Sikhs in the City Dawn to Dusk Marathon and Ultra 2018

At 106, Fauja Singh is considered the world’s oldest marathon runner!

Sikhs in the City Running Club is one of the many racing clubs in the UK formed by runners for runners of all abilities. What makes this group special is that it is the home club of the world’s oldest marathon runner. At 106, Fauja Singh still runs and shows up at the club races. He ran a few laps of the course while being interviewed by a filming crew.

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I actually was expecting just a low-key race and was pleasantly surprised to meet the running legend! I was starstruck and just had to have our photo taken with him after the race.

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We took the 8:52 AM Eurostar train from Brussels to London St. Pancras on Saturday, December 16, 2018. Upon arrival a little before 10:00 AM, we took the underground train to Liverpool Station, then switched trains and got off at Redbridge. The train time from St. Pancras to Redbridge took just half an hour.

Our accommodation for the weekend was the Premier Inn at Ilford just across the Redbridge train station.

We were too early for check-in but thankfully they allowed us to check in already. The room was nice, clean, and warm.

We had a quick lunch at the Beefeater Red House Grill and took a walk around the area. Before long, it was dinner time so we went back to Beefeater and had pasta for dinner.

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Breakfast at the hotel started at 7:30 AM so I just ate some sandwiches we bought at the train station. Richard returned after dropping me off to have breakfast. Breakfast was at Beefeater and they serve veggie sausages.

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The bib pickup as well as the start and finish line for the Sikhs in the City Dawn to Dusk Marathon and Ultra was at Mulalley and Co. premises located at Southend Road, Roodford Green 1G8 8FA. It was only a 1.1 mile walk away from the hotel.

There were already many runners waiting for the start time when we arrived.

The race was a multiple lap course around the industrial block. The lap was officially measured at 2.014K and known as Mr. Singh’s training course. The race started at 8:04 AM and officially ended at 3:54 PM. Runners have the option to run the half marathon, marathon, or ultra marathon distance until the cut-off time.

The aid station was at the race headquarters where they served water and isotonic drinks as well as some nibbles.

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I was cold in the beginning but discarded my jacket after a few laps. We had to do 21 laps for a marathon or 25 laps for an ultra with the race chip keeping track of the number of laps. Registration was 35 pounds.

It was only a block course but it had elevation. We ran on the sidewalk the whole time. Richard was able to encourage me several times during the last few laps.

I took my time and finished in 6:08:33. I receive my medal from one of the volunteers and he directed me to the next tent for the goody bag.

The goody bag contained a nice long-sleeved cotton shirt and more nibbles.

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Richard and I walked back to the hotel where I changed before catching the train back to St. Pancras.

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We were back in the hustle and bustle of St. Pancras and waited to board our 19:34 PM Eurostar train back to Brussels.

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38th Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP Marathon 2018

The winged gargoyle at Calatrava bridge guards the entrance to the modern City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain.

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. It is an interesting mix of the new and the old buildings with acres and acres of orange groves. Their Valencia oranges are incredibly sweet and juicy and the perfect nibble at aid stations!

We passed by Valencia when we were on our way to the VIII Marato BP Castello in February and was enamored with the old world feel of the Estacion del Nord train station. We didn’t have to go through this station this time but we got to see more of the city.

The flight to Valencia from Brussels South Charleroi Airport was on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 12:05 arriving at 14:20. Rosas Metro 3 from the airport took 22 minutes and 11 stops to Colon metro followed by a five minute walk to our hotel.

Our home for the weekend was Vincci Palace Hotel.

We set off for the race expo after checking in and dropping off our bags.

The City of Arts and Sciences was breathtakingly beautiful.

We took the bus 95 to visit the Valencia Cathedral. The cathedral is the protector of the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus was said to have used during the Last Supper.

We meandered our way back to the hotel which was less than a kilometer away, stopping at one of the cafes for a paella negro dinner.

Loved the goodies in the swag bag!

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Race day dawned bright and early. We had time to eat a good breakfast.

Buses and taxis could not go on the race route early in the morning so we had no choice but to walk 2.5 kilometers to the race start at Puente de Monte Olivete road closest to the Hemisphere

We took off at 8:30 AM. The race had a time limit of five and a half hours. Loved looking at the orange trees lining the center islands of the streets!

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This was a huge race and there was much to see! We passed by our hotel between the 28K and 29K mark.

The route finished back at the City of Arts of Sciences, with participants running the last few meters on blue carpet to the finish line. I finished in the nick of time at 5:30:11.

As I expected, the finisher’s loot included a bag of the sweet Valencia oranges! Registration was only 55,00 euros and the cost more than made up for itself with the pre- and post-race bags, and the incredible running atmosphere.

Richard got us a late checkout where I showered before we took off for the airport for our flight at 18:10. We were back in Brussels by 20:40.

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35a Firenze Marathon 2018

 

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The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is one of the countless historical buildings in Florence. The 12th century cathedral is easily recognizable with its red-tiled dome and striking marble facade.

I loved the whole experience when we were in Florence last year for the Firenze Marathon 2017 that I made sure we were back for the 2018 edition.

