This past weekend, I ran the ING Night Marathon of Luxembourg. The race included a half marathon distance, full marathon, and a team relay marathon. I opted for the half while Julien did the full.
First off, as I mentioned in last week’s blog Tips for Hot Race Weather, it was going to be a hot one. And it was so incredibly hot. At race time which was a 7pm start (remember it’s a night run, however the sun was still blaring up for a good hour and a half into the run), the temps were at 88F/31C. Holy Moly.
Getting to the start was a little chaotic. The highway closed the ramp to Kirchberg from the French side, making everyone detour with poorly visible signage, especially for those who aren’t familiar with the area. Once making our way back to the city, we discovered most parking was brought to a single lane entrance to the nearby shopping center. This was slow and frustrating dealing with parking for 15,000 runners.
Leading up to race day, I was drinking 4L of water. On race day, the steak continued and then some. I initially wanted to wear shorts, basically wear as little articles of clothing as possible, but even on the walk from parking the car with 2x application of chaffing gel, I knew my thighs wouldn’t let me run in shorts. So I switched quickly into some Capri leggings in the bag drop off area.
The start and finish of the race is at the LuxExpo in Kirchberg, Luxembourg. It’s a huge hall to fit the finish line, which was indeed inside, food court, bag drop off and even temporary showers were brought in on trucks.
The start had 7 corrals mixed with the two distances plus team relay, I was in 5th and it took me close to 15 minutes to cross the start from the gun. The race organizers reminded us to take it easy with the temps and actually introduced an additional water stop starting early at the first mile instead of at the first 5km, then they were placed approximately every 2km. Each station was mostly well stocked with water, electrolyte drink, energy bars and oranges. Here is where I saved myself, besides starting about 30 seconds slower pace than usual, I took always two waters (one to drink and the other to pour on top of my head) and at every other stop I took an electrolyte drink. And with this routine, I saved myself from cramping or worse heat stroke.
The course is relatively wide open through Kirchberg, running through the main roads that were blocked off to traffic and stayed mostly flat. Heading over the bridge towards Glacis Parking, we caught a glimpse of the elite making their way back. I heard that even the elite were up to 15 minutes off pace due to the temperature too.
The atmosphere at Glacis was a big party with flamenco dancers, drums beating, drunk spectators everywhere screaming and cheering you on. It seemed like an awesome time! We then made our way through the luxurious neighborhoods of Limperstberg, where the one way streets became a little narrower and fresh legs were turning over for the first exchange in the team relay. The neighborhood really gets into the spirit though and so many kind neighbors brought out water hoses for the runners while they laughed and casually sipped Champagne. Again, if I wasn’t running, this seemed like a really good time!
Heading back towards Glacis we made a turn into the Public Park. Here the race track got super narrow and made it impossible to pass other runners, so you were stuck for a bit with a controlled pace, which I didn’t mind all that much as I already adapted to not setting PRs and just to have fun.
Then we made our way into the old city center. This was easily my favorite part of the race! We split off from the marathoners at Place de Guillaume by the town hall and the half marathoners took a turn towards the palace and city bars where people yelled, cheered, and even did the wave. Really next year I may seriously need to consider being a spectator, it was such a party.
Passing by one more time through Glacis, we made our quiet exit back over the bridge towards Kirchberg again. Here I started to see several runners starting to crash and burn, requiring serious medical attention with still 5km to go. It was eerily quiet as we lost a lot of the spectators and the course started a slow, progressional incline back to the finish. I can see why this could play havoc on dehydrated individuals. With about 2km left to go, we saw the first male marathoner making his way back at about 2:06. Its astonishing what these professionals can do. Finally, I made my way back towards the expo, where a crowd surged again right before the finish. The actual finish line was 200m inside the expo with a big blue carpet and disco lights and loud music. It was super interesting and helped me get inspired to sprint my tired legs in for a 2:12 performance. With easy access to finishers medal, drinks, showers, and bag access, the race organizers really thought of everything.
After the finish, I met up with my friends Lindsey, who finished her first half marathon, and her husband and another friend Aline, who participated in the team relay, for some celebratory beers while waiting to cheer on Julien in the full marathon.
Overall, a moderately challenging race that got a bad rap due to the heat.