12th September 2010
What a crazy short surreal experience of 48 hours, trying to complete the Moscow Marathon. This was a very different experience from any of my other nine marathons – this is my tenth marathon journey story….
A week ago, I received an email from Moscow Marathon Committee announcing that the Marathon will start at 12pm – it was previously starting at 9am. I was panicking because my flight was booked to return at 5.15pm, making it rather tight for me to run the marathon, get back to the hotel and then to the airport to catch the return flight. I called the airline to see if I can amend my flight to a later time. Unfortunately, there was no later flight on that day and my visa was only for two days. I decided I go ahead and visit Moscow to see if I could run the marathon and hopefully catch the plane back to London.
Friday night, my flight departed at 6am from London Heathrow – there is no bus or tube from Central London between 12am to 6am, so that left me with no choice – I had to catch the last tube at 12.30am to Heathrow from central London and wait in the airport for my flight. In the airport, it was deadly quiet and empty, apart from about 50 people sleeping on the small chairs. I found a spare chair and was able to then have a short nap for few hours.
Finally, I boarded the plane to Moscow via stopover at Frankfurt airport for an hour. It took me 7 hours to get to Moscow. When I landed in Moscow the weather wasn’t that bad, as the temperature was about 16c degrees. In the Moscow passport control area, the staffs were not friendly and had blank faces. I looked for a taxi to take me from the airport to the Expo Marathon Centre to register and then to the area where the hostel is where I was booked to stay. I was told in an email that it should cost about 1200 Roubles, (about 30 pounds). I approached a taxi desk but a taxi man interrupted me to ask where I wanted to go. I wasn’t sure if he’s was working for them, he said he was and said that it was no problem to get me to there and sent another taxi driver to guide me to his car. I followed him but I asked him how much would it cost? He said 2500 Roubles… What?? He was trying to rip me off! I refused, and he then tried to negotiate down to 2000 Roubles. I still refused then walked off. I then met a European looking guy and he said that he was going to the same place, so we made a deal with the taxi driver and shared the costl 1500 Roubles each!
They dropped us off at stadium area. I was bit lost and unable to find the Expo area. I was asking the people where the expo address was but everyone ignored me making me feel like a beggar! Luckily, I spotted the two athletic looking guys and they directed me in the right direction. Finally I found it!
The Expo venue area was very small and not very nice. I could not believe it and was very shocked to see no marathon exhibitions or running shops selling shoes etc as in previous marathons. One female member of staff was friendly and guided me to where I had to register, also giving me directions regarding the metro and how to get to my hostel from the Expo. At first they could not find my online registration, so I had to fill in the forms over again! When I received the race map and I was confused as the race map had four laps, they explained that there was also a 10 km and a marathon to start at the same time at 12pm. In my mind, this race start will be confusing for the runners i.e. the runners’ pace. I’m still don’t understand why they had organised the 4 laps, as Moscow is very large city!
I then went to next building where the Pasta party was being held, This is to provide the runners with food and the nutrients they need before a Marathon – but sadly I was told it was closed! I was very disappointed because I wanted pasta to prepare me for the marathon next day.
The Metro, I found it hard to follow the Metro wall map with all the Russia language. I tried to find out where it is my hostel was. I asked a guy about 30ish where it was and he was able to show me where on the map is. The out of the blue – he grabbed my arm and pointed his finger at me and wanted me to follow him, so I followed him hopping on and off the metro. Inside the Metro it was very clean, bright and airy. It was also quite posh, theatrical looking; it was like a different world beneath the city. After three stops, we hopped off and he guided me to different platform, then he told me to get the next train for one stop – he then disappeared! Oh dear… thankfully His instructions were correct! When I was out of station and checked my iPhone map (iPhone is so useful). I’m in the right area few minutes away from hostel;
The hostel, I entered the building and look up hostel apartment is at 4th floor with no lift. Sigh! Entering the reception there was a lounge area and I saw lots of men laughing at the TV movie called “The Hangover”. Also, there were about fifteen people having a mini party. All this was not good preparation for my marathon next day! A member of staff showed me to the dormitory room, which I was to share with the others backpackers. The fantastic thing about hostels is that they provide free wireless connection, so I went back to lounge and using my iPhone net to informed the UK I’m safe! The people having a party decided to open up two champagne bottles and invite me to join the party! I would have loved to as was Saturday night, but I turned it down because of the marathon next day…
Afterward, I went out to look for a take away. What a bizarre experience I had at an Italian restaurant, I ordered a spaghetti Bolognese meal and received my order but I had a quick peek at what was inside and it was the wrong order – they gave me pasta with pork. (I gave up the Pork over two years ago). I explained to lady it was wrong order and she showed me the menu and pointed to a line above of the spaghetti Bolognese meal. I respond, “No I asked for spaghetti Bolognese on the line below and not that one above”. She said I have to pay for the other meal. Huh! We were into argument front of all the other restaurant customers and they were all looking at us. I don’t care and told her I want to talk to her manager. A manager guy came out so she explain to him in her furious Russia language – I couldn’t follow it. Of course, but he’s agreeing with her and tried to talk to me – I couldn’t understand him at all. I wrote a note and said why should I point that meal as I can’t even eat a pork and a stuck to my guns and said that I wanted spaghetti Bolognese that’ is it! Manager gave up and ordered spaghetti Bolognese meal for me. The waitress was not very happy – her face was hard looking and wasn’t pleased at all Ah, customers are always right eh? She was grumpy and when she gave me my take away meal. I was about to say thank you but she turned walk away. Oh well!
