Wow! I still can’t believe we ran through the streets of Istanbul, Turkey! Here is a recap of our amazing journey.
We landed in Istanbul Friday afternoon. We flew into the Asian side and our hotel was on the European side, so it took us about an hour, due to traffic, to get to the other side of the city. Thankfully we scheduled a shuttle to pick us up! It was much cheaper than a taxi would have been and it allowed us to sit, relax and enjoy the scenery.
We finally got to our hotel around 2:30 pm, checked-in and put our stuff in the room. Then it was time to find our way, in a brand new city, to the expo to pick-up our race packets. We asked at the front desk of our hotel the easiest way to get to the arena where the expo was located. He told us to take the tram to the metro and to get off at the Bakirkoy stop.
So off we went to find the tram and our way to the expo. Even though we asked for directions, we still didn’t really have a clue where we were going. Luckily, the tram stop was only a couple minutes walk from our hotel. Once we figured out how to buy tokens for it, we squeezed our way onto the tram. It was so crowded! We literally couldn’t even move to let people off because there was just no where to go, and people kept squeezing in…somehow! After a few stops, it wasn’t so congested and we could actually move.
Finally, after 3 different trains and 1-1/2 hours, we made it to the correct stop. However, we still had no idea where the arena was. We asked someone at the metro stop which direction we needed to go and then saw a sign pointing us in the right direction from there. After at least another mile of walking we made it to the expo.
The expo wasn’t as big as I was expecting, but the packet pick-up was quick and easy.
We didn’t spend much time at the expo because we were both starving and wanted to get back so we could get something to eat. We successfully got our bags, race bibs, time chips, and shirts. We were happy!
Now lets fast forward to Sunday. (I will post another blog about our other adventures in Istanbul later.)
Sunday – Race Day
After 18 weeks, 78 hours, and 489.4 miles of training, it was finally here! Race day!
Our morning started at 5:30 am, which is later than normal for a race day for us, but we chose our hotel wisely. Our hotel was close to the shuttle buses to the start and right around the corner from the finish line.
We arrived in front of the Hagia Sophia around 6:45 that morning to catch one of the shuttles to the start line. I wanted to get there early because the last bus left at 7:30 am and I didn’t want to miss the bus. I guess everyone else had the same idea.
The buses were very crowded, but as long as Rob and I could get on the same bus I didn’t care. We were on our way to the start line! The bus ride didn’t take very long because they had the tram tracks and roads closed off, so the buses could get everyone to the other side of the city on time.
Before we knew it, we were getting off the bus and trying to find our way around. Since this was a brand new marathon for the both of us, we had no idea of the set up. We knew that they had luggage buses for our bags, but had a hard time figuring out where they were and how to get to them. We ended up following some other people with red bags (the marathon bags were red) and were able to locate the luggage buses that way. We found out the latest we could drop our bags off and decided to hang on to them for a little while longer because it was a little chilly out and we still had 1-1/2 hours before the start of the marathon.
That hour and a half went by fast though! We found a spot in the sun to stand, so we could stay warm while we put our bib numbers and the rest of our gear on. Then we took a few pre-race photos.
The marathon start line with the Bosphorus Bridge in the background.
Rob and I in front of the start line with the bridge behind us. The sun was a little bright, at least for me. 🙂
After a few photos, we took our bags to the luggage buses and then made our way to the port-a-potties.
This was a disaster! We waited, and I am not kidding, 40 minutes to go to the bathroom before the race. They only had 16 port-a-potties for almost 20,000 runners near the 15km and marathon start lines. This was the worst part about the whole race! It was so bad that people were climbing up the hill nearby to go to the bathroom instead of waiting in line. Which really wasn’t a line, but just a crowd of people. We even had people pushing in front of each other to get to the front of the line. It was a mess!
Since we had to wait so long in line for the bathroom, we actually missed the official start of the marathon. I was so upset, but we made it across the 15km start to the marathon start in time to start the race right behind a group of runners from Poland. We thought that was pretty cool!
And we are off!
The race starts 300 meters behind the Bosphorus Bridge on the Asian side. The Istanbul Marathon is the only race to span two continents! The view from the bridge is spectacular. On the right side of the Bosphorus is Asia and on the left side is Europe.
We were able, despite the news we read and heard beforehand, to run across the bridge! Thank goodness too because it was cold and windy on that bridge! That was the coldest, but best part of the marathon!
Just before the end of the bridge you enter Europe! I made sure I was on the right side of the bridge because I knew I had to get a picture of the sign.
Here is a picture of the people on the bridge behind us.
I tried to take a picture of us while we were running. That didn’t work out too well, so I just kept the good part of the picture!
We came upon the first hill pretty quick after we got off the bridge. As you can see it was still very crowded.
The hill wasn’t too bad, except for having to weave around people. We actually did that a lot during the first 10k because we started so far behind everyone due to the port-a-potty situation.
Then came the steep downhill.
After the downhill, we had a good stretch that was pretty flat. We tried to get to a comfortable and steady pace, but it was still pretty crowded and continued to weave our way through the crowd.
Before we knew it we had hit the 8k mark. Somewhere between the 8 and 9k mark, the girl in pink (on the left) came up beside me, took her earbuds out, and said, “I am so impressed that you are running and taking pictures.” I told her it was the only chance I had to see this stuff, so I had to take them now.
