Posted by Jane Lockwood on July 11, 19100 at 14:31:39:
Fabulous Belgian Marathon!!
In the early summer of 1999, I decided that I needed to take a proper
holiday, something that I hadn't done in several years. I'd never been to
Europe, but I had dreamed about visiting for many years, and I had friends
in London & Paris who offered to host me, so I began to plan my trip for
early September. I thought that as part of my vacation, it would be fun
to run a race in Europe. Initially, I thought that running a race in
Paris and finishing along the Champs Elysee would be a very rich
experience, but after searching the Internet for races in Paris during
early September and not finding any, I decided that I would try to find a
race elsewhere. I had already run five marathons and was flirting with
the idea of running a marathon in Europe. After seaching the Internet for
marathons in Europe, I came across a marathon in Belgium called "In
Flanders Fields". I contacted André Mingneau, the race director, and we
began a very enjoyable email discussion about the race, marathon running,
life in both the US and Europe. As the days grew closer, I became more and
more excited to meet André and his friends and to run in the inaugural
Flanders Fields Marathon.
I had spent a week each in London and Paris prior to traveling to Belgium.
When I first met André at the train station, I felt like I had met an old
friend. He took me on all his day before race day errands and introduced
me to so many people. I found that everyone was very friendly and very
excited to have an American participant in the first running of this
Race day dawned very warm, but overcast. I hoped that the skies would
remain cloudy, but I was so excited about running a marathon in Europe
that I really didn't care how the weather turned out. The start of the
race was in a charming village square. I got to help pass out race
numbers, and was even able to understand some of the longest surnames I've
ever come across! I got a big kick out of the entertainment: a punk
rocker type with a pink mohawk, playing, of all things, an accordion!!
Just had to have my picture taken with him, because I knew no one back
home would believe me.
Armed with much encouragement and well wishes, all the racers took off.
Immediately the course proved to be flat and fast, winding along an
asphalt trail through farms, far away from any cars. I drank in the sites
of old churches, stone houses, peacefully grazing cows, along the way. At
one point, I caught views of some of the trenches wherein WWI soldiers had
spent endless, wet, cold and miserable months so many years ago. For a
moment, I could almost hear and smell the war, and the poignency of so
many young people dying so pointlessly brought tears to my eyes.
At about the 16 mile mark, the course began to follow a path along a
river, with trees on both banks. I was glad for the shade (the day had
turned out to be very sunny and warm), and also for the beautiful scenery.
The last mile or so was in the town of Ypres, where there is a museum
dedicated to the memory of all those who died in WWI. This final part of
the race course was on old cobblestone streets, so it was a little
challenging for my tired legs to run hard on, but I pressed on and finally
made it toward the finish. I rounded the last corner and came into a large
town square, surrounded by shops and restaurants an three sides, and a
large old church on another. The thought passed through my mind that this
was a wonderful place to have the finish line.
As I approached the finish line, I saw André yelling and cheering me on.
It was great to get a big hug of congratulations from my new friend, and
to hear all the spectators cheering for me! This was my sixth marathon,
and not only was it the best marathon experience I've had to date, it was
the best experience I had in Europe!
Now that I'm back in the US, I'm trying to persuade all my running friends
to come with me in 2000 to run this marathon again. The warmth and
hospitality of the Belgian people and the beautifully bucolic and flat
course of the marathon would be a highlight in any marathoner's life!
And the chocolate's not bad either!! For more information about the "In
Flanders Field Marathon", check out