Budapest Running Festival – Striders on Tour by Andy Davies

  • Budapest is one of that Europe’s most beautiful capitals, it was founded when two Hungarian brothers settled on either side of the River Danube, Bud preferred the hills, on the east side and his brother Weiser, the rolling countryside to the West. Bud built a beautiful castle and a spa resort to cater for package tour holiday makers from Stockton-on-Tees. Weiser established a parliament and taught his subjects how to make Goulash. Before long Weiser became addicted to Bud’s ‘cool tubs and would spend days monopolising them’; Bud became increasingly frustrated with this as the Teeside tourists complained that the weather was too warm and needed cooling down. Bud banished Weiser to the other side forever and labelled him ‘a pest’. Exactly 1267 years and 3 months and 5 days years later 17 Striders came to honour this fairly average moment.

    They descended on Budapest en masse, this time none of the classic pincer formation that had seem them successfully culturally attack ( Rio singing ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ inside the Duomo) and destroy Florence the previous year. The journey began with 12 of the party who had made the trip to Florence the previous year, how would they fair this year: Jenny Rich, the fastest female Strider, had decided to do the 30k and save her marathon legs for London. Paul Stuart has had a terrible year with injuries and didn’t want to make it any worse , so decided to do the 10k. Elaine Watson had not trained as hard as we demanded and also decided to the 10K. The Devine Ponytail doesn’t really do marathons and believed the Budapestrians would prefer to see his luscious locks flowing for less than 40 minutes. Mir Jansen had a major foot problem and thought it wiser to do the 30k than the marathon. Robert Foster, was new to the group, but had done Mannchester marathon in April in 2:48 and was now looking at going sub 2:45 Goldstar, the man oozes class , and who knows what he was going for, certainly not him. Steve Clarke had also had injuries and was hoping to get round in sub 3:30 but didn’t expect to beat his pb of 3:21:15 Richard Pegg had had a really difficult marathon race in Poland only 2 weeks previously and didn’t expect to beat his Florence time of 3:48:18 John Rawlinson had a pb of 3:25:11 but due to training for other races had written this one off, in terms of going for a pb. John Armitage had had a few weeks of non-running due to injury and didn’t expect to come near to the 3:35 he had achieved in Stockholm the previous year.

    Richard Garton, ‘The Dude’ had , like Peggy really suffered during the heat in Poland and definitely wasn’t expected to be near his 4 hour 5 minutes Florence time. Amy Housely had completed a marathon (pre-Striders) in over 4 hours and was looking to beat that magic target. Jo Carnie was the only Marathon debutant and was hoping for sub 4. Naomi Rabin knew that due to the massive amount of race miles in her legs she’d complete the marathon but she really wanted to beat her 4:25 she’d set in Florence. Rio Cooper, due to injury had also lost a few weeks of training and wasn’t expecting to beat her 3:29:02 which she’d got in Paris this April. Heather Wallis had also had a few weeks of disrupted training and wasn’t expecting anything near to her Florence time of 3:40:53

    Friday morning and afternoon was spent mainly travelling, we were in 3 different location. Paul, Jenny and Elaine were about 20 mins away from the rest; John A, Robert and The Dude were slumming it in B style accommodation; whereas the rest of us were in luxurious settings.

    In the evening, after visiting the rather disappointing expo, we found a great trendy bar in the old Jewish District, which quite frankly some of our party looked completely out of place in. We weren’t asked to leave but for the greater good , we did.

