I may have found my people. From the very beginning of the Bucharest Half Marathon 2017 there was an incredible amount of hooting, hollering, laughter, rebel yelling, shenanigans, and cat calling, it was difficult not to be in a good mood. Same as in Skopje, I had a two mile walk to the start line from my host family. It was a glorious morning though it promised to be a hot day.
Bucharest was a great town for me. I started off the week staying at the Podstel Hostel and giving a talk about my travels around the US last year running marathons. The three owners of Podstel are young entrepreneurs who have decided to build a hostel empire after discovering all the best practices from places they’ve stayed while traveling all over the world for 4 years. They had culled together a great group who were incredibly attentive, asking terrific questions and being wonderfully supportive. At the hostel, I met the world’s most interesting man David Stokes (suck it Dos Equis) who was traveling from Britain to wherever via motor bike. We hit it off and I may have committed to a cross country tour of India on motorbike.
This was all a great appetizer to the main course of the half marathon. The expo was small but easily navigatable, with free Radler to cool you off on an oppressively hot day. At packet pick up and during the beginning of the race, I was joined by a lovely young lady who I had met for coffee early in the week. When I had told her I was running the half, she immediatly said she was going to sign up with me the next day, even though she hadn’t been training. Impressive. We ended up running much of the race together.
The route was a pretty good course. I heard many participants talk about how glad they were that they took the hill out by the university. Unfortunately, this made the course a little more boring with a second loop around the intial 6K towards the end. I am against the over homogenization of race courses. I may complain about hills, but it was really only one hill and I’m disappointed at a scenic net loss and a boring repetition. It was also a little dangerous when we were running on the unpaved black top of unfinshish road repair around miles 6 and 7. This was counter balanced by starting at the Parliment building, running up the Grand boulevards, along the beautiful river, and around the great big stadium. There were many pretty buildings and scenic landmarks along the route.
What really made the race amazing were the people. Romanians in general were more boisterous in the race corrals than any previous race in Europe. In many of the cities I’ve run, there was a focus and determination to run the best race, even if they were lining up towards the back or with a slower corral. In the starting gate in front of the Romanian Parliment, friends made fun of other friends, yelled full conversations across the breadth of the crowd, sang songs of joy and vigor. They were singing in Romanian, so the words might have been a dirge, but the intent was clearly a battle cry. Throughout the first few miles after the gun went off, people continued to jovially harangue neighbors, greet friends on the route as they were passed or ran by, and generally made a racket of joyous proportions. The city also has many English speakers, so although I was surrounded by conversations in Romanian, when I would start speaking in English (in general, random comments to no one in particular, as I often do) I was answered in my own language and it seemed the group would then continue in English as a way of inviting me to participate! My favorite moment came when the 2:15 pacers caught up aroun Mile 8 singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road”, all three verses, in Romanian! Of course I joined in singing in English but I can tell you this was one of my favorite moments of any Half Marathon I ever ran. I will also say that volunteers and the crowds who gathered to support the race were very energetic and vocal when cheering us on.
I loved my experience at the Bucharest Half Marathon and I am looking forward to returning so I can run a full marathon around this beautiful and supportive city.