I once had a skiteacher who explained me that the advantage of skiing over snowboarding was that he had four sides (kanten) to express himself. That is how I actually feel about endurance sports as well. You have you main events to train towards, Sunday easy sets, crowded tradition runs, local village runs for all out performance and city events.
You can go faster, you can go longer, you can go for a personal best, you can go for sightseeing, or you could just go to enjoy yourself and have a great time. The other day Helen came home with an invitation for an organised trip to the Istanbul Marathon, the only marathon that starts in Asia and ends in Europe. Not really into marathoning she dismissed it initially, but somehow it got our interest. She had been to Istanbul before and knew what a great city it is. We checked the site and to our surprise a shorter distance was organised as well, with the same Asia to Europe Challenge.
Looking for great weekend out together we decided to go for it, and what a great little trip it turned out to be. Just knowing too little about Turkey other than the recent troubles I had no clue what to expect. Well, on the international business level the world is kinda flat and you do know. But other than that… Istanbul is just amazing.
What great fun it is to see the city as a runner. Instead of packing your weekend with the great landmarks and other tourist places, just center your trip around a run. Your weekend has a different rhythm because we you arrive you need to pickup your bib and startnumber. Definitely with a Marathon which has fast quantities of people visit. Needless to say all Marathon expo’s are alike, a large stadium with lots of running info and off course the place to pick up your stuff. This stadium is in the outskirts of the city, unfortunately close to the airport, so we had to travel all the way back. Luckely with a railway through the streets of Sultanahmet, so a change to see the wonderful monuments already. Going back just mesmerized by the exotic colors, sounds and smells of the markets, bazars and the great fish places near the Galata bridge
We stayed near the square and Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu, which is like a main, western, shoping street, only LARGER. On time to bed, we had to get up early to take the bus at 7:00 from the Taxim square to the start of the race. western To notice that Istanbul organises its streets about themes: shoe sellers in one street, tool in another, clothing in a third and so forth, like medival cities Try to see that from your hop-on, hop-off bus…. The start was exotic, chaotic, with all the local people helping out and trying to make a Lira. Somehow it feels like everybody is working hard to make some money. We got there early, so we soaked it all in and suddenly it was quiet and people started singing
A bang and off they went, Marathoners for their epic event. We had to wait half an hour longer for our start of the 10k. Running is universal and people are all alike. It just felt like any other event, only we could not understand people. Although everybody in Turkey speak English very, very well.
Half an hour later it was our time. And we started of. How funny to see that most people take the opportunity to see the bridge, walking, in opposite direction. So this was the slowest start ever. Passing it we made it from Asia to Europe, not changing our religion, btw … Only to make it worse by a steep climb the second kilometer.
But over the hill it was all down, steep and fast….. Half way we passed the Dolmabahçe Palace, the place Ataturk died and it was already time to finish the race. Over the Galata bridge near the spice market. Time doesn’t matter, we did well and it is not even a fast race with loads of walkers. We ran together and had great fun. We crossed two continents, it was time for beer.
What a great way to learn new places and see them in a different way. Next year we will be doing the same on a different run. A short distance during the Athene Marathon sounds interesting, or do you have another suggestion? And Istanbul, do not worry, we will definitly be back and spend more time on your classical attraction this time.