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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Hull Marathon 2018

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The Victoria Square is located right in the center of the city of Kingston-upon-Hull in England.

The port city of Kingston-upon-Hull in England was the UK City of Culture last year. This year, they successfully hosted a culture-inspired Hull Marathon 2018 on September 23, 2018.

We flew Ryanair out of Brussels South Charleroi Airport on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 7:00 AM, arriving at 7:25 AM at Manchester International Airport. UK time is one hour behind Belgium time.

The Transpennine Express to Hull was at 8:17 AM. We switched trains at Manchester Piccadilly Station to arrive at Hull Paragon Interchange station at 10:45 AM. So far, so good. Easy peasy travelling.

Doubletree by Hilton Hotel was only two blocks away from the train station.

After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we paid the bus fare of £1.30 to Tigers Trust Arena beside the KCOM Stadium.

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The marathon village was open from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

We made our way back to the center of the city for some sightseeing.

As usual, we opted for an early night to be fresh for the race the following day.

The race started at 9:00 AM at the West Park near the marathon village. Buses had restricted routes the morning of the race. We took the bus to the start line but had to get off a few stops away since the roads were already blocked.

The organizers were generous with the six hour time limit but strict with its No Headphones policy.

The course had us traipsing by several cultural structures, marked by giant posters plastered on the pavement.

I crossed the finish line at KCOM Stadium also right next to the marathon village in 5:37:53.

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We were fortunate to have free late checkout so I took a shower before traveling back to Manchester.

We stayed overnight at Radisson Blue at the airport since our Ryanair flight back to Brussels was not until Monday at 7:50 AM.

 

 

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Medieval Marathon Kilkenney 2018

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The 13th century Kilkenney Castle is a beautifully preserved medieval castle and serves as the top landmark of the city of Kilkenny, Ireland.

Our next race destination was the medieval city of Kilkenny in southeast Ireland. Named after the 6th-century monk St. Canice, the city is famous for the beautifully restored Kilkenny Castle and the Medieval Mile shopping area.

We took the 10:30 PM Ryanair flight bound for Dublin out of Brussels Charleroi airport on Friday, September 14, 2018. Upon arrival at 11:10 PM, we walked to the Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport for an overnight stay.

The airport bus terminal was only a couple of blocks away from Maldron Hotel.

After an early breakfast, we took a 40-minute bus ride to Red Cow Luas Stop the following Saturday, September 15, 2018. From Red Cow Luas on Bus 600, it took us almost two hours to reach the Kilkenney, Ormond Road bus stop.

Our hotel Pembroke Kilkenney was just around the corner.

We dropped off our bags and walked to Sullivan’s Taproom to pick up my race bib for The Medieval Marathon Kilkenney 2018.

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The marathon was starting at 1:00 PM so we had time to have a leisurely pizza lunch at the historic Medieval Mile area.

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Before I realized it, it was time to make our way to the start line at St. Francis Bridge. It was cold so I was bundled up but I noticed the other runners were dressed in regular sleeveless running clothes! Ah, to be acclimated to the local running weather is one of my goals.

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I buckled down and started with my usual pace at gun start. The marathon had a generous seven-hour time limit but everyone was running fast!

The views along the course were beautiful.

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The final few meters of the course wrapped around the historic Kilkenney Castle and finished at The Parade grounds.

The marathon completed, we made our way back to the hotel where we ordered room service and called it a night.

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Sunday, September 16th was another beautiful day. We attended mass at St. Patrick’s Church and walked the Medieval Mile tourist area.

We also visited St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Round Tower before having lunch at Left Bank, voted as the best bar in Ireland.

We picked up our luggage at the hotel and waited at the Ormond Road bus stop for our direct ride back to Dublin airport. We checked into the Priority Pass lounge to wait for our Ryanair flight at 7:20 PM.

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It’s a Numbers Game Marathon 2018

 

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The race course paralleled the River Thames in Surrey, England.

I just love the races that the Phoenix running group organizes in the UK! The races have that family friendly feel. They welcome runners of various speed abilities and recognize the incredible achievements of its participants.

It’s a Numbers Game Marathon 2018 on October 7, 2018 was my third race with the group. We took the Eurostar from Brussels Midi train station to St. Pancras International train station on Saturday, October 6, 2018. From there, we walked over to the King’s Cross underground station to get on the Victoria metro for Vauxhall and switched to another train for Shepperton.