We actually crossed two bridges during the marathon. The second bridge was the Galata Bridge. There were a bunch of people fishing off the bridge and a few people cheering for us runners. The view from this bridge was beautiful as well. In the background is one of the many mosques in Istanbul.
After the bridge we turned right and headed towards Eyup for the first out-and-back of the course.
This out-and-back took us down a coastal road overlooking the Golden Horn. I cannot tell you how beautiful this city truly is. It is breathtakingly beautiful!
This was a very crowded race! Here we are about 12k into the race and it was still this crowded. After the 15k mark it finally spread out because it was only the marathoners left on this part of the course.
Despite the fact that we missed our first walk break because it was so crowded, we were feeling good and decided to just continue to what would normally be our second walk break at mile 8.
Since we were walking, I decided to try the whole “selfie” picture thing again. This one was a little better, so I kept myself in it this time.
Looking back on it now, waiting for our walk break probably wasn’t a good idea. We were already way off on our “planned” fueling for the race because we didn’t have a Clif Shot gel before the race like we planned, since we were rushing to get to the starting line in time.
We had some company on the course too. He didn’t run with us for very long though.
Before we knew it, it was time to turn around and head back.
Along this side we merged with a group of runners pushing wheelchairs for the 15k. It was really awesome to see.
Then we ran into this…
At least the other side of it was nice!
Followed by another one, but the hills weren’t horrible. We have run harder ones!
The Turkish Flag.
Around the 20k mark, we began the second out-and-back of the course. It ran from Aksaray to Bakirkoy along the Marmara Sea. Bakirkoy is where we took the tram and metro to to get to the expo!
One of the fortresses in front of us.
One of the coolest parts about running this out-and-back was being able to see the elite runners on the other side.
This was a long out-and-back stretch. It felt like it took forever to finally reach the turn around point, even with the gorgeous scenery.
I think it seemed to take forever because there was barely any crowd support on this part of the course. Actually, a lot of the course was pretty quiet. That was hard to get used to. We did have a few kids out on the course giving high-5’s though. That is always nice and gives you a little bit of a boost!
Our view after we turned around. The Marmara Sea!
Around the 31k mark, Rob started to notice that he wasn’t really sweating anymore and was feeling the effects of our not being able to fuel as we had originally trained to do. After the half-way point, we walked whenever one of us needed to. Which wasn’t the way we trained either, but at this point it was about getting to the finish line.
Another part of the problem was the water stops had bottles of water and Powerade, which is fine if you are a faster runner. The Powerade was gone by the time we got to this part of the course though because people would throw mostly full bottles of it on the ground! At least there was plenty of water still.
Rob was slowing down and knew he was keeping me from a personal record, so he told me (several times actually) to go ahead. I told him no that I was going to stay with him.
Then just before the 40k mark, he insisted that I go ahead and get that PR. Between the time on the clock and the time on my watch, I knew it was going to be close if I had enough left in me to do so.
So I decided to give it everything I had for the last 2k. Let me tell you, that was the hardest part of the entire course! That was by far, the hardest finish I have ever ran. It was an uphill finish through Gulhane Park towards the Blue Mosque. I still don’t know how I did it and managed to get a couple of pictures too!
Here I am about 500 meters from the finish line.
The crowd support was amazing through this part! I even saw two of our friends in the crowd cheering for me. (They did the 10k and came back to cheer us on. Unfortunately, they missed seeing Rob because they had to get to the airport to catch their flight.)
There it is! The finish line! I snapped the picture and took off!
The marathon finishes in the Hippodrome, which was the meeting and sports centers of the Romans, Byzantium, and Ottoman Empires. The finish line is between the entrance gate of the Blue Mosque and the Egyptian Obelisk.
When I crossed the finish line, I knew that I had done it. I had gotten a new marathon PR!
After crossing the finish line, I grabbed my bag with my medal in it and some water. Then walked back towards the finish area to wait for Rob. I was anxiously watching the clock because I knew he still had time to PR as well.
I was so happy when I finally saw him walking towards me with his bag in his hand. I asked him what the clock said when we finished and he said around 4:41. I knew he had his PR too! I then found out that he ended up walking the last 2k because his calves were cramping on him. He tried to run the last 100 meters, but his body just wouldn’t let him.
We did it! We ran from Asia to Europe across the Bosphorus Bridge, through the streets of Istanbul, along the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, and into the Hippodrome.
Brooke — 4:24:08 — PR by 3 minutes & 32 seconds
Robert — 4:38:57 — PR by 6 minutes & 38 seconds
In front of the marathon sign with our medals.
Close-up of the medal.
With our shirts and medals on.
Marathon number 4 for me.
Marathon number 3 for Rob.
Overall, it was a good race with breathtaking views! Things didn’t go exactly how we planned and trained, but we finished and without injury. We started out too fast, (we were 6 minutes ahead of our marathon pace at one point), and didn’t fuel as well as we should have, but we completed our first international marathon with new personal records.
While we didn’t finish exactly where we wanted to, we are happy with our race considering the circumstances we faced throughout it. We will now be better prepared for the next one!
We are still waiting on official race photos. I will post them when they are available.
Thanks for reading!
~Brooke & Rob