The whole thing happened a little bit out of the blue. The race was sold out by the time I found out about it, but there were some additional tickets to be sold on the Friday before (the Marathon was on Sunday), therefore there was no guarantee that I was going to get in.
My carefully unplanned timeline was as follows:
Saturday 1st April – My Sister – who lives in Gdansk – lets me know about the race
Sunday 2nd April – I’m thinking about it
Monday 3rd April – I’m booking tickets and letting my family know that I’ll be in Poland
Tuesday 4th April – I’m waiting for Friday to find out if I have a space
Wednesday 5th April – I’m waiting for Friday to find out if I have a space
Thursday 6th April – I’m packing for the trip, still not knowing if I have a space.
Friday 7th April – I’m waiting to hear from my sister to find out if I’m on the starting list.
Finally the Friday came and I got to work earlier, so that I could leave in time to get to Luton. Thankfully I can pack quite lightly, as it is nearly impossible to fit anything in the standard Wizz Air luggage allowance! I still had to wait until 2pm to hear from my Sis whether I could unpack my trainers and running gear or that there was a space for me.
My Sis was very excited about the whole event – probably nearly as excited as I was. She was at the Marathon expo half an hour before the time the tickets were supposed to be on sale!
It was nice to hear that Polish bureaucracy is alive and well, despite being the only one there she wasn’t allowed to purchase the ticket until 3pm. The reason for this was that it was unfair towards other people in the queue… wait, what? What queue? It really wasn’t worth an argument, the outcome was that I had my number. Thank you Sis! (Jamie – being English – thinks that this is perfectly fair!)
Now all I had to do was to start my epic journey to London Luton airport. This was fun, I tell you. I set off from Guildford by train around 4pm, changed in Wimbledon and finally got to Luton around 7pm where I got a bus to the Airport.
The airport was busy and I needed to get through security fast in order to have some dinner. I was only able to relax when I was finally in my seat waiting to be transported to Gdansk. I landed around midnight and my Sis arrived just in time, so neither of us had to wait.
My Sister’s place is about 10 mins drive away, no epic journey here 😀 We spent an hour or so at home catching up, going through my goodie bag and then doing some much needed sleeping!
Plans for the day weren’t established in any way, apart from getting Mum from the train station at 12:00. This trip was very much for Mum as well. It was her 60th birthday on the Monday after the marathon and I really wanted to surprise her. Unfortunately Mum got a really bad cold on Friday so she wasn’t feeling great but still came to see us.
Gdansk seems like a city travelling at the speed of light and is changing so quickly into this hip and trendy place. I always loved Gransk for its history and culture, but now it comes in a package with an exciting twist. Whilst waiting for mum, my Sis and I went to a little café in a newly regenerated area. I loved the simplicity of the interior.
Once Mum was with us, we went around Gdansk visiting various places, one of them was the Marathon Expo. Unfortunately yet another disappointing thing, the price of parking tickets, suddenly went through the roof to be about 10x the standard price. A coincidence? I’m sure it was. The expo itself seemed a bit quiet, so we didn’t stay long. All the t-shirts were also sold out if you weren’t on one of the lists, it seemed like it was going to be a popular event!
Ping Pong was our lunch stop and I was (unpleasantly, yet again) surprised with just one vegetarian option on the menu (maybe not as hip as I thought after all 😉 )
When I asked for other options (maybe I was missing something), I was told all about the dishes with prawns… Oh well, one dish saves me from making a decision 😀
I have to say that despite the lack of choice, food was very tasty, so nothing to complain about really.
When it was time for a coffee we decided to go to my sister’s café right in the Old Town on Mariacka Street. Drukarnia is a really cool place and a must, if you are ever in Gdansk! I could go on and on about how proud I am of my Sis and brother-in-law (Adam) but maybe I should just say that everything in Drukarnia was either designed and made by them or carefully chosen, nothing is random and everything is beautiful.
As you can imagine I quite like going there and I really enjoy the combination of great taste and great design.
After coffee we went to do some more shopping (shhhh… don’t tell Mum, we were getting a few presents for her) and then went home, had dinner and chilled.
