While this isn’t a story of WHY Alison runs, it’s a great recap of her experiences and expectations of a race in a very different country. Thanks Alison for sharing!
OK, I’ll admit it. Until last November I had never heard of Zagreb, which is the capitol of Croatia. But then our friends told us they were moving there and I decided I wanted to go back to Europe for vacation and what is an Aiken vacation without a marathon attached to it? It just so happened that the Zagreb Marathon was in early October which is a great time for us to travel so plans were made! First – I registered Mark and I online for the marathon which was listed as costing 25 Euros. However, no payment was needed to register for this race – just a name and address. Payment due at packet pick-up! Cool. There was also a half marathon and a Community 5K (the 5K was free).
As my summer began to unfold I had my doubts about running the marathon and was glad registering didn’t actually cost me anything. Then (though I had abandoned the thought of running the marathon) I realized that I might be able to pull off the half marathon and if not, then at least the 5K – Did I mention even the FREE 5K participants got a t-shirt?
We flew into Vienna, Austria to start our trip but left the next morning for Zagreb – a 5 hour train ride away. It was amazing to be in a country that had so recently been ravaged by a civil war – something that was very prominent during my high school and college years and a place where many refugees in the Burlington area came from. The city is beautiful with a nice city center and walking area filled with cobblestone streets and old churches. The race started in the city center and was two out and backs for the half. Same thing twice for the whole marathon. I ran the half. My goals were to 1) Have fun; 2) Not try to RACE this “race”; 3) Not pee my pants. (There was no information about port-potties being on the course.) I accomplished all three. There were tons of people milling about the square in the center of town at the start. Unlike the Munich marathon there were many women runners, many running clubs with matching t-shirts. We gathered for the start and the gun was off (shot by a Croatian Olympian high jumper – not sure if she medaled or not.) We ran through the city center for about 1K and then the course became very dull. It was almost like running down Shelburne Road with no traffic but all the cars on the side roads that were held up for the runners honking. The course went out 5 miles, then back to the start. Then out 1.5 miles though a slightly more interesting part of town, then back to the start/finish. There were 2 porta-potties (toi-toi, in Europe) along the course, one that I hit out and back, which served my needs and allowed me to meet goal number 3. Due to the awkward sensation that I needed to pee the entire race, I also met goal number 2. As I was running, not only a half marathon, and not only 4.5 months pregnant, but in CROATIA!, I also met goal number 1. Goal number 4 I set along the course which was to finish the 1/2 before the winner of the marathon finished. I also accomplished this! I got to see the finishers run in and got to watch Mark finish as well!
Unlike the Munich marathon in which we paid about $100 to enter and didn’t even get a shirt, in our Zagreb schwag bags we got a shirt, an umbrella, a water bottle, a bottle opener, a pen, and a Zagreb necklace (I’m pretty sure it’s not as nice as Angela’s Nike necklace, though). We managed to bring one umbrella home and left the other with our friends in Zagreb.
Though the course route was unimpressive, the city itself was fabulous for eating, drinking, cafe sitting/people watching and there are beautiful parks that maybe someday the course officials will reroute the race through. It was great to have another international marathon experience – especially one with no strings attached!
You can read Mark’s race report here: www.aikenaction.blogspot.com