Well, I didn’t ‘run the Luxembourg Half Marathon’ and I didn’t ‘run the Luxembourg Marathon’, but I did run the first 30k of the marathon course, with all of the competitors. If that sounds madness, here is how and why. At the beginning of May I decided to again accompany my son-in-law, marathon-machine-man (MMM) Jon Carson on his 100 marathon quest and join him for his run in the Luxembourg Night Marathon. I had the web page up, giving details of the costs of entry to the half marathon (it even gave ‘day of the event’ charges) and so when I found a flight that was suitable, I booked it. I then navigated around the Luxembourg marathon web site to enter only to find the message Numerous begging emails to various ‘important’ organising people, posts on the marathon Facebook page looking for someone who might not be able to use their registration or who needed a member for the relay all came to nothing. So on the day of the race I set off from City Airport (great place to fly from, only need to arrive 40 min before the flight) at 8.40 with my running kit and plenty of gluten free food. Shame I didn’t know that Luxair provided free snacks on the 1 hour flight, and gluten free if requested. MMM had booked the Ibis at the airport, and as he was on a later flight I walked to the Expo, about 5k, to get his bib, chip etc. I again, to no avail, tried to get a last minute registration; but I had already decided that wouldn’t stop me from doing some sort of run. I then did found a bus straight back to the hotel, one that MMM and I then used on its return journey to get us back to the Expo/start/finish, aiming to be there an hour before the 7.00pm start. Just over 1 km from the start the bus’s route departed from the way I had walked earlier, and kept going and going and going. Eventually we ended up in the centre of Luxembourg and everyone had to get off. We followed the local runners, being fully confident they would know how to continue the journey. But after the first bus we all thought we could get arrived and the driver said he couldn’t get there because of the road closures we started to get a bit worried. He did indicate there were shuttle buses to the start but it was quite a walk to where they departed from; slight concern started to set in. We decided on a taxi, but there were none to be found, we walked until a hotel was spotted with a single taxi outside. We grabbed it, but still were not sure if it would get us all the way there. It did, with about 15 min to spare. Then why was the bag drop at the very far end of the expo building? But we did get to the start we a just a few minutes to spare.
MMM made his way to his allocated pen and I slipped in with him; despite the warnings in the handbook about not being allowed to run if you didn’t have your number no one seemed to be checking and at 7.00pm I set of the the other 1000s of runners. I had no intention of trying to complete the full marathon, but also I didn’t want to just do the half. In fact, not being able to get an official entry turned out to be a benefit. I needed a long training run, part of the preparation for my first marathon, Amsterdam in October, and this was going to be ideal. I was aiming to run 30k or for 3 hours, whichever came first. Amazingly they arrived within a few seconds/metres of each other, but unfortunately not at a very convenient part of the course. It was at the bottom of the lowest part of the course, and my very tired legs than had to climb up what seemed like a thousand steps (cramping on the way up) so I could get to street level and hop on a bus back to the finish to meet MMM who finished in a ‘half Satan’ 3:33 (which is now on the free fridge magnet), a rather astonishing time as he had been on diazepam and codamine for a week after having to call an ambulance to get him out of bed and to the doctors with a neck he couldn’t move.
As we wanted a few beers we decided to make our way straight back to the hotel, an hour’s walk. After about 20 min we did find a small smokey bar and settled in until almost closing time at 1.00am. We had started off on what we had been informed was a 4k walk back to the hotel when we asked a French ‘local’, who was just putting his car in the garage, to confirm we were walking the right way. He realised immediately that we had been running, and said he had also run the half marathon. Without any hesitation he insisted on driving us back to the hotel, for which we were excessively grateful! Not what many Brits would picture as a stereotypical Frenchman.
And the run itself? I had wanted to run very steadily, at a 4 hour marathon pace from the start. I realised I was going too fast when the 3.29 pacer overtook me at the 7.5k mark, then the 3.44 one at 17.5k. At least I was very close to my 30k target when the 3.59 pacer went by. It was the first race I had done that also involved a relay, and I must admit I found that aspect slightly irritating. Having already run the equivalent of almost 3 legs of the marathon, being overtaken by speedy fresh legged relay runners was not much fun, there was no possibility of using them as pacers. Even more annoying was their take-over points. At the 2nd one the teams waiting had narrowed the running track down to almost a single file; then the rather large runner in front of me was shouted at by his team, who he had past. He stopped, turned around and I ran straight into him; fortunately he had a bit of cushioning to ease the blow. As for the actual run, there was drink/fruit/cake every 3k over the last half of the course and great support from the locals all the way round. Of course my major disappointment was no medal at the end! But I did get a free hat.