I was getting nervously excited but was suitably distracted by pictures from Vietnam that my Sis showed me.
I woke up before everybody else, got ready. My breakfast consisted of a CLIF Bar to reach a balance between feeling sick or needing the loo and having enough energy.
Gdansk was supposed to be my first road marathon and I really didn’t know what to expect and here’s the thing… I don’t really like road… but then again, everyone tells you how much faster road marathons are… and you believe them. So I came up with this very ambitious (silly) plan of going for 4 hours! And of course everyone has their plans and dreams (and many people go for the 4h marathon mark) but maybe not trying to magically shave 22 minutes off their previous PB. Well… I did. That was my plan. I had my pace and I had my time for every 5 kilometres. Was I feeling intimidated? Of course, I haven’t done a road marathon before and this whole trip was a bit of a rush, but then again, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t try. My Sis scribbled my predicted times on my forearm, I saw people doing that before – they seem like they knew what they were doing, it must help 😉
We left the house around 8 and drove to a place from where the car could be moved without any problems with road closures.
From there it was a 10 minute walk to the Expo and Start point.
It was definitely busier now than the previous day and the atmosphere was great. It was a grey day, but I have to say, I was quite grateful for that, I really wouldn’t want to run in the heat. I believe that everyone who did Brighton or Paris on the same day would agree with me 😉
I said Goodbye to my Mum, Sis and Adam and went to choose my wave. Technically, I wasn’t allowed to choose a wave, because I signed up late which meant that I was supposed to be starting in the last one… Oh well… naughty etc. I picked my wave, I’m not going to tell if you won’t! The choice seemed to have been perfect as I met this lovely lady called Maria, whose aim was exactly the same as mine: 4h.
Finally we started running, I waved to my family and felt really great with them being there. We went towards a football stadium (Stadion Energa Gdansk) and the route actually took us through the stadium itself!
Very cool, we could see ourselves on big screens and everything! We went past the Expo Centre and turned right onto Marynarki Polskiej and then Jana z Kolna Street. Maria was keeping a close eye on our time and we were doing well. We got to the first aid station at the 5km mark but we didn’t stop for long, just a quick picture and we were off.
With every step we were getting closer to the town centre and I couldn’t wait. I could see the amazing building of the European Solidarity Centre and I couldn’t believe my own eyes, we were running through the building! It is an amazing piece of architecture and I’ve never visited it, so it was fantastic to be able to briefly see it during the run. Why I didn’t take my own picture? I must have been astounded, I loved it so much. Here’s one of the official pictures.
We were now in the Old Town and passed Neptune’s Fountain in the Long Market located just by the entrance to Artus Court.
I loved it despite the cobbles! It was a Palm Sunday and people were just leaving the Sunday mass and I remember this one lady in a wheelchair shouting ‘I can’t run, run it for me!’. That broke me, I really couldn’t stop the tears, it was all so overwhelming.
But being overwhelmed wasn’t really an issue, the issue was that I was already struggling… a lot. I put it down to the pace being too fast and let Maria go. I was now on my own, not the end of the world, I’ll just give it my best shot!
10km was under my belt and I was running on Aleja Zwyciestwa, I have to say that despite the fact that I generally don’t like running on roads, when they are so wide and free of traffic it’s a very interesting experience. And it was so good to see all the families and kids who were standing in the cold cheering.
This road was dragging and there weren’t any turns or bends it just merged into another street, under another name (Grunwaldzka) and it went on and on for almost 10km! Impressive but I was feeling slightly brain-dead and tired in general. I was justifying walking to myself. For some reason I was feeling very tired and I couldn’t find enough ‘juice’ in me to carry on at the pace I wanted.
I wasn’t really stopping at the stations, I was running with a bag that had Tailwind in it which should’ve given me enough nutrition but the feeling of being drained continued and I still had far to go!
