Warsaw Marathon, Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kerry Anne Barnett

In my attempt to complete 50 marathons before I’m 50 and my aim to complete one international marathon a year, Rob and I headed off to Warsaw, Poland for the PZU Warsaw Marathon on 30th September. I’d never been to Poland before and don’t know any Polish which was a bit of a challenge with the plethora of pre-race emails! However, Google translate kept us right.

On our arrival on Friday, we headed to the expo to pick up our race pack, including t-shirts. My ladies medium was very small… I am not very small… so on Saturday Rob took mine back telling them they’d given him a ladies t-shirt instead of a mans… they swapped it so now I have a t-shirt that fits. But now he feels guilty about committing international fraud. Then we set our course on Apple maps to find the start of the marathon. It took us the long way, so we saw a lot of riverbanks and passed the Chopin Museum.

Maybe 2 days of walking around 13 miles a day around the beautiful and historic Warsaw City Centre, filling up on amazing vegan food, wasn’t the best marathon prep…. but hey-ho it’s a beautiful interesting city.

Race day came along. Our hotel was about 25 min walk to the race village, set up near to the Vistula riverbank. It was cold in the shade and warm in the sunshine, so we waited until the last minute to strip to our Club vests. Most people were in t-shirts and some were in long-sleeved full kit! We had been provided with a plastic bag, a sticker with our race number and an allocated minibus to put our bag on, very well organised.

Walking down to the start area, Rob headed off to the sub-4-hour area and I stayed at the 5 hours plus area. The weird thing at a reasonably small international marathon and being a typical ignorant Brit who can only speak English is not being able to communicate with the runners around you. However, a lovely lady started speaking to me and managed to have a conversation in English. Turns out she’s also vegan so that’s always a good connection. I have to say I was nervous about this marathon, despite it being number 31. No particular reason but I was just a bit nervous.

The starting gun went off and we started moving, took a few minutes to cross the start line, as I was far back in the field, but it was chip timed so that was irrelevant. Off we went with a beep as we crossed the timing mat. Jogging along, we were ‘lapped’ by the front-runners before I’d even run 500m. It’s always amazing to see how fast these guys are running.

The course was fairly twisty and turny and there seemed to be many times we saw the same places. We headed off into the Zoo, not my favourite part I admit, although it was flat and sunny. I did see a hippo, some zebras, some mules, deer and bison, but would prefer they weren’t in cages, but they are.

Highlights included a man who was juggling his way around the marathon, a fella in a suit of armour, the lovely green parks we went through, seeing a red squirrel scurry across my path, the beautiful architecture of Warsaw and spacious wide streets to run through. The fuelling stations were regular and well managed, mainly with young people of Warsaw. They were friendly and encouraging. Woda! ISO! Banana! One or two stations had run out of paper cups by the time I got there but there was still water.

At mile 10 I started to feel my right upper inner arm rubbing against my vest; this had never happened before. I hadn’t put any Vaseline in my belt so was contemplating what to do until mile 3 when I sacrificed my nose blowing buff to tie around my arm to stop the chafing. Worked a treat!

I stuck to my 4 min running 1 min walking strategy until about mile 22. By mile 16 I was consistently passing people who had committed the cardinal marathon sin of ‘going out too fast’ and who were now reduced to walking all of the time. Mile 22 I struggled. Took longer walk breaks, tried to talk myself around. Kind of managed to get back on it and kept the strategy going. It was hot now. Managed a whole summer without getting sunburned then got sunburned at the end of September in Poland! Keep going, keep going.

Think it was about mile 18 that the 5k runners zoomed past. Again an awesome sight! Then running along the Nowy Swiat, a wide street, closed off to traffic on a weekend, lined with restaurants, a few runners amongst the other people just out for a Sunday stroll or lunch was quite surreal.

There were also bridges. One looked like the new “Northern Spire’ Bridge in Sunderland. We crossed that a total of 3 times. On the second time, there was a panda. On the third time, there was a panda, a fox, some people with cola (which I’d been fantasising about for about 10 miles) and a chap in a wheelchair giving out free hugs. I high fived the animals, drank the cola, hugged the chap and saw the 40km sign. Only 2ish k to go.

All of a sudden I was on the finishing straight. Rob was there, taking photos, shouting encouragement. And I was finished! Crossing the line seconds after one of the ‘ever presents’ with his original race number from 1979 pinned on his back. He got a trophy when he crossed the finish line. I got my medal, an isotonic drink, a bottle of water and a banana!

My favourite marathon? Probably not. Enjoyable? Yes, as far as a marathon can be. Well organised? Very much so. Flat? Net downhill. Would I do it again? Probably not, but there is a different Warsaw Marathon in April… a better course our ‘Communism walking tour’ guide told us. Would I recommend this Marathon? Yes, it was a well-organised event and Warsaw is a beautiful city well worth a visit.

The photos were cheap too. 39 zlotys (about £8) for the 51 pics I got. Bargain by UK standards.

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