Sunday – Marathon day!
What a beautiful long sleep! I woke at 10am, its only 10 minutes to walk to race start area from Hostel. In reception, I saw five runners with British vests, so I asked they are from – Everton and this was there first ever marathon! They aimed to finish approx in 4 to 5 hours. They seemed excited and left very early. Funny, I hadn’t even began to get ready, as there was an hour and a half left to the start. I asked the reception guy to book me a taxi at 15.20pm to take me to the airport and explained to him that taxi must be here at 3.20pm – no later, as I did not want to miss my flight. He understood it!
I arrived at the start area next to St Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square there was a light shower. There were four big tents where runners were changing and bag storage. I was shocked to see only SEVEN toilet boxes, with overcrowd queues already. Terrible! It took me 15 minutes to queue for the loo! I was warming up 5 minute before the start. I met two deaf Russian young guys, they were running in the 10km race and tried to introduce me to another deaf group, who area also running in the marathon, but they couldn’t find them. Never mind! At least, it was nice to meet them- albeit briefly.
It was the 30th Moscow Marathon, 5,000 runners have gathered from around Russia and the world for the International Peace Marathon. It was to start at noon, to the chiming of the bells on the Kremlin’s main Spasskaya Tower
Everyone ran so crazy from start to 5km. Some of runners started to slow down after 5km – I passed 1st deaf guy then 2nd guy at 9km which was weird thing, as they only had to do 10km in comparison to my 42km. I would love to join them to finish at 10km then grab a taxi to airport with no rush. I ignored it and continued. It was pretty confusing to follow the right pace because everyone’s paces were different (some a lot slower and some quite fast – depending on what race you were in.) I was trying to follow my pace time to aim at 5km every 20 minute. After 2nd and 3rd lap I have to bend to pass runners and water holes on the path. There were lots of water stops – also sweet hot tea and pieces of bread – I didn’t drink the tea or eat the bread (I was afraid that I could choke).
The most disappointing thing was the support; there were very few supporters. Most people that were watching throughout the course were the countless army and police officers, who just stood there in silence to watch at us. The course was easy and flat, one long bridge, four laps, each one way to end with big circuit by the riverside then no wind to back. Saw some of guys with British vests that I met at hostel, I yelled at them, “come on!” After 30km, I was getting tired and begin to slow down, because I needed some protein like banana or orange to boost my energy levels and increase my speed. Sadly they don’t provide any fruit. At last, there was a cheering crowd in the last 100 meters before the finish.
Sadly, I was not able to make it less than 3 hours. I finished in 3 hours 1 minute! Although, I am pleased achieved my new personal best time – two minutes better than my previous marathon in Berlin two years ago. Also I was struggling with training last two months as I was fasting.
Finish rank: 63
Gender overall rank: 59
Age group rank: 9
Result: 3:01:42 (My watch stopped 3:01:21)
Moscow Marathon result – http://42km.ru/calendar/1online?page=2
I was overjoyed to receive my tenth capital cities medal and free red t-shirt. I checked my watch I’ve got only 15 minute to get back to hostel and grab my bag to hop on taxi to airport. I found it hard struggling to walk back up the hill to hostel. I had to stop to sit down And rest three times. In my mind I was saying, “come on, think of flight”. Finally, I arrived at the hostel in perfect time at 3.20pm but I looked up and realised I have to walk up to at 4th floor. Argh!
Finally again, into the reception and grab my bag then quick clothes on. Taxi hasn’t arrived yet! The Reception guy phoned the Taxi Company and told it’s on its way. Ten minutes later, no luck. I was worrying because time is running out. I asked them to phone it again. They kept phoning!!! Finally, taxi arrived at 3.50pm half an hour late. Reception guy gave me a small note with Russia language for passes it to driver. A note said “DRIVE FAST”. Whoa, driver drove so fast like “Transporter” movies. Few miles left to the airport, I was feeling something odd, why driver was driving slow and had moved to next lane… I looked at rear view mirror to the driver and was shocked to see that he was asleep! I yelled at him WAKE UP! He woke up and went back to same lane then shaking his head – minutes later, he did it again!! Unbelievable, I was nervous and trying to encourage him to keep him awake also yelling at him drive fast.
Phew, safe to arrived airport at 4.41pm then I ran into the department and checked the TV screen to check where desk check number is. Found desk number is 80 but I was at desk 15… Oh no, what a long run again. I ran so fast then arrived the desk 4.44pm. A desk lady said sorry it was closed I begged her pleaseee! and told her I can go for “late check in after 30 minutes” (only less than 30 second left)! Also, no bags to check in. Somehow, lady became helpful and quickly checked me into the system then gave me a ticket. Phew! I ran to jump the queue at the passport desk to the boarding area a few minutes before door closed. YES, I’m saved! Phew!
Lucky again, I went into plane and check my seat is 1D which its Business 1st class area. I was shocked and unsure – I thought maybe the lady at the desk made a mistake – it was right! I had been upgraded! . However, I wasn’t complaining and very pleased with the excellent treatment, service with posh meal and drinks all the way back to London.
I was very lucky to catch this flight – otherwise imagine if I had missed it there was no next flight for next two days! Also I’ve no Visa permit next day as well. Which meant that I would have had to go to the British embassy in Moscow.
Landed in London and was in my own sweet home sweet at 10pm and put up my feet for a good rest also no work for two days!
Next marathon is Istanbul on Sunday 17th October 2010.