I spotted a portaloo and thought to myself that I just needed a break from this long road and stop for a min. For some reason the loo was ‘fenced’ with knee-high posts connected with a grey (invisible) string. Whilst I was casually walking towards it, a girl tried to get in, in front of me – I must have looked like I was in no rush what so ever or dying (either would be appropriate for the state I was in). I don’t know if she didn’t see the string, that blended perfectly with the colour of the pavement or whether she misjudged her step… she tripped and fell over hitting her head and pushing one of her earphones inside of her ear, which started to bleed. It was awful, but thankfully a marshal was there to help straight away… Please think whether you need headphones for races and if you choose to wear them, choose them carefully.
I carried on down the never-ending road which finally took me to a right turn. FINALLY. And then another turn. Was I being spoilt? Oh no, clearly not. There was another endless, straight road waiting for me. But at least I was half way.
People were looking so strong! Was it just me? Was I somehow rubbish at running? I thought I was getting better and road was supposed to be easier. What was going on?
I knew that my family was going to be waiting for me at 25km and that was the only thing that kept me going.
Despite the rubbish time I was having, I have to say that the spectators were amazing and the kids were very cute. I am always grateful to people who dedicate their free time and spectate or help at races. Police were stopping the traffic for us and they found it quite strange that I was saying ‘Thank you’ to them. I guess the Police aren’t so popular in Poland 😉
25 KM!!! My family! My dad came on the day from Olsztyn. I got hugs and kisses and smiles and it was amazing!
I had to carry on. Easier said than done. I was at a switchback so now I had to go all the way back on that same straight road…
It was tough but soon I was at another turn and going towards the seafront and through a bit of woodland and a park.
I had a small breakdown in the park, but one of the girls running next to me literarily pulled me off the floor and dragged me with her.
It helped but I couldn’t keep up and eventually let her go.
Another turn and I was back on boring roads. I was sure my family said that they will be at 35km… where were they? Was I so slow that they got bored and aborted the spectating mission?
Finally I saw them and I really didn’t want to carry on….
To the point that my Sis and Adam had to start running with me to keep me going! I had 5km to go and I could see the stadium in the distance!
When I eventually got closer, I realised that there was another turning and it took me approximately 1km away from where I wanted to be… I sat down on the curb feeling hopeless.
Yet another person peeled me off the pavement and encouraged me to carry on. He said that he was aiming for 4h too and the route put an end to his plans… not just me then.
I got to the final turning towards the Expo centre and yet again had to walk… even the photographer encouraged me at that point, I only had metres to go!
I ran inside the Expo building and crossed the finish line feeling absolutely ruined.
My body was in pain but also grateful that it was all over. And then came the mind… I felt that I failed and I didn’t achieve what I wanted to do. I really wasn’t in great spirits.
Once my family got to the centre and we met up, I was feeling slightly better and well looked after.
The event was well organised and the atmosphere was great. All the stations were very well supplied and I knew in advance what would be at each station. I loved the support and all the kids who were freezing and cheering. I am also very grateful that my family was there with me (even my Mum who was ill!). Adam and my Sister enjoyed the event so much that they want me to do another one next year 😀 I will think about it…
Here’s my face before and after the event for your reference…
We went back to my Sis’ place and I was being spoilt. Adam ran a bath for me, my Sis gave me gherkin brine (yes, I know this sounds weird, but bear with me and read about it) and my parents were asking how I was.
We had pizza and cake for Mum’s birthday and did presents, it was so nice 🙂
Unfortunately I had to go very soon and make my way to the airport. The flight was quick but fairly uncomfortable, as I literarily couldn’t move! How was that possible? It was my 30th marathon and yet a bit of tarmac simply ruined me… And then I remembered! I gave blood on Tuesday! Maybe it was a little bit too soon! I’ve been giving blood for a while and I’m used to it, but clearly it may still have an effect. I will make sure to give myself enough time to recover and not plan an important event in the same week 😉
Suddenly my time of 04:31:05 didn’t sound so bad 🙂 I also remembered that it was only in December the previous year when I managed to get under 5h. I need to ‘cut myself some slack’ 😀 I did well.
Finally we landed at Luton and Jamie was there waiting for me. We drove to Godalming and my epic journey was finally done and I was very happy to be home 🙂
And then Philippa had to fix me because my body and my mind were totally broken. Thank you again for all your help! :*