Hull Marathon 2018

C485BC73-A605-495E-95CE-1B7A6767629D

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.

44EFF974-B35E-49AA-94C0-99C81C792CB3

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.

DA39AB21-1220-4FF9-ACE4-87F5A3C8B526

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.

 

 

Posted in Marathons, Places to See, Race Reports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Medieval Marathon Kilkenney 2018

1DEB3A5B-1CFE-400B-8C0C-E3A78741558F

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.

F041E710-9480-4FA6-92DA-231356F9946B

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

EA4FE21B-0B4E-4FF1-B8FD-921ECC1B1718

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.

EEE2B9A9-1543-4893-9414-D564941BEE93

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.

45CBFABF-9AC9-41D7-BA6B-E7A104B0B967

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.

389310DE-2939-42CC-B59C-817E7E7CE950

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.

Posted in Marathons, Places to See, Race Reports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

It’s a Numbers Game Marathon 2018

 

IMG_5052

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!

IMG_5053

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.

F402536F-341C-46E2-B63C-EF1915685BA9

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.

IMG_5046

 

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.

IMG_5013

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.

Posted in Marathons, Places to See | Tagged , | Leave a comment

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2018

img_0084

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.

img_2059

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!

img_2062

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!

Posted in Marathons, Places to See, Race Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

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!

img_5243

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.

img_2132

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.

Posted in Marathons, Places to See, Race Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tallinna 10K and Maraton 2018

 

img_1678

In front of the 14th-century Viru Gate, part of the Estonian capital’s old defense system and presently serves as the entrance to the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Republic of Estonia is a former Soviet republic and one of three Baltic states of northern Europe. The country is celebrating 100 years of independence this year with a series of events for everyone’s appreciation.

The Tallinna 10K and Maraton 2018 was one of the centenary’s official events and the largest sporting event organized in Estonia with 23,940 runners in four race categories.

The marathon category itself had 2,539 runners while the 10K probably had many more.

I already pre-registered online and paid 50 euros for the marathon. When I was able to confirm our flights for Friday evening, I also pre-registered at the last minute and paid 25 euros for the 10K.

We flew out of Brussels International Airport in Zaventem on the LOT Airlines flight after work on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 20:35 PM. The flight took two and a half hours, and we were landing by 23:55.

The airport tram 4 to Tondi was 2 euros per person and took 17 minutes and nine stops before we got off at Paberi. We crossed the street and walked a couple of blocks to reach the Radisson Blu Olumpia Hotel. We were asleep very quickly after a long day!

We slept in the following morning, and woke up to a very expansive view of the city.

img_4883

We took our time having breakfast at the Senso Restaurant.

We walked about 10 minutes to get to the Freedom Square where the expo was open from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM to pick up my bib. Here’s a view of one of the city streets.

IMG_4777

Richard found a guy he could identify with.

IMG_4779

The marathon expo was in full swing when we got there. There were product exhibitors and race promoters, as well as an Olympic torch exhibit.

We posed for the pre-race photo.

img_1623

It was a short jaunt to the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our first stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This was not really an old cathedral since it was build in 1900, but it was the typical Russian Revival design.

We walked a bit further to reach another part of the Old Town.

The edge of this part of town looked out to the city skyline.

We also visited the Danish King’s Garden where the sculptures of three featureless monks were installed.

This must be a popular attraction since there were lots of tourists in the area. One street vendor was cooking and selling spicy nuts.

We were back in the hotel by 13:00 PM to rest and be ready for the 10K at 17:00.

img_4901

The start line was also at Freedom Square.

There were many runners in this category. I didn’t feel pressured and just ran with the crowd.  The cool thing about this race route was going into a building!

I finished the 10K in 1:10:45.

img_1665

Richard met me at the finish line and we slowly made our way back to the hotel. An early dinner at a restaurant in one of the malls we passed by was in order for the longer race the next day.

It was still light outside so we continued our walking tour to see what we did not see in the morning.

I got permission to take photos of these locals.

We made sure to stop by St. Catherine’s Passage, a narrow medieval passageway to the St. Catherine’s Guild, an arts and crafts section of the city.

The marathon on Sunday started at 9:00 AM with a seven hour time limit.

There were lots to see along the way.

Nourishment was also available at the aid stations, including energy drinks.

I crossed the finish line in 5:52:30

We went back to the hotel to take a shower and get ready for the flight back at 18:05, landing at 19:40 in Brussels. We had lounge access but we were also served dinner on business class on the way back. Sweet!

Posted in Marathons, Places to See, Race Reports | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Le Marathon de la Liberté 2018

ED03DEDB-2865-4D2E-82AD-FCC673860B5D

Les Braves war memorial sculpture on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

The Normandy region will forever hold a special place in the hearts of the Allied countries. It was in Normandy on the northern coast of France where the Western Allies of World War II staged the biggest sea-based invasion in history.

Omaha Beach was one of the landing sites. Almost half a million Allied and German military members were killed, wounded, or went missing in this battle. Today, the Les Braves war memorial sculpture honors the war dead and is a poignant reminder of our shared past.

The locals memorialize this momentous event in history through various celebrations. The Normandy Running Festival 2018 was one of those celebrations held to coincide with the anniversary of the D-day and offered various racing distances

Richard and I woke up early on Saturday, June 9, 2018 for the five-hour drive to Normandy. I pre-registered for the Le Marathon de la Liberte 2018 online and paid 42 euros for the marathon distance.

We drove straight to the bib pickup at the Village Expo des Courants de la Liberte. The expo was open that Saturday  from 9:00 AM until 8:00 PM.

It was still too early for check-in at 2:00 PM at our hotel so we decided to go to Omaha Beach to see the memorial.

We stopped at Au Siecle d’Or for an early Chinese buffet dinner before heading back to our hotel.

Ivan Vauier in Caen was our accommodation for the evening.

Richard had breakfast at the hotel the following morning.

Runners congregated at Parc Expo for the bus pick-up between 7:00 – 8:00 AM to bring us to the start line at Courseulles-sur-Mer.

The race started at 9:10 AM on Sunday, June 10, 2018 with a time limit of five hours and 30 minutes.

The race was generally flat. We ran past several of the other beaches where the Allied forces landed.

There was entertainment on the course. This supporter motivated us with her cheers and followed us at certain points on the course.

The aid stations were fully stocked and the weather was perfect for running.

We all finished the race at the Parc Expo of Caen, with my official time of 5:30:34. I received a round of applause from the refreshment volunteers as soon as they found out my nationality.

The goodies I hauled at the finish line was great!

6622381B-D6E6-48F7-8242-5C3A19E34812

Richard and I walked back to the hotel where the car was parked and immediately drove back to Brussels that same evening.

Posted in Marathons, Places, Places to See, Race Reports | Leave a comment