I’ve deliberately taken a month to process finishing what turned out to be a 7 year challenge to run a marathon race in all 27 EU countries. It’s been a strange time where the initial elation and pride to be finished has ebbed away and now I’m left with memories and friendships to reflect on.
Whatever bug I had when in the days up to and including the day of the race eventually faded about 6 days after we came back from Rome. I had a really fun night celebrating with friends in my local pub where I failed in my attempt to drink 27 half pints of lager in honour of each race (I got to 18. Lack of dinner being my undoing). From there I had a week off to catch up with people, rest the legs and think about how to train for my next race -yes I have another race, more on that in a bit.
I remember my German friend Tim, who also did the EU challenge, talking in his blog of feeling neither happy nor sad when he finished. It’s kind of like that really. I’m happy I did it, shocked even. But it’s obviously going to leave a pretty massive hole in my life. The focus, discipline of training, structure of my year, the constant kind messages and buzz from getting sponsorship. I knew it would happen so in the short term I made sure I had another race lined up as a kind of methadone for my marathon addiction.
When I was running Rome and coughing my guts up I swore I wouldn’t do any more marathons, it was too painful and another failed attempt at a good time left me resolving that it just isn’t my distance. The reality is that I haven't really improved as a runner across the challenge, I just had a handful of races where it was cold/wet which suited me. Predictably though, I’m softening my view about continuing with; you just forget the pain when you’re sat at home trying to plot the next trip to fill the gap. There's so many marathons on the bucket list. For me at the moment I’d love to do Bergen (Norway), Loch Ness (Scotland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Lucerne (Switzerland), Florence (Italy) and maybe pick up a few more in the Balkans. It’s not practical for me to leave Europe with a baby on the way and toddler at home so that’ll be when I’m in my 50’s/60’s most likely.
As I try and figure out how to maintain marathon fitness (or at least Half Marathon), I’ve decided I’m not really interested in the UK marathon circuit. It seems boring, overblown and almost pointless to be doing the usual ones like London, Manchester, Brighton etc. Over-priced, rubbish scenery and too many people; I’m more likely to think about hitting trails, hills and do smaller races as it stands.
I’m training for the (supposedly) last ever Liechtenstein Marathon on June 11th. Fellow EU marathon collector Mark Openshaw and I found it when compiling our bucket list of Euro races. He’s keen for a tune-up before his last EU marathon in Lithuania this September and once we’d both seen YouTube clips of the race we were smitten. It was between this one and the Faroe Islands but that particular race looks a bit unreliable in terms of organisation and insanely expensive to get to/stay.
Other reasons I’m doing it;
- The scenery looks similar to The Sound Of Music/The Great Escape where Steve McQueen is being chased on his motorbike by the Nazi’s.
- It’s the last ever race, they’ve lost their sponsors so it’s now or never. Or is it? Maybe a clever ruse to tug on the heartstrings to get a big sponsor next year? Not sure but we can't take the chance.
- It’s Alpine so hilly obviously. Something I’ve not explored before, 1500m of climb over 15 miles then relatively flat for the rest. Very different, less focus on time and more on completion.
- Liechtenstein looks interesting. It’s not much bigger than Bristol as a country and you can only get their via a flight to Zurich then a train to Buchs (West Switzerland) and bus to Vaduz (Liechtenstein). Getting there will feel like a victory! It looks like every postcard you’d expect from visiting somewhere like Bavaria, which I love.
- You get a crystal when you finish, not a medal! How weird. One for the mantelpiece rather than the medal rack. Suitably strange for a strange race.
- It scares me immensely, which can only be a good thing. It’ll be harder than Vienna at 33C, my hardest race so far. There’s a 6.5hr cut-off and I need to be very mindful of that!
I’ve changed up my training plan and am doing entirely different routes around where I live. No longer avoiding hills but actually compiling a list of the biggest and seeking them out. My calves don’t hurt any more, now it’s my knees and glutes. I feel like I’m learning a new sport and getting off roads onto track and trail has been exciting. My motivation is to see if I can raise a bit more money for Invest In ME and maybe try to find patients in Liechtenstein to interview and highlight their plight. From a training perspective, the thought of being asked to stop running on the course or holding up Mark when we run are the main thoughts I have when I’m climbing the hills and putting on my kit. We’ve decided to have fun in the race and not think about time. We’ll take videos, pics and maybe even do a podcast. There’ll be lots of £8 beers afterwards.
Grabbed from the 2019 winner's Strava, check out mile 9!!!
I’m putting together my colossal ‘thanks’ blog. It’s a tough job as there’s hundreds of people I’d like to give a nod to but I’ll inevitably miss people out unintentionally. For now though, hope to keep in touch with you all and thanks for being part of a life-changing experience.