Tag Archives: Running

Reykjavik Half Marathon

We came to Iceland because we love Iceland, but we used the Reykjavik Marathon as the excuse. I don’t like running in hot weather, so if you are going to run a race in August, it should be in a place like Iceland. This was my 3rd international race, after Havana and Budapest. It’s fun to see how races are different around the world.

The half and full both started at 8:40am. I got to the start about 20 minutes before race time, which is as early as I like to arrive. We lined up by expected finish time, but there was just a single continuous wave. The start went about the same as anywhere else. Except there was no national anthem, mayor speeches, or hyped music. Just a countdown and we were off. The beginning part of the course left downtown and entered a neighborhood. It seemed everyone was out cheering us on. This group was standing on their stairs, banging pots. I wasn’t thrilled that the sun was out at the beginning, but it did make running by the water awfully pretty.

Harpa, the arts center, is my favorite building in Reykjavik, so it was nice to run past it.It was also nice to run by the Sun Voyager sculpture.

The thing I like the best about international races is they are marked in kilometers, so you get more frequent confirmation that you are making progress. A half is just over 21 kilometers. There were water stations every 4 kilometers. After passing the sculpture, we did a long out and back that eventually brought us back downtown.

Having only trained in hot humid weather over the DC summer, I had been running at just under a 10 min/mile pace, so my goal was to do 2:10 or better. While it was cooler, with a race time temperature of 61°F, I like it even cooler. I kept a steady pace and officially finished at 2:06:13. I was pleased with the time and enjoyed taking pictures and soaking up the scenery rather than pushing for a better time.

Here’s a happy half marathoner!

Budapest Day 3: 13.1 Miles Of Fast Fun

Today was race day! Ellen came with me to the start. We helped a runner from Uruguay, who was racing around looking for the subway in near panic. We were glad to get her going in the right direction.

The expo looked pretty much the same as a race in the USA, except it was also set-up on race day.


There was a warm-up that I half-heartedly participated in, mostly because I don’t like to tire myself out before the race!

The race had 6 corals, even with an expected time of 2:10-2:15, I was in corral 5.

About 10:15am, I was off! The race started in Hero’s Square and went right down Andrassy Avenue. Much of our activity yesterday, House of Terror, Opera House, lunch, was on that street, the main boulevard in Budapest. So it was familiar.

We went right past our Airbnb, and then over the chain bridge to Buda. This is the only picture I took during the race, I decided I was racing for time.IMG_2457

So only a few differences between this race and a race in the States. I liked that the course was marked in kilometers. Even though you are running 21 instead of 13, you feel like you get more regular signs of accomplishment as you reach them much quicker. Instead of gels or gummies, the glucose they handed out were pieces of bananas and white sugar mints (that looked like marshmallows to me at first).

From my watch, I was under a 10 minute/mile pace for every mile except one, and that included water breaks every 2-3 miles. I knew I was on a good pace, and I wanted to try to beat 2:10. It was warmer than I like, getting up to 72°F and the sun was out. But I gave myself no excuses, picking up the pace the last several miles. Mile 13 in fact was my fastest at 9:04 and the last part of the race (.22 miles on my watch since you always go longer than the official race distance) was 8:37 pace. I was really happy with my finish, the 2nd fastest of my 13 half-marathons.

For the first time for me, I had raised funds with this race for the charity I have been consulting for. If you’d like to make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages, please click here.

While I was running, Ellen was doing her own exploring. In those 2+ hours, she went to Hero’s Square, City Park, the zoo, and the Miniversum. We met back up near our apartment, going to the Spring Market (like a Christmas market but around Easter). I got a bread for lunch, Ellen got a potato latke-type thing with toppings. We went back to the apartment to eat.

Soon though, we were off again, We decided to treat ourselves to the baths and a massage. We went to Rudas Baths.IMG_2461

Saunas, pools of different temperatures, a beautiful outside pool that had a view of the Daube. And then after all that, the Lavender Dream massage, which was a scrub with lavender salts followed by a massage. Took much of the pain from the run away.

We walked back to the Pest side, pulled out our phones and found a place for dinner. A small cafe, Gerlóczy Cafe was just perfect. Salmon for me, duck breast for Ellen.

