The day had arrived. Thankfully in Turkey they believe in epic breakfast buffets, and I eagerly partook. Stuffing down boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes, cheese, cucumbers and bread like nobody’s business, I fueled like a champion. Or like a rookie runner getting ready for her first race.
I packed up all my stuff and waited in front of the lobby for a shuttle to arrive. A man walked by and told me he was a shuttle driver going to the race. Apparently a big part of this weekend for me was getting in buses with strangers. Thankfully a line of men in suits was filing behind him. They were a group of journalists, and they were thrilled to find out I was an American who was participating in the race.
“When you have your medal, please find us so we can interview you!” They urged me, handing me a business card. I’m obviously a really famous runner of 10Ks.
I got to the race early and chilled by the water, enjoying a cup of Turkish coffee. It was beautiful. Then we all scurried to the staging area and waited. And waited. And waited.
It really wasn’t that long, but when you’re standing in a crowd of 700 people getting ready to run, minutes feel like hours. The city also had a lot of schoolchildren participating in the event, which was really adorable, but they all pushed to the front ready to sprint for the first few blocks. So to say that things felt hectic would be pretty honest. I jogged in place while the DJs yelled for us to wave to the camera.
Finally the speakers sounded the start of the race. I was messing with the running app on my phone and ended up being one of the last people out of the starting gate. The ambulance was riding my tail. Soon though I started passing the walkers and a few of the kids that started the race too fast.
It was actually really nice to start at the back because it meant I was passing people pretty much the whole way, and almost no one passed me. Less nice were the pre-teens that would sprint past me and then start walking directly in front of me. I avoided any major collisions, but there were some pretty close calls.
It was a beautiful run. Iznik is full of ancient ruins that are really gorgeous, and the route took us through many of the ancient gates. At each one were people in traditional guard costumes. That’s not mentioning all the fans from the city that came out to observe: old grandpas sitting in the shadows, little kids sticking out their hands for a high-five.
I started out really slow and picked up the pace halfway through the race. The first 2K went by incredibly quickly, and then it felt like the markers stretched further and further apart. I thought I would never find the end of kilometer number seven.
The last bit of the race was a straight stretch that ran right along Lake Iznik. I had walked it the night before and knew where I wanted to start sprinting and burn all my reserves. It felt so good. I blew in through the finish and leaned against the barriers to catch my breath. A concerned volunteer asked if I was ok and then handed me my medal and water bottle. That’s right, I didn’t just get a piece of string with some metal on the end; I was also the proud owner of 50cl of Erikli water.
All in all it was an amazing racing experience. The one huge downside is something got messed up on my race bib so my time didn’t register. I suspect that fact that I was holding my phone directly below my chest when I went over the mat at the starting line had something to do with it. From my phone though I know I ran the race in 67 minutes or less. Three minutes under my 70 minute goal! So hurray. Now I know to put the phone aside before the start next time.
So that’s it… well except the part where I somehow ended up in the press shuttle that took me back to the ferry terminal. Or the twenty-minute interview I ended up giving there. Or the multiple pictures they took of me holding my finisher’s medal (you know, the one that all those crazy schoolchildren also received for completing the race). Also the part where the 4th woman to finish the Iznik 46K bought me a coffee.
In conclusion, it was a fabulous weekend. I loved getting to hang out in a beautiful city, starting to get to know the trail-running community of this area, and participating in my first official race event.
See you next year, Iznik.