Approximately 36 hours ago, I got up to run the Istanbul Half Marathon. About 32 hours ago, it was over. Now, at 7pm on Monday, after a hot shower, two agonisingly intense yoga sessions and a proper sports massage from E, I can *just* about walk again. Just.
In spite of the left-hip-agony I’m currently suffering (which, apparently, no amount of pigeon pose is going to fix at this stage), it was 100% worth it. The best part was the course itself. I’ve previously run both the Brighton Marathon and the Brighton Half, and thought I knew a good course. But the Brighton sea front ain’t got nothin’ on the Golden Horn, the old city walls of Constantinople and the sea of Marmara. At the time, of course, I was cursing the goddamn walls and wanted to spit in the Golden Horn. But the rational part of my brain knew it was pretty jammy.
Running races in Turkey is very different to running them in the UK. To distract myself from the compacting of my vertebrae and the ache in my right kneww, I made a list of these differences as I ran. Here it is, in case it’s of any interest:
- Runners take themselves a LOT more seriously here. When I did my first half marathon, a few people asked me what time I was aiming for, but no-one asked me if I wanted to win because in the UK, that’s not what people like me enter half marathons for. Here, that’s the first question people ask, and they are serious. Each time, I fall about laughing at their hilarious wit, only to have to pull myself together to explain why the idea of me “winning” a half marathon is so funny.
- People don’t run for charity here. Of course I’m biased because a) I’ve only ever run for charity and b) I also work for a charity, but I can’t shake the expectation that doing something really hard like a half marathon is a good way to raise money for a good cause. But public fundraising of the sort we’re accustomed to in the UK is notoriously difficult here, because trust is charities is around 0%. As well as all the other ways in which this is a shame, it also meant there also wasn’t a single person in fancy dress, unless you count the guy who carried a ginormous Turkish flag and yelled Atatürk quotes the whole way.
- Most people don’t care about people who run marathons. To be fair, it was 9am on a Sunday morning, which is usually a dead time. But even those we did see didn’t seem particularly interested in us (I know, right? How dare they not be interested in us!). I’m used to spectators lining the whole course and screaming my name (not because I’m a famous person but because I wrote on my t-shirt for the very purpose), so this was something of a let down – albeit a probably quite necessary one.
- You don’t get Syrian refugee children high-fiving you along the course in Brighton. In stark contrast to point #2, the street kids around Fener went wild for us runners – my hand was stinging from all the high-fiving by the time I made it to Eminönü. A poignant reminder that running is a pretty frivolous pursuit, sure, but it brightened up all of our mornings.
I can’t write any more tonight because I’m now in full-on recovery mode, which means I have to sit around a lot with my feet up, and stuff my face with peanut butter and banana milkshakes whilst watching The OC. I don’t think this is what they recommend on Runners World, but it’s what my left hip is calling for, and so I must bid you good night.