After running the Athens Marathon, I just did a lot of walking all over Greece and Turkey, so my legs felt really good. I never felt super sore. And I never really thought about the next marathon I was going to run until it was time to go to the expo.
We arrived into Istanbul on Friday afternoon. We had arranged with our airbandb host to meet a private driver at the airport and paid a little extra to have him drive us to the expo on the way into town. I had noticed that the expo was much closer to the airport than to where we were staying so it worked out much better to have him take us there first thing. We told the driver we would be quick and we ran in, grabbed my bib, my shirt and gear bag, and then found a person who spoke English to ask about the buses to get to the start. A lot of people in Turkey do not speak English, so thank goodness there was someone who could help out.
Clint also saw a wall of names and told me to look for my name. We also ran through the expo vendors looking for a kt tape vendor with no luck. I needed a small piece to cover where I had chafed under my sports bra at the Athens Marathon. Oh well, I’ll figure something out.
On race morning, we weren’t sure if Clint could go on the buses with us to the other side of the Bosphorus Bridge, but I wanted him to at least go with me to the bus pickup area to see me off. He was leaving the country the same morning and wouldn’t be around to see me finish so I needed him to be with me for part of it.
The bus pickup area was right next to the Hagia Sophia, which was quite beautiful at that time of morning. As we boarded the buses, I kissed Clint goodbye. I kinda teared up knowing I wasn’t going to see him for a couple days and he wouldn’t be at the finish to greet me, which was the first time I would be by myself after a race.
When we reached the other side of the bridge, we had a lot of time to wait until start time. It was a little windy and cool, but I knew it was going to get warmer. It was also another 9am start time for the marathon. I got rid of my gear bag right way, got in a porta pottie line, and just got in my corral. A lot of people crammed in this narrow area and were pushing and shoving, which was super annoying. I thought it was really interesting they let food vendors in this area. They roamed around the crowds of runners and had Turkish breads, bananas, water, tea and coffee. I’ve never seen anything like this.
I didn’t see any Americans in the corrals, or at least in the area I was in. But I did see a lot of excited and smelly Europeans. As we started the race, you could see the enormous bridge in front of us. It was quite an incredible site and as we ran over it so many people stopped to take pictures or selfies. It was probably the best part of the race.
Around mile 3 or so, I saw a man with an SF Giants hat. I asked if he was from the U.S. But he wasn’t. I think he was Italian but was very nice and wished me luck. I saw another lady wearing a tech shirt from a race in Pennsylvania so I asked if she was from the U.S. She was Polish, living in New Jersey, but in Turkey for work and just randomly decided to do the marathon. I think around Mile 8 I kinda just started running next to a guy that was running the same pace. We didn’t say anything to each other but just kept running together for like 5 miles. It was kind of nice to run with someone. Then he asked what my time goal was and I said I didn’t have one. He assumed I did because I was looking at my watch so he thought he’d keep me company. Turned out he was an Iraqi and British citizen and kind of lives all over. It was his first road race. He had done a couple marathons in the desert so this was different for him. He also said that his friend who was running just the 15k wanted to go out for drinks the night before and they ended up drinking too much, so he was having a hard time. Right after we had this conversation he said he was dropping back and I never saw him again. So much for my pacer.
A long portion of the race (about 20k of it) is just a straight out and back and was just boring and not that exciting. Barely any spectators and no music. It was kind of tough. But as I got closer to the finish, I just tried to hold on even though my legs were getting tired. The last mile was uphill. Lame! But as we entered the area of the finish line, the crowds were large and loud. That definitely helped me get through the end.
The finish area is in between the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque area in Sultanahmet Square. After passing the finish line, they gave us bags of food and drinks and I immediately drank the orange juice they had given us. It was delicious! We had to filter through the small area and get through the crowd of spectators on the other side of the fencing. I just kept walking straight for my gear bag because I just wanted to take my shoes off and sit down. After I relaxed for a bit and changed my shirt, I finally gathered myself and walked to the nearest metro station only to find it was closed because of the race. Crap! So I had to walk to the bus station, which wasn’t close. I tried to suck it up and continued on through all the tourists and runners in my way. I was getting cranky and needed food. Thank god there was a protein bar in the goodie bag that we got at the finish line. Once I reached the bus station I noticed locals sitting at the stations so I went to the 99 bus stop and sat down. I waited and waited and I was kind of wondering what was taking so long. I asked the guy next to me if they always take so long and I thought he said yes, so I just waited. Then after like 45 minutes, I was over it. They clearly weren’t coming. So, I started walking in the direction of where my neighborhood was and thought maybe I should catch a cab. I asked like 4 taxis and they all turned me down. I was so annoyed. But then I figured out that I think they turned me down because it wasn’t worth their time or money to take me because it wasn’t far. It wasn’t far to them but it was far to me. But what they didn’t know was I didn’t care and would have paid them more to take me because I didn’t want to walk anymore! I was hungry and tired. So, 2 hours after I finished the race, I finally made it to my neighborhood and walked straight into a restaurant with my running clothes on and got something to eat. The guy probably thought I was crazy coming in with all my gear, wearing running clothes, saying I was starving. Oh man! It was good though! By the way, I also got strange looks on the street because I was still wearing my running shorts and I don’t think they are used to females wearing shorts, especially something that short.
After my delicious meal, I walked to our flat and showered, relaxed and ended up falling asleep and taking a 4 hour nap! I’ve never done that after a race, but I think all the walking after the race got to me. Plus, the bed was super comfy and warm. When I woke up I knew I didn’t want to waste my last evening in Istanbul doing nothing in my room, so I rallied and took a cab to Taksim Square and had a beer and dinner. It was like 11pm at this point, but it was pretty lively in the square. After a bit of walking around, I went back to the flat and snuggled back up in bed.
The best part of this race was the Bosphorus Bridge and being able to say I ran from Asia to Europe. This is the only race that crosses two continents and I think that’s really cool! I think this race has about 15,000 and the cutoff time is 5.5 hours, so no dawdlers allowed here. One thing I noticed that was not good was they didn’t have electrolytes at any water stations. Nothing! They did have some gu’s, bananas and apples though. And they used the small water bottles instead of the larger ones, which was less waste. There were not as many spectators at this race though. Pretty slim. But overall, it was a great experience and the sites at the beginning and end were great!