A Marathon trip to Budapest 2015

Within 6 months, I went from Netflix marathons to running marathons. Great weekend, great people, great banter!
— Thomas Trainor – Warwick University (The Children’s Society)

As with any good story, the trip starts at the beginning with the airport check in! One of your Choose a Challenge staff stood in a bright red t-shirt, scouting for students will be meeting you at the check in desks to signal the start of the trip! It’s surprising how many stories you hear at this point of the struggles to just make it to the airport. There’s someone who got up at 3AM and the two boys who got on a train heading out to Oxford instead of into London. The chatter about how much training have you done? ‘What was your longest run?’, ‘When did you last drink alcohol?’ And the sinking realisation that maybe 10Km as your furthest training run may not quite be long enough. 

These nerves only intensify in the 3 hour flight to Budapest but upon arrival the ‘in country team’ meet the group and jump on a quick transfer over to our accommodation. After an arrival briefing and a brief introductions game it was time for the first warm up run of the weekend. Taking in a 7km loop of the river and getting those flight legs shaken off whilst also providing the first opportunity to actually test your legs out on the marathon course itself. The remainder of the team headed out for some food just down the road. Yes, carb loading had already begun for some who thought this was the perfect excuse for two meals.

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Saturday morning came and the team took a trip to the marathon expo. Taking the Budapest underground system, which I have to say is one of the best underground systems in Europe. Very regular and easy to negotiate. However, the simple task of purchasing train tickets in Budapest turned out to be a funny memory. It seems as though the Budapest transport system hadn’t expected a group of 40 marathon runners to be heading down to the marathon expo the day before the Budapest marathon and quickly ran out of ticket books. After disappearing to find some more the ticket man returned with just 3 ticket books. It was safe to say his mathematical skills were lacking that day. 

Down at the marathon expo we were fortunate to catch the start of the children’s race. A very interesting sight to observe. I have since concluded since that there are two types of children at this race. The children who are taking the whole thing very seriously, they must win, and those that simply would rather be elsewhere. I recall one child in a purple top who was stood at the front of the start line fully focused and took off as soon as the gun was fired.

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Later on, as a group we took a little walk round Budapest, taking in sights such as St Stephen’s Basilica and St Margaret’s Bridge. As I said earlier for some carb loading had already started so why not after a walking tour stop for an all you can eat Chinese. This is exactly what some of our Birmingham students did. I must say it wasn’t a great shout. But, you must perfect the technique of all you can eat. Don’t rush and pile as much as you can possibly squeeze onto your plate. Start off small and gradually go back for more.

After more exploring that afternoon with some heading over the bridge to discover Pest, everyone met up for an all you can eat carb loading dinner. I’m not sure how our group from Birmingham managed it. Once stomachs were full it was time for the pre race briefing. With the realisation of the marathon sinking in for some, Simon gave a full explanation of how race day would work and settled all those nerves. It was then off for an early night ready for the big day. Not for  Axel though, he had yet to iron his name onto his running vest for the next day. Ironing can be a hard task and it’s safe to say it didn’t go too well with the ‘E’ ruined in a matter of minutes.

Whoever said running is not a team sport obviously never ran a marathon with Choose a Challenge.
— Fiona Easton – Exeter University (Hope for Children)

Sunday started early with a sense of apprehension in the air as participants hurriedly tied trainers, found their race belts, and applied plasters to their nipples before setting off to the start line. Bags were dropped off, legs were limbered up and with the music pumping I watched as the runner headed off to their start pens. Then it was time for me to head off to the 25KM mark to cheer everyone on. This, along with being at the finish line was a personal highlight for myself. Cheering on all our runners as they came through with smiles on their faces.  An early surprise was seeing Lydia Trow speed past me, who eventually finished as the 5th woman overall in the race an amazing achievement and meant I almost didn’t catch a photo of her. There were also the more humorous moments seeing the rubix cube runner and a runner dressed as King. The remainder of the Choose a Challenge team split out around the race with Simon running throughout the runners for the first 24km offering music, tips and vaseline and Sam, Tom and Ed scattered at various cheer stations clapping the team on and taking photos.

The representatives along the way really helped motivate me to keep running, they were amazing!
— Christie Causer – Exeter University (Hope For Children)

With some runners already at the finish line by the time I joined it was already a scene of celebration. . I personally know the feeling of finishing a marathon, a mixture of pure joy and shock and a little thank god, I made it! The tears did flow for some, whereas others cheered out loud and raised their arms in jubilation as they crossed the line.

After a well earned rest, it’s time for awards night and celebration time. I am saying this with hindsight, but you will be shocked at how many make it out until 3am! Often waking up with worse heads than legs. For the welfare of the team out in Budapest and to add a little mystery for those yet to take on a marathon with Choose a Challenge we won’t dwell too much on the after marathon party here, but it will certainly be one of the best nights of your life – giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘fix me a stiff drink’.

I didn’t realise running 42 kilometres would actually give me energy, but it has. Doing the challenge as part of a group like this one, was incredible because you felt proud as both an individual and a team .
— Olivia Apples – Exeter University (Hope For Children)

After a slightly belated start, it was Monday. One of the unique aspects of taking on the Budapest marathon is that the next day you are able to visit the thermal Spas on which the city is built. Most welcomed by those participants whose legs were still feeling the effects of the day before. The baths are one of the most relaxing aspects of Budapest. With pools ranging in temperature from boiling hot to freezing. I dare you to jump from the 60 degree sauna into the ice bath! 

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and with that the plane back to the UK was boarded. Hopefully this blog has helped you to see that our marathon trips are more than just a chance to experience a European city but to create memories with people you may have never encountered before.

Caitlin GrahamComment