We got off at Walton-on-Thames the last time. This time we got off at Shepperton and found the station to be bigger than Walton. There was a taxi line right outside and a cab took us to The Weir Pub and Hotel for £10, much cheaper than the £20 they charged us from Walton-on-Thames!

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The Saturday marathon and the 50-mile race were in progress when we arrived at the hotel. It was cold and raining and I was silently thanking my lucky stars I did not sign up for the Saturday race. The forecast for Sunday was good weather and I kept my fingers crossed that it was going to be accurate.

We already have our favorites at the pub on the ground floor of the hotel so we ordered our usual: Thai chicken curry, crab cakes, chicken burger, beer for Richard, and water for me.

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We had the same room from our last stay. This time around, it was nice and comfy. We had a balcony that overlooked the River Thames and the race tent on the right.

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We were up early to have breakfast before we made our way to the XCel Leisure Building to pick up the bib and attend the race briefing. The race director Rik Vercoe recognized several milestones and accomplishments of the runners such as the 100 marathons in 100 weeks, 52 marathons in 52 weeks achievements. Very inspiring to see all these runners get recognition for something they love!

We walked to the towpath and got ready for the race start at 9:30 AM.

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The loop is approximately 5K so we had to do 8 loops to complete the course.

I rang the bell to signify completion of the race in 5:47. Richard and I took a group photo with the volunteers and the race director Rik Vercoe.

For £5, I was able to take a shower at the XCel Leisure Center. We took a taxi to the Shepperton Train Station and waited for the bus that took us direct to Heathrow International Airport to catch our flight to the Philippines.

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TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2018

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Right outside the Nieuwmarket metro stop is a 1488 city gate that houses a restaurant and cafe and serves as a landmark entrance to the famous red light district of Amsterdam.

This is my fourth time to run Amsterdam so I can say it’s my favorite European marathon. It’s close to where we live, the race course is beautiful, and finishing together with the half marathoners is just the perfect push to pick up our pace when we’ve already faded in the second half.

Richard and I took the three-hour intercity train to Amsterdam Central Station from Brussels Midi Station early in the afternoon of Saturday, October 20, 2018. We got off at the Sloterdijk station to check in at Holiday Inn Express, our race hotel.

We bought two-day train tickets and hopped on the green line M50  metro to take us to the Amstelveenseweg stop. We walked the few meters to the Sporthallen Zuid where we can pick up the bib at the race expo.

There were clear directions to the race expo; the blowup superhero greeted everyone at the entrance to Sporthallen Zuid.

We quickly got my race bib and  stopped by another booth to ensure my timing strip was working and the information correct. The pre-registration for the race was 75€ including the T-shirt.

We spent a few minutes checking out the various exhibitors. One of the exhibitors was promoting Cannabis Gold with products made from marijuana!

 

I bought some Reskin and shoe laces and made our way out before I decided to buy more stuff!

 

We made a short stop at the red light district to have a quick pasta dinner at Del Posto. We couldn’t stay out late because of the early race start the next morning.

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Back at the hotel, I checked out the goody bag which contained only a race shirt and the bib. I sometimes have chafing so hopefully this ReSkin product that I bought earlier at the expo would help avert that problem.

 

We had an early breakfast before taking the metro back to Amsteelvenseweg for the race start at the Olympic stadium. There were 45,000 runners coming from 145 countries that weekend!

 

 

There were many merchandisers at the race start, promoting various products and giving away lots of samples. Richard and I snagged some yogurts to eat later.

The course was very familiar by now. We saw the same sights and actually the same entertainers from the previous years.

I ran my way to the finish in 5:18.

The finishers’ area had more products being given away.

We navigated our way back to the hotel where I changed clothes and cleaned up. I took home several of the products being given away at the finishers’ area. Sweet!

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We hopped on the metro  again to go to Amsterdam central station for our Eurostar train back to Brussels. I didn’t realize that I booked us on the Standard Premier class and was pleasantly surprised by the food and wine served. What a nice way to end a great marathon!