    Saturday morning was the customary pre-marathon warm up. It was a great experience running along the Danube chatting to friends looking up at the majestic Houses of Parliament, reminded me of the Canal run in Attercliffe. After that , we had the customary coffee and cakes. In the afternoon we did our own thing. Goldstar, Noomski, John R and Robert went for a light hearted tour of the terror museum ( A house used by both the Hungarian Nazi party and the subsequent governments to terrorise and torture the Budapestrians) it was informative and interesting but definitely not laugh a minute. In the evening we did the parkrun draw and generally sat around discussing many things unrelated to running. Race Day There was no real panic but obviously an air of tension around. The start was pretty well organised. The weather was sunny but a bit cold and most of us were shivering a little as we waited in the pens. Goldstar got to the sub 3 hour pen , where he met Steve Clarke and said something like ‘Oh, good man, it is quite a surprise seeing you in this section!’ Anyway off they went, Goldstar had decided to run at 3:59 per km for as long as his perfectly formed legs would let him, Steve had decided he would run some pace but Goldstar didn’t understand times in miles and never really listens to Steve anyway. After about 1 km runners were met by a church choir, it was a sign of things to come, throughout the whole course the support was great, and the number of musicians on route was remarkable. Goldstar hadn’t seen Robert and presumed he was a lot further forward. After about 3k the race crossed the river and was then mostly on the Buda side but remained flat throughout.

    Goldstar had covered the first 7k in less than 28 minutes but at this point was already feeling tired and slightly deflated. He crossed 10k in 40mins 6 seconds and knew that his attempt to beat his pb of 2:52 was over.  Also after about 10.5 k was the first changeover of the relay runners. There were teams of 4 doing the marathon as a relay. I have seen this before in the UK but the participation has been minimal. Here it was anything but, therewere perhaps 500 different teams. Discussing this afterwards most of us had considered it slightly annoying as quite demotivating when they went past you, especially during the post 30k section. After 12 km , we were met by the start of the 30 k race, which Jenny and Mir were participating in. At the halfway point Goldstar got through in about 1:29:00 but had by now settled into a plodding 4;15 per km and was really hanging in there. Every step seemed to be painful but he knew if he got to the end of the race there was possibility that Budapest had a Costa somewhere. He was taking on cups of electrolyte drinks and water to try and prevent cramp but after each stop at the feeding stations it was becoming more difficult to get back to race pace. At this point Goldstar knew that even sub 3 was beyond him and just had to concentrate on keeping his shape and form. At 26k Goldstar finally saw Rob who was running an absolute stormer and appeared at that point to be in the top 20. Goldstar finally finished in a time of 3 hours and 3 minutes and whilst he was disappointed that he came nowhere near his pb , he was happy that he hadn’t completely broken down. Robert had finished in an excellent time of 2:44 and appeared to be in really good spirits despite the effects of running at that pace. Paul Stuart had somehow found a deck chair to sit on and positioned himself to cheer on the marathon runners during the last mile. All of the striders finished: Rio had picked up her pace and finished really strongly and despite not achieving her pb was happy at the end. Steve was just behind , he had really struggled from about the half way point and was in quite a state at the end but still managed a very respectable sub 3.36. John Rawlinson came in slightly after that and was pleased that he’d actually enjoyed the marathon. Peggy, was next, and frustratingly was only 10 seconds off his pb, it was tremendous run by him as, due to a late inspection of the facilities, had started right at the back of the field. However he had completed the second half rapidly and put himself in an ideal position to challenge his pb. This,remember, was being done by a man who had completed a marathon in extreme heat only 2 weeks previously and a man who exists on 47 minutes sleep every day. Heather was next and despite not achieving her pb was really happy to finish with a sub 4. Jo , came just a minute after Heather and was pretty pleased to achieve a sub 4 for her first ever marathon and seemed to have enjoyed the whole experience. Amy was also sub 4 and thus had achieved a big pb in her 2nd marathon. However, she had really suffered during it and her look of anguish when she went past us was not concealing much. Naomi, smiling as always, finished strongly and had achieved a pb by nearly 15 minutes. At this point we were getting quite concerned about John Armitage, but despite struggling so much during the mid-part of the run and having to walk at times, he had somehow found the strength and determination to continue. This is a real effort, as to complete a marathon when you know you are nearly an hour outside your best time requires a tremendous amount of resilience.

    The Dude was the last Strider home, like Peggy he had suffered during the marathon in Poland, but it was never in doubt he would finish Budapest.

    The day after was your normal post marathon spa day and the mixture of cool tubs, 40 degree pools and steam rooms seemed to have a beneficial effect on our aching limbs. Definitely, a method of recuperation that we’ll repeat.

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