Istanbul Marathon - 13 November 2016 – Jorrie Jordaan (featuring Miros Kaffka)

Miros and I were fortunate enough to participate in the 38th running of the Istanbul Marathon in Turkey. This is my story:

The following transpired during the marathon:

  • I finished what I started

  • I witnessed something truly majestic (from the bucket list)

  • I got to spend quality time with myself J

  • I ran from Asia to Europe, crossing the mighty Bosphorus Straight

  • I shared an experience with one of my best friends

  • I ran through a city with 20 million people in it

  • I brought the city to a halt (okay, not me only, but the 30 000 runners)

  • I helped complete strangers along the way

  • I ran past buildings dated more than 2000 years old

  • I finished in a hippodrome dating thousands of years back

  • I beat all the odds stacked against me

  • I ran with people from more than a hundred countries

  • I prayed and my prayers were answered

  • I kept my promise to myself to enjoy it, no matter what

 

It all started in 2015 when Miros and I decided to do an international marathon. We wanted to do something special but mostly off the beaten track. We looked at various options, like Moscow, Prague, Budapest, etc., but through a process of elimination we decided on Istanbul. Many things appealed to us, including the history of the city as well as the fact that we would be running from one continent to another.

We booked our flights and entered the marathon in February. Now we could get on with the rest of the year, which included the Two Oceans Ultra. Early in May I tore my meniscus, which was obviously a bit worrying. I did the Sani2C with the torn meniscus and then had it operated on. Shortly after I completed the Dusi2C. Running was still not possible, but cycling kept me going. I got back on the road in early July, but the going was tough. Patience is not but my strongest quality, but I knew I had to take it slow and make sure I don’t get injured again. Another MTB stage race in August, now it was time to put my effort into running and building endurance for Istanbul.

I made my comeback at the Spirit of Flight 10km at the end of August and followed it up with a few 21’s, before attempting a 32km run on the 1st of October. All was well and I was getting more confident. Unfortunately I tore a hamstring muscle on the 15th of October. This was a major setback, with the Istanbul Marathon less than a month away. I was time not to panic. Two weeks of intense physio and I was back on the road again with a very slow Irene 21.

Fast forward to the 10th of November – departure day. Can you believe it, I woke up coughing and with a running nose – NO, this can’t be!!!

Check-in went smooth, but the flight was delayed for 3 or 4 hours due to severe thunderstorms. Ah well, nothing we could do about that, so a few beers were enjoyed. I’ll spare you the details, but I will just say that we made the flight with seconds to spare J.

We arrived in Istanbul at 10am, went straight to the expo to collect our race packs, dragging our luggage through Istanbul. The expo was big, but all we were interested in was collecting our packs.

 

 

Time to find the train/tram and make our way to the Old city. Another few hundred meters of cobblestone roads and we arrived. Our hotel, Agora Life Hotel, was situated on top of a hill in Sultan Ahmet. The hotel had a rooftop terrace with arguably the best view in Istanbul. Right in front of us was the Bosphorus Straight, with a magnificent view of the Bosphorus bridge, where the race would start in two days. To the right of us was another magnificent view, this one of the majestic Hagia Sofia mosque.

Race Day: Sunday 13 November 2016

The race starts at 9am, which was weird for us, but seeing that it was winter and that the sun only comes up after 8, it was understandable. Busses would take us form the finish, very close to our hotel, to the start. We woke up at 6 (luxury time for us marathon runners), with rain outside. We made our way to the busses and left just after 7am. We arrived at the start with more than an hour to spare. The hotel kindly packed us a sandwich, so we found a dry spot and had breakfast. The race provides you with an old style tog bag, filled with goodies, including a rain poncho. This tog bag was also the only ones allowed on the luggage busses. We found our luggage bus, clearly marked and checked in our goodies. The rain had stopped, and the temperature was almost acceptable.

The atmosphere was great, with pavilions on the side of the road and a MC getting the runners in the mood. I think we might have been the only two English speaking people in the crowd, never mind Afrikaans speaking people. The race started promptly at 9am and we were off. Within minutes we started crossing the mighty Bosphorus. This was one of the best sights I have ever seen on a race.

 

With my preparation not going according to plan and with my cold now a full blown flu, I told Miros to go ahead and enjoy his race. He was fit and full of running and it would have been unfair to ask him to stick with me. We enjoyed the 1st three km’s over the bridge together, but when the hills started I had to take it slow, blowing my nose every now and then, coughing all the way. It was going to be a long and tough day for me, but my mind was strong and I adjusted my strategy. The plan was to run as far as possible and then adopt a run/walk strategy, taking it slow along the way. From about 4 to 6km a nice downhill greeted us, so I got into a steady rhythm. The run to the 10km mark was awesome, with lots of people lining the streets and cheering us on. From 10 to 17km is a nice out-and-back stretch along the golden horn. I saw Miros coming back at about 13km, which was great. Another climb, the second last climb, from 17 to 20km took some effort. The water stations was well manned, with water and various snacks.

I went through the 21km mark in 2:07:44, which was surprisingly good for me. I felt great about my progress, but knew the second half was not going to be easy. At the 22km mark we turned onto a big highway, with the wind straight in our faces. This was the second out and back section and when I saw the 36km marker on the opposite side of the road I knew there was a 7km stretch which was going to take a lot out of me. My strategy to run as long as possible was working. My sights was now set on the 30km mark and I knew if I could reach that without walking then it was downwind and ‘downhill’ to the finish. Head down and keep on moving!!! I did not look around much as the road was a bit boring and the wind was very strong.

I did however keep my eyes on the opposite side, waiting for Miros to make his appearance. He came flying past, looking good. I was glad. I made the turn at 28.5km, feeling very relieved. I kept my promise and continued to the 30km mark before I started my run/walk strategy. I reached the 30km mark in 3:08:33 and knew that I was going to finish this race. With the wind at my back and the views of the ocean and the many big ships lying off the coast I was enjoying every minute. Running/walking and having fun.

I was looking for something else to drink, so when I saw a garage I popped in and bought myself a Fanta!!!! Back on the road again. We were nearing the end, but I knew there was going to be a sting in the tail somewhere, a Hakkin Hill if you know what I mean. Sure, there it was, at 41km’s we turned into Gulhane Park, the gardens of the Topkapi Palace. Although it was straight up, it was on a stretch where I was on my walking part of the strategy, so I enjoyed every moment. The park was amazing and a sight to behold. As we exited the park, the streets were lined with people cheering us on. I entered the Hippodrome with the finish banner in sight.

I DID IT!!!!!!

Never in my life has preparation for a big race gone so wrong, but with a great friend by my side and in a ‘out-of-this-world’ backdrop, how could I not finish and enjoy it.

I picked up my bag and went straight to the hotel where Miros was waiting with a cold Super M (which he brought all the way from SA). WOW!!!! A welcome shower, 30min nap, then it was time for a well earned beers and some food.

We discussed our races and was very pleased with our choice of race and what we have achieved. 

 

We stayed on for 4 days after the marathon and experienced so much, including:

  • A visit to the Basilica Cistern

  • The Dolmabache Palace

  • A cruise on the Bosphorus

  • Taksim square

  • The Hagia Sofia

  • A cruise to the Prince’s island

  • A bike tour of the island

  • A visit to the Grand Bazaar

  • Lots of good time on our rooftop terrace

  • The Spice Bazaar

  • Galata Tower

  • Topkapi Palace

I have been to many cities in the world, but can honestly say that Istanbul is truly majestic. Make a plan ang get there one day.

Thanks Miros, it was an absolute pleasure to share this amazing experience with you.

 

 

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