I ran the half marathon in 2017 October in Munich. Since then I always wanted to run the full marathon which is 42 km. I was just looking for some motivation to start being more physically active again. Then, I came up with the idea of running a Marathon. I learnt that there was a Marathon scheduled for 25th October 2019 in Erbil, Iraq. I was going to be in the region anyways and I said to myself: Let’s do this! At the end of August I started my training in Hungary. Then, I continued it in Georgia, Turkey and finally Iraq. In this blog, I’m writing about my history with running, how I completed the first marathon of my life in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2019 October.
Table of contents
This map shows my journey from my hometown in Hungary, Debrecen, to Erbil in Iraq where the Marathon took place. Here, you can see all my training locations.
My history with running
I hated running so much!!! In primary school, we had sports classes every day and we mostly had to run a lot. It might not have been a lot for the others but definitely too much for me. We had to run school circles. It means running around the school. One or two. One round was maybe 800 meters or even less. I was so sick of it. When I heard that we had to run more than 1 round, I was gonna throw up because I just hated running. But what had to be done, had to be done. I was always the last one to finish the round. When we had to run 2 rounds, I was just dying. I always felt that I could never finish it. But I had to finish it. I had no choice. I would always get bad grades because I was too slow. And generally I was always the last one to learn everything like splits or rope climbing without legs. I was always asking myself: “Why do you want me to suffer all the time? And what’s the point of all these exercises?” I lived these sport classes like the biggest terror of my life as a child. I remember the teacher was so strict and I was so scared of her. She always made me feel like shi*t because I was not good at anything. But I had no choice, I had to perform everything that is part of the curriculum. I tried my very best simply out of fear: the fear of being shouted at and the fear of getting bad grades.
The sport classes in high school were not that demanding. At the university we had to take sport classes but we were free to choose what we did. I don’t know how but I started to do more and more sports, nothing regularly but I was pretty active, and I fell in love with running as well.
The game changer was Munich where I started running a lot and I ran surely several hundreds of kilometres there. Munich is really the place to live if you love running simply because you can run anywhere you want in the city. For me the best places to run in Munich are Olympia Park, Englischer Garten, Westpark, Nymphenburger Park and Luitpold Park. I would even run when it was snowing, raining or windy. When I wanted to run, I gave zero damn about the weather circumstances. This is how much I love running now which now part of my lifestyle.
My first half marathon in Munich in 2017
I ran the first half marathon which is 21 km in October 2017 in Munich. It was just a spontaneous idea for a new challenge. As I love and enjoy running and I thought it would be a lot of fun. I didn’t train properly for this run. But I regularly ran during the summer and therefore I was fit enough to run it. One month before the race I didn’t really feel like training but I was still confident that I could run the half marathon anytime. I had no time goal. I just wanted to complete the race and that’s it. On the day of the marathon, I didn’t feel fit at all. On top of that, it was kind of cold, windy and raining a bit. That made running difficult. I remember that at the beginning I just felt my legs heavy and hard to move them to run. I was wondering whether I can even run 10 km. After 3 km, I felt I could do it all, all the 21 km! Then, after 19 km I started crying. My body and mind started giving in. But stopping was no way in question. Sometime later when I saw the sign “1 km left”, I was in tears again but I didn’t stop. As I was approaching the stadium in Olympia Park and the running commentary was louder, I burst out again.
“Just a few minutes left and it’s over!” – told myself crying.
And yes, I made it!!! I felt like on the top of the world after running through the finish line. I ran 21 km in 2 hours 31 minutes.
Happy, proud and red like an apple upon completing my first and only half marathon
“Ok, next time I run the full Marathon” – thought right away upon completion.
I guess when you are done with one challenge, you just need the next one. 🙂
If you want to participate in the event, here is the link for the official website of the Munich marathon.
