Budapest marathon review
Spar Budapest Marathon
I’ve been back from my epic two week Central/Eastern Europe trip for almost three full days now and wanted to kick off my Europe posts with this to get it out of the way while it is fresh in my mind.
I sprained my ankle a month before the race and pretty much threw any lofty PR goals out the window after that because even though I was running on it, I took a full week off from running with three weeks to go. My goal was to see how I felt at the halfway point and then push it from there. Beause I sprained my ankle and had a trip to LA ten days before the trip, I also never ran my 20 mile long run. I ran 19 about 6 weeks before but I felt okay with it since Budapest was my 8th marathon and 4th international race.
This race started at 9 am, which is late for most races but I sincerely love it. 7 am, or even 6 am, is so early for a marathon. OY. I am grateful for anything where I don’t have to wake up before 6:30. My friend and I (who also is the fabulous photographer) walked to the start and left our hotel, The Hotel Corinthia Budapest, around 8/8:15 am so we could leisurely walk there and I could be in place by 8:45 am.
Once we arrived at Heroe’s Square and took photos, got excited and absorbed some of the atmosphere, I walked over to the start line corrals and my friend walked to the actual square where spectators were watching the start. I waited in my corral as every announcement was made in Hungarian - a change from other races! Riga, Reykjavik, and from I can remember, Firenze, back in 2006, all had announcements in the local language and English. I certainly never expected any race to have announcements in English but this was the first time that I really had no idea what was going on until the countdown started and all the Hungarian speakers were counting down along with the announcer and physically showing numbers with their fingers too.
And a note on Hungarian, I had no idea what they were saying, NO IDEA. We learned hello and thank you. Everything else was so difficult and not even close to any language I’ve ever seen before. Even Icelandic, which is close to Old Norse and thus is from the Germanic language family, looks somewhat like languages I’ve seen before. I think i would make learning Hungarian a priority if I was to spend any long period of time there.
Back to the race! Once we kicked off, I settled into a good rhythm with my fuel, water, and pace and tried to not look at my watch at all. I wore my newer Garmin, which is a more basic one and all of the information is not on one screen. I only kep my pace and overall time screen showing. Occasionally I switched to see the time but I tried mostly to count the kilometer signs and not look at time. It beeped at me for every mile anyway. I felt good, for the most part. I knew my ankle would be annoying and that my right leg (the good leg) would be taking the abuse and picking up the slack for my left leg and that is certainly what it felt like. Any turnaround points and cobblestones were not fun but they were not terrible either.
After the halfway point, when we were still on the Buda side of the Danube (the hilly side, but thankfully, the Budapest marathon course just pretty much follows the river and stays fairly flat) I felt good. I didn’t feel like a PR of 4:30 or faster was going to happen, but I felt like I could continue the pace I was going and maybe go a little faster and finish in under 5 hours.
We crossed back over a beautiful bridge into Pest somewhere after the 33 kilometer mark, I believe. I felt like when we crossed back over, we were in the home stretch, I felt good. The spectators started to increase, I knew I had less than 10 miles to go and I was just plugging along and trying to keep moving but still stopping for extra water and sips of Powerade at every stop after the 18 mile mark. I have to think in both miles and kilometers in these races and I am grateful that i can convert fairly easily in my head.
Somewhere around mile 22, (I think), I unexpectedly saw my friend and she snapped that first photo of me, it gave me such a burst of energy to see a familiar face! I ran a little too fast and then ran quickly up a strange entrance ramp/the only hill in the race. After that, I settled back into a pace and the course turned into a park that had all sorts of food stalls and locals strolling through and enjoying their Sundays and cheering us on.
I had no idea where we were in relation to the finish line because of the trees but as soon as we hit 40 kilometers I started speeding up because I knew I had the energy. It was at that point that I also thought that I would finish in less than 5 hours if my watch was close to the chip time. I thought it would be very close because I started it right as I ran over the start line. I got a teeny bit emotional and finally, I started to hear the finish line spectators and saw the big turn that led to the finish chute. Trees blocked the actual finish from being visible until a big U-turn, but once I made the lefthand U-turn, I teared up a tiny bit and charged for the finish, passing almost everyone. I just wanted to be finished. I wasn’t trying to beat those people, it is just how I finish, with a burst of energy and a sprint to the finish. I crossed the finish line and was all smiles when I stopped my watch at 4:57;42, my finish time exactly.
This was the first international marathon that I finished in under 5 hours. The crowd support was great, the course was fantastic with refreshments and fuel, and the organization with the 5k, 10k, relay, and 30k were all fantastic. Budapest is a gorgeous city with friendly people and I love running a race through the city. It ranks as my favorite international marathon now, no rain is a huge part of that. (Sorry, Reykjavik and Riga).