One more thing on the way home. Ellen wanted to ride the ferris wheel in a park near our apartment. So we did. The top had an awesome view of the Buda side, the castle and the church. IMG_2473

Budapest Day 2: Full Day (and then some)

We had a lot to do today, making up for some lost time yesterday. So first thing was to pick up the race packets. The expo was at the start/finish. IMG_2424

Luckily, that was also right at Hero’s Square.


We stopped at Coffee Cat for a quick breakfast.

Next stop was the House of Terror. Housed in the building where all the torture and killing took place, it told the story of the “double occupation” of Hungary, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. What a terrible 50 years this country had. No pictures inside, so here’s from the exterior.

Lunch was next, at a Rick Steves recommendation of Menza. It had an old time, kitschy interior, with really good food. Hungarian stew, anyone?

Because we weren’t bummed enough by the House of Terror, we then walked to the Holocaust Memorial Center. 90% of Hungarians Jews were expelled, with most turned over to the Nazis in 1944 and sent straight to Auschwitz. Just an awful reflection on the Germans and Hungarians of the time.

We figured we needed to lighten up, so we had a late afternoon dessert at Gerbeaud Bistro, near our hotel. IMG_2435

Now it was shopping time. Ellen found a Hungarian exclusive charm at Thomas Sabo. I found the Hungary national team soccer jersey, my souvenir of choice when we travel.

Had time for only a short rest, then dinner time. Pasta carboloading at Akademia Italia. A bright and friendly restaurant, we both had pasta. Yum!

After dinner we walked to the Chain Bridge and looked out over the Danube. Such a pretty city. IMG_2443


Now off to bed, there’s a race to be run tomorrow!

Philadelphia Half Marathon


So I’ve completed my marathon! It might have taken me a month, but it was a lot of fun.

Philadelphia is one of our favorite cities to visit. It’s only 2.5 hours away, there are lots of good museums, the historical part of the city, and great restaurants. So it was a good choice for a destination race.

Our first stop of the day was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Ellen had gotten tickets for the Léger exhibit. I didn’t know much about Léger going in, but I learned a lot about his role in modern art. Image

We then drove to our hotel. I am absolutely in love with Kimpton Hotels. The boutique style, the friendly staff and the small touches just make it like staying with friends. Maybe even better. So when we could book a race rate at the Hotel Monaco, it was a no-brainer. And they did not disappoint, we had a great stay.

It was now lunch time, we didn’t have anything specific in mind, so we went to the Food Network app. There was a Spanish restaurant, just down the street that was recommended by the “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show. Our meal at Amada was delicious. From the brunch menu, we shared lamb meatballs, potatos bravas, tortilla espanola, lemon ricotta pancakes and chorizo con papas. Everything was so good!

Next stop was the Philadelphia Convention Center, as I had to get the race packet. For a race with 30,000 runners, the packet pickup was well organized. We walked through the expos, picking up all the runner fuel food and thinking about races in all the interesting places. Once you have the bib, it’s on!Image

We went into Reading Market, always a fun place to visit. Having had the big lunch, we snacked only on a cupcake from Flying Monkey Bakery. How can you resist that name?

Back to the hotel briefly, it was then time for dinner. Ellen had picked a French bistro, Bistrot La Minette. It was a nice .7 mile walk, and we love exploring the neighborhoods in Philadelphia. The restaurant was cozy and warm. Ellen had trout for dinner, I had butter-basted chicken. Great meal! Walking back, we went down South Street, which is quite the visual experience of bars, restaurants, stores, tattoo parlors, etc. It wasn’t exactly our crowd, but it was fun to observe.

The race start time was 7am on Sunday. That meant my pre-race meal at 4. I slept okay, but was paranoid about sleeping through alarms. So I got up a little before 4 and had a banana, granola bar and apple sauce. Then back to bed for a little more than an hour. Thought I was just going to lie there, couldn’t get back to sleep. But eventually, I must have fallen back asleep, until the alarm went off at 5:10. Up, showered, dressed, out by 5:30. In the aftermath of Boston, they asked for runners to be there 2 hours early to get through security. That seemed ridiculous.