Training for my first marathon across borders
After my last challenge, which was hiking up to the Toubkal summit, the highest peak of North-Africa and the Arab world, it was time for the next challenge: a marathon. My goal is to complete the full marathon in Erbil. I didn’t care about the time, I just want to cross the finish line after running the 42 km. I had 66 days to get prepared which was somewhat more than 9 weeks. I trained in Hungary, Georgia, Turkey, and Iraqi Kurdistan on the way.
In Hungary, in my hometown in Debrecen, I could go out anytime to run. In Georgia I ran on the Batumi Boulevard next to the beach. In Turkey, I found a stadium or park almost everywhere for running. I absolutely didn’t expect that in southeastern part of Turkey, it was going to be so easy train. Finally, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in Erbil, I ran in the Sami Abdulrahman Park where there is a proper running way just for walking and running.
As for my running plan for 66 days, I didn’t follow it 100%. I think around 75% of my training plan was translated into reality. 🙂 This 75% is 222 km in 66 days ran before the Marathon.
Erbil Marathon in 2019
The Erbil Marathon was a funny story. The weather was perfect: around 28 Celsius degrees (82.4°F). The humidity level was exactly what I was used to 49%.
I did finish the full marathon but it was quite challenging to complete it. And not because I didn’t have enough strength but because the organization was pretty “special”. First, I didn’t prepare any snacks for the run because I assumed there was going to be enough snacks on the way. On the way; however, there were only some super low quality dried dates on a dirty table. There were only 6 pieces left on the way. I’ve seen banana skins on the road but I never got to eat a banana. I was not fast enough to grab some. 😀 Second, there was no water in the last 20 km. I was relying on the policemen, soldiers, and by-passers to give me water. Of course, I didn’t have to ask them. As soon as they saw me, they passed a bottle of water to me. I also got some energy snacks from another runner. Nevertheless, even without sufficient snacks on the way, I was determined to give full gas. I was running a pretty good time. I was sure I can make it just within 5 hours.
But what happened afterwards was a joke! The end was really crazy.
They opened the traffic while some of us were still running. I was at like 36 km and 4:30 hours. Then all of a sudden the cars started to come at a breathtaking speed. Isn’t it insane? In Erbil people have really good cars and drive insanely fast. They have zero respect for pedestrians. You are a dead man in no time if you don’t pay attention. But I’ve only experienced this in Erbil. I ran the last 6 – 7 km manouvering on the road, going from one side of the road to another checking where there was some pavement for running. I was not running for time but with this dangerous situation in the picture, I could not run my best but did what I could to survive the run alive. I had no intention to stop. Some of the organizers on the way said that the the run was over. I was angry at them. What the hack? I came here to run 42 km and I will do it!
And indeed, I made it! My running app calculated 43.31 km in 5 hours 22 minutes. I don’t know my official time. However, I don’t give damn about it. What matter to me that I managed to comlplete a full marathon like I decided.
Running as a life changer
What I’m gonna write about is a no-brainer. I’m going to talk about easy things that can change your life too.
I consider running outside as a life changer. It’s not only good for my health and helps to shape my body but it’s an absolute mind transformer. Let me reiterate that there is a big difference between running in the gym on the treadmill and running outside in the fresh air. Regardless of whether it’s cold or warm, windy or sunny, running outside has an amazing effect on the mind. And I’m just going to talk about running outside and not in the gym.
After like 10 km running, sure I become fitter physically, but most importantly I feel stronger mentally. Running increases my willpower, my tenacity, and my endurance level. Running, in fact, teaches you to stay focused and not to quit. The more I run the more I feel I can achieve everything I want if I put the work into it.
When I crossed the finish line of the half marathon in Munich, I felt like a superwoman. I felt that I can do anything if I put my mind into it. And I can do a whole lot more. Now I can’t even imagine what I’ll feel if I complete the marathon.
The mind that running creates is so strong that you don’t need other people to motivate you anymore. Running helps me to be my own motivator in life. It makes me understand that if I want something in life, it’s only me who can make it happen. Even if I have nobody by my side, I have to be able to make sh*t happen.
When I’m sad I run. After running like 10 km I feel like a completely different person and I don’t even remember why I was sad.