting up at 6:40. While I was prepared to toe the line of the half at 9:30, I was now expected to race at 8.
I had to leave so early, that the hotel’s breakfast was only open for 5 min before I had to head out. Fortunately, I could grab and sneak a coffee in my uber to sip while I woke up.
I reached the race village at 7:30, which should have given me 3 min to drop my bag, 25 min to queue at the porta-potties, and 2 min to walk to the start.
To my great surprise, there was not a single runner standing uncomfortably in line and I had instant access to dozens of unused loo’s. The result was that I now had 24 minutes in the freezing cold until the start.
To pass the time, I decided to have my picture taken by a reluctant stranger at a poster of the Palace of Parliament. I was still gesturing which parts of the scene to include when she snapped the photo and hurried away.
Then I headed to the expo to see what unnecessary sports gear the three stands had on offer.
Inspired by Sir Farah’s recent achievement at the Chicago marathon, and to a greater extent the freezing weather, I settled on a pair of white Swiss arm warmers.
The race itself was loads of fun. While the streets were still deserted, there was a sense of calm and unity among the runners. Dozens of wheelchairs participated, who seemed to have simply started among the other runners instead of as a separate starting group. It struck me that most wheelchairs were simply normal everyday use chairs and not the sporty type you see racing at big city marathons. I jogged past them on the inclines, and they squeaked past me on the downs.
I had hoped to finish under an hour and managed 56:13 while smiling and running steady and controlled.
After the race, I took advantage of the very short massage queue before heading back to the start to watch the half and marathoners go off. I strolled around town with the course map in hand, somethings crossing paths as the elites flew by and other times stopping to cheer Santa or a Flintstone. There should be a word for the kind of joy and relief that you experience when you get to watch a marathon and not run it. There’s nothing like witnessing great feats of endurance without having to suffer it firsthand. I took pictures of the runners and had a celebratory cappuccino and banana bread.
I feared that I would aggravate my Achilles and put a stop to my running for a few weeks. After all, I did sign up for not one, but three back to back half marathons. The Achilles is not much better, but on the bright side, it’s also not much worse.
All in all, this was not a wasted day out. I enjoyed running the 10 km and had a great relaxed Sunday soaking up the marathon atmosphere in Bucharest.
Not only am I a warm memory richer, but also a nice medal, fantastic arm warmers, and a roughly cut sponge.