The hotel was 2 miles from the start line. I took the SEPTA subway one mile to City Hall, so then just had a 1 mile walk. There were lots of people on the street, it was a fun atmosphere. First thing I walked past was the famous Love statue. Not so crowded at 5:45. Image

Security was not difficult to get through. I eventually found my way to the purple coral, the place for fast runners like me (hah!).Image

It was right near the Rocky statue. Rocky was in race mode, as he was sporting the race shirt. Image

I don’t think I’ve run a race this large before. Just seeing all the runners lining up was pretty exciting. Right at 7 the race started. Took my coral just around 20 minutes to get to the start. And we were off! I was trying to hold myself back, but I got a little caught up in the excitement. First mile was my fastest of the day, 8’52”. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep that up. Next mile was just a little slower, 9’01”. I was happy to have banked some time, but clearly this wasn’t going to last for the whole race. So I settled down in mile 3, a comfortable 9’30”. We had run across the city, past the liberty bell to the Delaware River on the east side. We ran along the water for a little bit, then back west. We ran on South Street, which was familiar to me but quite different early on a Sunday morning.

Around mile 5 was near the hotel, so I was looking for Ellen. She wasn’t certain when she was getting up, and wasn’t certain she would be there. But I had a hunch she would be. Came up 6th Street, and there she was. I was excited to see her, put an extra spring in my step. In fact, mile 7 was back to  8’55”! Running across Walnut Street was probably the most exciting. Somewhat narrow, it had so many spectators on both sides. It was thrilling to have so much support and made the middle part go fast.

Crossing the Schuylkill River and things changed. Course less crowded with spectators. I think it was Drexel we ran through. A fraternity was out, offering Keystone Light. Right, like I’m going to lose time to stop and drink bad beer!

The course was amazingly flat, until mile 10 where there was a small hill and then a very long one. Had my slowest mile there, but it was only 10’05”. It was followed by some turns around a park and then a steep downhill. Downhill should be easy, right? It wasn’t. It was really steep and a little painful. That brought us down along the river though. Soon I was about 11.5 miles in and the Art Museum was in sight. I tried to pick up the pace a little, but managed only 9’54” on mile 12 and 9’43” for mile 13. We crossed the river, went around the museum, and suddenly had only .2 miles to go. The mayor of Philadephia, Michael Nutter, is a big supporter of the race. He was standing right at the finish line. I got my high 5 from him just before crossing the line. Turned off my watch, saw my time, which was officially 2:07:27, a pace of 9’44”. That was almost 2 minutes faster than Atlantic City last month, so my 2nd fastest of 4 half marathons. Was very happy with my race.

I got my medal, aluminum blanket and some food. I had thought it silly to take the subway back, so I walked the 2 miles back to the hotel. I was slow, but so were all the other runners. I did think that somehow all the curbs has been raised a couple of inches, as lifting the feet to step up and down was difficult.

Ellen had spent the morning after seeing me wandering the city. She had gotten back to the hotel just before me. I cleaned up, we checked out, and then headed to lunch. That was another selection from the Food Network app. Guy had visited Percy Street Barbecue, so so would we. We had a great meal, Ellen had ribs, I had brisket. Oh, and I had a root beer shake to celebrate. Image

We then got going for the drive back home so we could pick up Colby.

I had been a little concerned about running such a large race. But Philadephia did great at staging it and spreading out the start, so it never really felt that crowded. You got a lot of energy from the crowd. The cheering and the signs made it fun to people watch as you ran. The signs entertained me, although a “Go Victor” sign around mile 8 choked me up, thinking about my dad. But I was just that more determined to run hard. I am leaning strongly to running this race again next year, it was a great complete weekend.

So a very successful running year is drawing to a close. I’m running the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K next week for the 16th straight year. I’ll run a couple more weeks into December and then take a two week break. I exceeded my 1000 mile goal for the year in October, I’ll have run one 10 mile and 2 half marathons. I’ve stayed healthy. I’m very thankful.

Thanks to Ellen for so many reasons, mostly for putting up with me and allowing me to pursue this passion. We enjoy these destination races. Thanks to all in the DC running community, and friends both real and virtual who have motivated me and kept me accountable. This discovery of running as a passion is not even 3 years old, but it’s something I enjoy very much.