The journey started on Saturday, November 24, 2018 with a flight at 7:05 AM from Brussels South Charleroi Airport to Pisa 7:05. We landed right on time at Galileo Galilei Airport at 8:50 AM. Bus fare from the airport to Florence was 14 euros per person, arriving at Santa Maria Novella Stazione in an hour and a half. Bus tickets may be purchased right at the baggage claim area or from the bus driver.

From the station, we transferred to the T1 tram in the direction of Villa Costanza and got off on the second stop. Bib pickup was at Stazione Leopolda, Viale Fratelli Roselli 5. Registration for the race was 64,55 euros.

Race credentials in hand, we proceeded to our hotel from the expo by the C2 bus, alighting at Ghibellina Bargello. Bus fare was 2,50 euro each and can be purchased directly from the driver. Be careful when buying bus tickets. Some bus drivers can let you purchase tickets from them; other buses don’t have that ticket facility available.

The rain started pouring by then. The hotel was just the next corner but we had to seek shelter at one of the stores to let the worst of the rain pass.

Hotel Bernini Palace is a boutique luxury hotel in a 15th-century building that used to be the House of Parliament when Florence was the Italian capital.

We checked in and went out to visit now familiar tourist spots nearby.

We also stopped by a couple of leather stores to buy leather jackets and buttery soft cashmere-lined leather gloves. Make sure you bargain at the leather shops though. The shop we visited seemed to have inflated prices for tourists but were will to give us discounts.

We were tired and famished by the time we finished our short walking tour. There was just so much to do that you really need at least a week to soak in the culture and the history of the city! We stopped at one of the sidewalk cafes for pizza and pasta dinner.

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A champagne breakfast buffet greeted us at the great hall of the hotel. The hall used to be the ballroom of the House of Parliament and had beautiful paintings in the ceiling.

We walked to the start and finish area Piazza del Duomo to toe up at our starting corral. The race started at 8:30 AM with a six-hour time limit.

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The course was the same beautiful route as last year. Richard waited for me to pass by the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

The usual water and isotonic drinks were available at the aid stations. They also gave out energy gels at two of the stations.

The starkly beautiful finisher’s medal was designed by renowned artist Clet Abraham. I made sure to take photos of some of his artworks adorning Florence’s street signs.

I finished the race with a net time of 5:27:27 and an official time of 5:31:51.

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I saved the energy gels they gave out during the race. Finishers also got prepackaged cake slices.

It was an easy after race night before we flew back to Brussels early on Monday morning.

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Athens Marathon. The Authentic 42.195 Km 2018

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So near yet so far: A view of the Parthenon from the entrance. It was already closed to tourists by the time we arrived after the race.

If there is one race that I would recommend for marathoners, it would be the historic Athens Marathon. The race course follows the original route of the first marathoner, the Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of of the Battle of Marathon won against the Persians.

We were back in Athens again to run the marathon for the second time. I ran this race in 2015 and was so pleased to be able to run it again this year.

We flew out of Brussels International Airport in Zaventem on Saturday, November 10, 2018. on board Aegean Airlines at 11:40 AM. We were so used to the no-frills airline Ryanair that we were surprised to be served lunch during the four-hour flight.

We arrived in Athens airport at 15:40 PM. Athens is an hour ahead of Brussels. Upon arrival, we took Bus X96 right outside the arrivals area. The trip cost 6.50 euros to the marathon expo at Delta Falirou.

Registration included a free transportation card from November 8-13, 2018. A separate free transportation card was provided to and from the airport.

We took the tram T3 to get to the city center. The tram and train station is connected to an events center where a bazaar was in progress. Live music was playing in one of the display windows leading to the bazaar.

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NJV Athens Plaza at the historic Syntagma Square was our hotel for the weekend. We had a view of the majestic Parthenon from our hotel balcony.

After checking in, we ventured out into the square. We walked around for a bit before settling on a restaurant for dinner and making it an early night.

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The following morning, buses were waiting to pick us up at Syntagma Square to bring us to the Marathon town more than an hour away.

Some volunteers were passing out green neck buffs at the race start area.

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We took off at 9:00 AM. They took good care of us. We had bottled water, Powerade, Chiquita bananas, Tuc crackers, Greek chocolates, and Gu gels at the aid stations.

The race course was marked as the official classic marathon course.

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The course is not flat. We also had to contend with fickle weather conditions. Temperature at the race start was a manageable 14 degrees; it became very warm midway before it cooled down again.

Challenges aside, I was never alone on the race. With megamarathons like Athens, I can be assured that there are always runners ahead of me, beside me, and behind us.

I paused to take some photos of the scenery.

We passed by an burned down area. Locals in front of the burned area wore black and had a banner held up while supporting runners.

Medical support dotted the race almost every kilometer. A cleric at the last 10K was blessing the runners as we passed by.

I was happy to see the Panathenaic Stadium for the final few meters to the finish line. The race had a generous seven hour time limit. Richard patiently waited for me to get through the finish chute and led the way back to the hotel.

I checked out my goody bag as soon as we arrived at the hotel.

