Monday, November 7, 2011


Running Up That Hill

On October 9 2010, I arrived in Bucharest, Romania to start my new job as part of the Hospices of Hope organisation. The night before, I was out in London with some friends and while in a restaurant, some very inconsiderate individual walked up behind me and stole my bag from the back of my chair. Inside was my passport, wallet (complete with bank cards, driving licence and cash), iPod, work documents including my contract, a book and my filofax (yep, very Gordon Gekko) with lots of interesting things I’d picked up on my travels over the years. The following morning, I spent the morning running across London to report the theft, apply for and receive a new passport and get to Heathrow all before 5pm to catch the flight to Bucharest. Having taken weeks to pack up my life in the UK to start this new chapter in Moldova, I had to try and get as many documents replicated as possible in the space of a few hours. I’m glad to tell you that I made it but it was one of the most challenging things I have ever had to do.  

Fast forward a year to October 9 2011 and I was about to undertake one of the other biggest challenges I have ever had to face – the Bucharest International Half Marathon. When I arrived at the Hospice offices in Bucharest a year prior, the fundraising team were knee deep in the organisation of the Bucharest International Marathon races at the end of the month. At that moment I decided that I was going to take part in the 2011 race and raise some money for the work of Hospice Angelus in Moldova. Of course, that was the easy part. Despite being overweight and unfit, I thought that if I gave myself a year, this would be more than ample time to train for running 13.1 miles (or 21.1 km). Actually, six months would probably be enough. Right?

In January of 2011 I found a running club called the Chişinău Hash House Harriers here in Moldova which consists of expats and locals who run every second Sunday around the city. For the first few months, I walked the courses and then started properly training for the run around April. A fellow Hasher, Teapot (who I also cajoled into running the full marathon in Bucharest), was consulted and put together a training program for me over a period of six months. It was designed to build up my strength and endurance and kudos to Teapot, because it worked! Admittedly, I didn’t strictly adhere to the program over the six months so by the time that the race came around earlier last month, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it.

Joined by Teapot and two other runners raising money for Hospice, Lindsay and Conrad, we arrived at the start line around 8am on 9 October 2011. Sadly, unlike the time we spent in training, it was lashing down with rain and pretty cold. For the parents, who had come over to enjoy the October warmth in Bucharest, they were disappointed that winter had come early but still came out with their Scottish flags in support.

The start line ran up Bulevardul Unirii towards The People's Palace, the second largest building on earth

At 9.30am, the start gun signalled the beginning of the race. Armed with an iPod full of tunes chosen by my sponsors, I was off and the initial view of running up Bulevardul Unirii towards the Palace of the Parliament was great as this still is such an impressive sight to me. Constitution Square, where the Palace stands, is normally the start and finish point of the marathon, however because of a NATO Summit, we had to start further down at Alba Iulia Square. Halfway up Bulevardul Unirii, there was a turn to the left across the man-made River Nistru and it was a long slog for about 2.5km down the edge of the river and 2.5km all the way back up the other side. The weather had kept any supporters at bay for this leg and so it was a bit endless running this part which was straight, dull and not in the slightest bit stimulating. This was when the tunes chosen by my sponsors kept me going – some favourites were Running Bear, Heigh Ho, Kinky Boots and my favourite, Keep On Runnin'.

Following the river part of the run appeared the first hill, which was gradual but thankfully very short. Back onto Bulevardul Unirii and down to Alba Iulia Square where the finish line was in sight. However Alba Iulia Squire isn’t really a square at all, rather a bit of a roundabout, so there are three roads which meet there and therefore the run also consisted of running down and back up the other two thoroughfares. The first was only about 100 metres down and back but the second road was probably about 1.5k and running away from the finish was really tough. It was great to run back up that road and not only see my folks waving the aforementioned flags, but to see the finish and my colleague Marc (the race starter) waiting to cheer...and send me on for the second lap. Yep, the race was two laps of the course for the half marathon and four for the full so off I went again. As I ditched my rain jacket I noticed that I had done the first half in 1 hour 27 – slow, but so far, so good. At this point I was starting to fade a bit so used the first ‘Gu’ gel which had been kindly donated by Teapot. Water and Isostar also kept me hydrated and everything was going great until I returned to the river part of the run. At this point, while I still hadn’t had to slow to a walk, I was really struggling to keep going but didn’t want to let myself down by stopping running. The four Team Hospice runners for Angelus Moldova had raised almost £6000 for the work done here and I was determined to not let my sponsors down so kept focused and pushed on. Coming back to Bulevardul Unirii and seeing Alba Iulia Square in the distance gave me the necessary boost to keep going and going. Supporters were starting to line the streets towards the end and this was another great push for me. Just as I was running down the last street of the square, I noticed the finish line and was gutted that I had to do that last 1.5km away from the chequered flag.

Running back up the street and seeing the finishing line in the distance, I had my finishing song on – Highland Cathedral by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (as recommended by a seasoned marathon runner). What a great song to finish on – the pipes and drums kicking in – really gave me that necessary push to run towards the end. Have a listen here and you'll hear what I mean. The sight of mum, dad, Lindsay and Conrad at the end made me go for a final sprint for the last 100 yards (ooft, this was a REAL mistake as I thought my legs were about to go) and I made it to the end to be met by the lovely volunteers with my medal. WOW! I couldn’t quite believe I had managed it. 3 hours and 5 minutes of running and I was now a half marathon runner.

The feeling afterwards was something else and I was really amazed at how quickly after I had stopped running that my legs started to turn to jelly. A congratulatory Snickers was soon followed by a beer with Lindsay and Conrad and then we went off to see Teapot as she crossed the line and became the first Team Hospice female to complete the marathon. Great effort and she joined Lindsay as the first Team Hospice female to complete the half marathon, so well done Team Moldova!

Lindsay, Conrad and I celebrate our half marathon with a cold can of Ursus, King of Beers in Romania (and the world)

Teapot hoofs it to the finish and completes her third marathon

Celebrating with Teapot and another Ursus

It really was a magic day followed by quite an epic after party (although I was so knackered that I only managed a few hours). With final calculations done, Team Hospice Moldova raised £6500, including Gift Aid, which is a staggering amount. But this was only part of the achievement – we all hit another goal that day. Teapot completed her third marathon while Conrad and Lindsay beat their time of the Miami Half Marathon they ran in March. For me, I had run over 13 miles. Six months prior, I couldn’t even run one. It really is a case of ‘if I can do it, so can anyone’ and I stick by that. I want to say thanks to all my friends, family and colleagues for supporting me throughout this time and especially for giving so much of their hard earned cash. Hospice Angelus really is a great cause to donate to and the money pledged really DOES make a difference. I am so privileged to work for such a worthy organisation and to see all of you get behind the work that we do is a great honour. Which leads me to one final question:  who’s up for joining me in Bucharest for the 2012 International Marathon?

And for anyone who would still like to sponsor me, please click right here to make a donation to an excellent cause. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Congrats for the marathon in Bucarest!
    I am about to move to Moldova for profesionnal reasons. Would it be possible to get from you some advice / tipps / ideas about settling there?
    I am Amandine, and you can email me at amandine(at)