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Swiss City Marathon – Lucerne 2018

The 14th-century Kappellbrücke (chapel bridge) is one of the most photographed places in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The road to this year’s edition of the Swiss City Marathon – Lucerne was cobbled with flight cancellations and cold weather. We persevered and enjoyed a fantastic race as a reward!

The adventure began when airlines working with Aviapartner at Brussels International Airport in Zaventem was hit by an unannounced strike by its baggage handlers on Friday. October 26, 2018. Not all airlines were affected, but our flight with easyJet leaving that Friday evening was. Argh! I rerouted our booking to fly out of Amsterdam to Geneva the next day, Saturday.

We took the intercity train to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport immediately after work and checked into the Hilton for the night. Our room was nice and faced into the interior lobby and courtyard. We also had the very spacious bathroom with handicapped access.

The Hilton was connected to the airport by a walkway. It only took us a few minutes to get to the M gates where we waited for our flight at 7:25 AM. There were no Priority Pass lounges at the M gates so we just paid for our own coffee and drinks at the boarding areas.

After landing at 9:00 AM, we took the intercity train to Basel SBB train station where we switched to another train bound for Lucerne. The train ride was almost four hours but hey, we made it to Switzerland!

We stepped out of the Lucerne train station into a slight drizzle and a giant welcome archway where a pop up stand was giving out nut bars. Richard and I got a couple of bars each which we munched on while crossing the bridge to get to the race expo at Hotel Schwiezerhof on the opposite side of the lake.

We could see the Kappellbrücke to our left and Hotel Schwiezerhof on the right.

The race expo and pasta party was in full swing when we got there.

The goody bag included one ticket to the pasta party next door.

We waited for a while for the alpenhorn group to perform but left after waiting for half an hour.

We took the bus and got off at the Europe stop to get to Grand Hotel Europe, our race digs.

I checked out my haul from the race expo. Swiss marathons may be expensive but they do give us lots of product samples. The registration also came free public transportation travel from the airport to the race and back. The free transportation was a nice treat because Richard had to pay 33 CHF for a Super saver return train ticket himself! I also pre-ordered the race backpack which they mailed to our Belgian address in September.

It was raining the rest of the afternoon so we decided to do the hotel’s marathon dinner buffet for 38 CHF per person.

The start and finish line of the marathon was near the hotel, always a sweet advantage for us. Grand Hotel Europe was also one of the official hotels which meant more perks: early 5:30 AM breakfast buffet and a 4:00 PM late checkout. Even sweeter!

The race had a staggered start with the intent for the faster runners to go first and the leisure runners like me to go behind them. However, they had a five and a half hour time limit. The race route required us to do two loops. Our start time was at 9:30 AM and we had to start the second half of the race by 12:00 noon; if we are late we will be stopped and only our half marathon time will count. Oh no! I am too lazy to train anymore and instead use the marathons as my training. My time has not improved much over the last several years.

I made an executive decision (shhh!) and started at 9:15 AM with the runners looking to finish in 4:15. I figured I needed the 15-minute buffer to finish the first loop and made sure to keep to the side so the fast ones can run by.

I completed the first half in 2:29; whew! We started together with the half marathoners. The course had many big bands to entertain runners and spectators.

Richard took photos of the area.

There were major hills in the course so I took my time to do the second half. completing the marathon in 5:25:44,8. I also got to see my New Yorker friend Jim who finished way ahead of me.

The finishers each received the finisher’s medal, a neck buff, an ASICS finisher’s polo shirt, a glass of beer (with alcohol for Richard), and a bottle of Peak Punk tea served as the energy drink on the course. Richard was also given a miniature cow bell!

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I took my shower and walked our way back to the train station. The buses were already running at 4:00 PM but the one we needed was not running regularly. We took a souvenir photo in front of the Kappellbrücke.

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Our flight home was also cancelled. The airline  put us up at the chic Hyperion Hotel in Basel.  I loved the Rituals bath amenities and everything in the minibar was free!

We had a corner room with a great view of the colorful fairs.

The airline also paid for a nice dinner. Hmmm. . . we could get used to this!

We were up very early again to catch our flight from Basel EuroAiport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg to Lille, France. From there, we took the bus to the Brussels airport.

The logistical details of the trip was a challenge but I have great memories of the race to make the experience a positive one. I must also say the easyJet took very good care of its passengers who had their schedules disrupted by the strike at Brussels International Airport.

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