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I cleaned up and rested a bit before venturing out again to try and see the Parthenon up close. Alas, it was closed! We had to content ourselves with photos by the entrance.

 

We had dinner before tucking into bed. We were up very early for our dawn flight back to Brussels on Monday morning.

 

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ABP Newport Wales Marathon 2018

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The entrance to the shopping area of Newport, Wales.

Wales is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. Our next marathon location was in the Welsh industrial city of Newport, half an hour away by train from the capital Cardiff.

We flew out of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Cardiff Airport on Saturday, April 28, 2018. After taking the connecting trains to Cardiff Central Station, we arrived shortly after lunch at Newport station.

Registration fee is £50 or £52, depending on whether you are affiliated with a running club. Race packs are sent to local runners but since we are from Belgium, we picked up my race bib on the day of the race.

It was too early for check-in. We walked around the shopping area for a while.

Time for a leisurely lunch at Wagamama at Friars Walk Shopping Centre.

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We stayed in a two-star hotel for the night. It was close to the start and finish line but had none of the amenities we were used to.

Dinner was at Nando’s also at the mall.

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The race started at 9:00 AM by the riverfront of the Newport City Centre. The area was transformed with tents promoting various products.

The ABP Newport Wales Marathon & 10K 2018 kicked off at 9:00 AM on April 29, 2018. The race had a six-hour time limit.

I finished the race in 5:26:53.

Richard met me at the finish line and escorted me back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.

The city newspaper featured the marathon on its cover.

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We took the train to Manchester where we stayed overnight before catching the flight back to Belgium. Radisson Blu Hotel right at the airport was a welcome change from the previous hotel.

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1st Namur International Marathon 2018

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The Roman-era Citadel of Namur overlooks the city of Namur, Belgium.

Namur is a politically important city in Belgium owing to its role as the capital of the Wallonia region. It is a city less than an hour away from our house so when I found out about the premiere edition of the Namur International Marathon scheduled on April 22, 2018, I did not hesitate to sign up.

It was an hour long drive from our house to the ADEP Center James on Allee du Stade, the race hub. The Citadel of Namur, built in 937, and the James Bridge greeted us when we drove into the city.

Parking was available at Avenue du Prince de Liege 57.

I picked up my bib in the morning before lining up at the start line. I already paid my 55€ registration fee online.

The race started at 9:00 AM with a six hour time limit.

There were 1,527 entries. I crossed the finish line in 5:33:15.

After a quick change of clothes, we were on the road home.

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15th EDP Porto Marathon 2018

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The Old Town of Porto in Portugal is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This visit was our third to Portugal so far. We were in the Portuguese capital Lisbon for a work event in May 2018 and had the pleasure to run the Lisbon marathon in 2016.

We flew out of Brussels International Airport for Porto on Saturday, November 3, 2018  at 2:45 PM and landed at 4:10 PM.

From the airport, we took Metro E to Trindade and changed to Metro D to Sao Bento. The train ride took only 38 minutes. We bought Andante Cards for multiple journeys on public transportation. The 24 hour card cost 7 euros each.

Hotel Pestana Vintage Porto was only 800 meters away. The luxury hotel is also a World Heritage building and located right on the bank of the Duoro River.

After checking in, we decided to walk along the main street to the race expo, Centro de Congressos de Alfandega do Porto located less than a kilometer away. The race expo was open from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM. I picked up my bib which I prepaid for 55 euros.

We walked back to the hotel along the river bank this time, pausing for Richard to take photos of the beautiful night scene.

We had dinner at one of the nearby restaurants overlooking the river before calling it a night.

We woke up early to get ready. I skipped hotel breakfast since it did not start until 7:30 AM. I ate a sandwich we bought for the trip and got ready. Richard wished me luck before getting on a cab to the start and finish line at Parque da Cidade do Porto. The cab ride was only 10 euros.

Richard had a great breakfast cooked to order with champagne to boot!

The race started at 9:00 AM in fairly cool weather.

A few volunteers were handing out EDP neck buffs.

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The race course paralleled both sides of the Duoro River. We got to run on the Ponte Luis I bridge to get to the opposite side of the riverbank.

We ran by the hotel where Richard took some photos of me.

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He also walked around and took some more photos of the Old Town, including the breathtaking photo of the Old Town from Ponte Luis I bridge.

It started raining hard on the second half the course, with the wind ramping up by the last 10K. I was so cold by the time I finished in 5:25:25. The race had a six hour time limit.

It was a comedy of errors after that. We planned to meet at the finish line but Richard had a hard time getting a cab. He was already walking when it rained, stranding him. I had to walk for a while and approached a man selling chestnuts. My phone had died so I used the man’s phone to call Richard and tell him to just turn back. Richard was already more than half way to the finish line.

The man did not speak English but he took pity on me and hailed a passing police car to help me get home. The policemen called a taxi service who picked me up where I was. Just as we were cruising along the street, I spotted my poor Richard drenched and walking in the rain trying to get to me. Ah. . . my love! I was so happy to see him! We got to the hotel without further incident.

We both warmed up in the hotel. It was another early night before we caught our flight back to Brussels early Monday morning.

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