Maas Marathon 08/05/2011

Flying before a race isn't the best preparation. I've learnt to wear compression socks for the the flight but for this next one Richard and I are able to take the train, or rather trains. It's the Maas Marathon in Belgium - and Holland as the race route crosses the border and back. It's a small race and looks to have a really scenic route. It's also reasonably flat.

We get the Eurostar to Brussels and change onto another train to Lille where we are staying. After checking in to the hotel it's another local train to the start and registration area in the small town of Vise. We've also had an email from a researcher in Belgium, she is doing a PhD in running related sports science. We're taking part in an experiment which involves us giving blood before and immediately after the race. We register and have our blood samples taken before heading back to Lille.

The next morning we get an early train back to Vise, drop off our bags and search for a loo. We find a single portaloo, intended for builders I think, a few streets away. It is open and it saves the usual toilet queues. There are also open circular urinals in the start line street, handy if you are a bloke.

There are, scarily, 666 marathon runners.. A bit of music at the start and we are off with a quick loop of Vise before crossing the bridge for a long stretch along the river. We are both feeling okay and run together for a good distance as the path leads along through a scenic gorge and crosses over into Holland on the outskirts of Maastricht. I haven't got a halfway split but we are at twelve and a half miles in about 1.43.

As we leave an aid station Richard suddenly announces he feels bad. After a moments hesitation he tells me to go on ahead. It is very sudden and I am going to be on my own for the rest of the race. It is a late spring day and the temperature is climbing relentlessly. I'm soaking my head, neck and running singlet at every aid station and this does a fair job of cooling as the water evaporates but it is still a battle in the heat.

I get a sudden cramp in my calf, similar to what happened in Stockholm and I'm forced to hobble to a brief halt to stretch it out. The real marathon has begun and I nurse myself back into action over the remaining miles. Finally it is the run in back into Vise and the first real spectator gathering. I've got enough left for a quick finishing 'sprint' just nipping ahead of another runner on the line. 3.44.41, not a PB but decent enough in the heat, it is in the high twenties centigrade by the end.

Richard has really suffered, he crosses the line quite a while later and immediately vomits by the side of the road. I am immensely proud of him for toughing it out, it's so much more impressive than a day when all goes well really.
We head straight off to give blood - goodness knows what they find in Richard's case!

After the race we go to have a shower and collect our bags from the local sports centre. Then we search around for something to eat. It is the worst provided marathon ever, all the local bars have stopped doing lunch so we settle for a couple of very delicious but probably super strong Belgian beers sitting out in the sun followed by vegetarian hot dogs and chips at the van in the square, the only open place. Not the recovery food of champions but it is a nice change! We fall onto the train back to Lille and after a proper meal there we are straight on the evening train back to Brussels and London. All in all I really like this event, Richard might be less sure.