Training had gone well and with only having done one marathon so far in 2014 and the rest half marathons I was feeling good and, more importantly, injury-free.
As usual, the marathon was set for Sunday (12th October). However, several weeks before, the date was changed to Saturday (11th) due to government elections. Luckily, we had not booked any travel at this stage so brought our departure back a day.
Being Eastern Europe in October I was expecting temperatures to be mid to late teens, maybe even some drizzle (which is perfect for me). However, on arrival, I was hit with full summer weather. Race day temperature was predicted to reach 80 °F (26 °C). Learning this, I knew this was not going to be good for me (or my sub 3:30).
With Ro not arriving in Budapest until late Friday I had a couple of days to wander around and see this amazing city, although I had a feeling my ‘gentle walks’, which turned into hours of walking in the sun, might come back to haunt me on race day.
I headed to the expo on Friday, set just behind the finish line in tents and gazebos; essentially an outdoor event, which was a nice change.
It took no more than 10 minutes to pick up my race number and goodie bag (with race shirt and cap). There was a small selection of stands (with a couple of big brands such as Adidas), with apparel, nutrition and the odd race.
With time to kill afterwards I thought I might as well attend the pasta party at which I was treated to a bowl of dry pasta with sugar on top (huh?). I sat there eating with an ever-increasing dry mouth listening to a Hungarian folk band; a rather strange experience in all. Soon after I was necking a bottle of water back at the hotel.
Ro arrived at 9 pm that night after which it was last minute prep; bib on vest and everything laid out like a military inspection.
Running a marathon on a Saturday did feel strange however once in kit and walking to the start line everything felt normal again. The weather report was not wrong; 25 °C (78 °F) and rising made me feel quite nervous as I am not a fan of running in the heat (is anyone?).
It was a stress-free approach to the start line, being only a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel, into the throngs of runners. Having done a recce of the start line over the previous days I was familiar with the layout and soon found myself in my corral ready and waiting for the off.
Ro, close by with camera in hand, grabbed a few nervous shots of me then we were on countdown with the sun starting to blaze through the morning clouds.
A very large inflatable ball bounced over runners’ heads, pushed up to the front of the pack by runners, then we were off.
We departed Heroes’ Square, cheered on by a good sized crowd, straight onto the wide Andrassy Avenue in the Embassy Quarter.
Keeping in mind the position of the sun I was mindful to run under any shade I could see, however the odd tree here and there was not much help. Thankfully I was wearing my cap to give some shade to the face (as well as my sunglasses).
With the first several kilometres leading straight up Andrassy, to the edge of the shopping district, the course looped back on itself at about 2.5 km and centred on a small triangle section off Andrassy until 5 km before heading reaching the Danube river at 7 km. Crowds were sporadic in places, as usual, on some of these smaller streets.
For most of the race (7 – 36 km), the course largely ran alongside the Danube and included a few kilometres on Margitsziget Island, situated in the river, and several bridge crossings including crossing the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
With no shade alongside the river, the sun was really starting to get to me. Yes there were water stations every several kilometres however running alongside the river between 12 and 2 pm on a very hot day was not fun and very draining.
Passing halfway circa 1:45 I still had hope for a PB. However, once I had been alongside the Danube for a while longer it was a case of staying strong, putting one foot in front of the other and surviving rather than achieving a PB.
Passing Rochelle at 28 km I stopped for a second, gasping for a drink but she had none left. I was gone, completely done and thinking how on earth am I going to get to the end. I had never had a DNF and was determined to carry on.
Between 35 – 38 km I got a second wind and was back to a more respectable pace (for me), passing runners instead of being passed. These kilometres passed quite quickly.
Over the last 3 km I passed runners laying on the road with exhaustion and saw the odd ambulance flying by. The thought of finishing and seeing Ro at the end was keeping me going.
Crowds were strong again as I entered the finishing area in the City Park (Városliget) however any cheers and water stations were just a haze for me as it was all eyes on the end.
The last kilometres seemed like an eternity and on coming around the last bend for the last 300 metres there was Ro cheering from the side. A quick stop and kiss and it was off for the last few metres and to get this beast of a race done.
Crossing the line in a disappointing 3:57 I had never been so pleased to have survived a marathon but mentally patted myself on the back for staying strong and not giving in.
Medal around neck, I met Ro for a lie down in the park where I relived the race to her in my ruined mental and physical state.
Overall a good race; well organised, supported, and scenic. Could have done with a bit less up and down along the Danube and to have started earlier than 11 am although the temperature in Budapest in October would normally be cooler.
Start/finish/expo areas all close to each other
Running over bridges over the Danube
Nice finish in a park
The Not So Good
Bit too much route along the Danube
Sparse support along the river/bridges
Lack of shade (although some in the park)