A good race, good atmosphere, fairly good conditions, good people to go with, Polish food is delicious and reasonably priced, nice course, a no hassle race and a low priced city – beer is good too. Apart from one very small steep slope after about 25 km, any other slopes were barely noticeable, so essentially a flat course. Great weekend without the stresses and queuing you get at one of the major marathons (but you will never get a perfect course..).
WHY DID WE CHOOSE WARSAW?
We (Amanda, Gareth, Dave E W and Gary) started thinking about the Warsaw marathon about December 2011 largely because most of us had run Berlin the previous year and enjoyed travelling as a group (and tasting the German beer!!). The previous reviews of the race seemed reasonable and a few of us wanted to try a smaller marathon to see how it was running in less crowded streets.
By about mid-Feb 2012 we had the date of the race confirmed. But entries were not actually open yet – contrast with the London ballot that fills up within 6 hours! A few marathons were already full for the September 2012. By mid March quite a few of us had booked flights but not yet actually entered the marathon - it was not open. It opened around April 2012 and about 5 of us entered promptly. Throughout the summer we picked up a couple of extras to the trip. Making us a group of James, Amanda, Gareth, Dave W, Gary B, Caroline N, Gerry C, Brian R , Dave C - all running with Claire Beatty coming along to taste the beer. During the later stages of prep for the marathon it was good being able to compare notes on expected performances in the marathon with others and training plans. We arranged for white t-shirts to be printed - getting to become a tradition for the Amanda/Gareth/Dave W/ Gary, James ‘the Bruce’ marathons. The majority of us stayed at the Novotel central Warsaw.
COST OF THE MARATHON:
The cost of the marathon was low (around £20) and the hotel prices in Warsaw are very reasonable. Superior twin room in Novotel £60 per night, i.e. only £30 each if sharing Flights were about 100 quid giveor take a bit. Cost of official race photos very cheap - 78 photos for total of £8 - giveaway compared with more well known marathons (£8 per photo?? AT LEAST! ).
THE TRAVEL TO WARSAW:
We all had different routes to WARSAW, some via low cost airlines via Stanstead, others with BA, other with LOT airline and it is less that a 2 hour flight. Generally it was fairly easy to get from the airport to our hotel. The public transport from the airport to the hotel was really expensive, all of 3.4Zloty (less than £1. The airport information was fairly clear and the staff friendly. Arriving in Poland you would not have know there was a marathon in Warsaw at the weekend, unlike Llondon and other really large marathon cities. From Stansted on Ryanair, Warsaw Modlin airport is about 30 miles from Warsaw which can tend to mean a long wait at the railway station after short shuttle bus ride from airport. Also on return trip, shuttle bus from Modlin station to airport really packed, so leave plenty of time in case you cannot get on. Really cheap on train - about £2 one way for 30 mile trip to Warsaw on decent train.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE RACE:
Generally the information provided by the organisers was efficiently issued and in a timely manner. No real issues.
THE EXPO /REGISTERING:
The expo was a small event, only perhaps 10 or 12 stalls, located in the national stadium. Easy to get to from public transport – it’s hard to miss the national stadium! I got my number on Saturday at 12 midday, I waited all of 30 seconds to get my number, chip and it was nice that the chip scan showed my name so I was confident it worked. They had enough stalls (e.g. runners food, t-shirts etc to meet most needs) but not every type of food. Certainly not busy and certainly there was enough good stuff for me.
THE DAY BEFORE THE RACE:
There was a protest the day before the race. We initially thought they were protesting because Les Croupiers came to Warsaw without Mick, but then we later found out it was a protest about going back to old fashioned values and austerity measures. A non threatening protest, very peaceful. They even had a midday mass which a few of our crew watched.
THE NIGHT BEFORE COULD WE GET PASTA? (Yes NO PROBLEM)
Yes, getting pasta was fairly easy in Warsaw - we all eat together with a quality meal - I forget the price but not much more than 10 GPB each at a good quality outfit. Note smoking is not allowed in Warsaw restaurants (even if you run too fast!), seriously that's such a good thing - I was concerned that I was going to a smoke filled place. Gareth had his trusted ipadwith him -in case we had any problems- but English was no problem in the restaurant. It was a really nice atmosphere with the group we came with. We had the really experienced runners like Gerry, Brian and Dave to help calm the nerves of the rest of us..great to have a nice mix of people. Some one ask Brian about 5 a side football - not sure why - you better ask him!.
THE RACE DAY:
We met at reception early about 7am I think (9am race start). We took the bus to the start, transport was free on the race day to runners (Cardiff half - please take note!). Oh! and Gareth you forgot your ipad (it wasattached for the rest of the time!) Easy to get to the start, a bit of walk around the stadium and underneath but if it was raining you would have been dry and warm. Toilets were a little short on numbers but generally ok. Baggage store was easy to get to and to store bags.
The start pens were not actively managed, to keep the different bibs separate, but I generally found people kept to them. It’s a small race and the elite field was quite small. They had pacers for several times 3 hours, 3hrs 15, 3:30 and maybe another time as well but I could not see them. On the start, it took me a few seconds to cross the line and get going, it wasn’t too crowed and I got going into a good pace fairly early on. The start for the first 1-2 km was slightly up hill (only a little) but then you knew that you had the last 1-2 km down-hill.
The first 5-15 km was reasonable well supported and mostly flat. At 15km to around 25 km we moved away from the city and there was less support. For the most part the road surface was very even and flat. At around 15 miles there was some cobbles and a wood lined section - this was a bit difficult, and a hill at 17 miles. This could have hurt if you were struggling though tghe hill was about equivalent to the hill from the club to Gabalfa plus a bit I think give or take a bit but enough to add 30 seconds to 45 seconds to your mile/km split (at the time I was doing 4:09’s per KM) – this was a 5 min KM. The last 6 miles or so (before we turned to the stadium was into a wind - the opposite direction to the weather forecast so a bit tough. For me I had trained very hard for this race but still lost time in the last bits. Once we turned to 40km, you could see the stadium and knew it wasn’t far and marginally downhill from 40 to 41.5 KM. At 42km you had the hill into the stadium, which was a little hard but then you came through the tunnel and it was great to finish in the stadium - for me very special as I broke 3 hours after not quite making it in London. It was good to finish and be able to be under cover almost immediately, so on a rainy day that would be really good. If you wanted a massage you could have one, I just wanted a beer (or 5!). There was a bit of walk from the finish to the stands but really I didn’t care, it was a really nice atompshere in the stadium.
There were sufficient numbers and paper cups so no problems for there. They had Poweraid which was a fine sports drink. (Would have preferred bottles but oh well and my plan of using a straw didn’t work)
AFTER RACE CELEBRATIONS:
We enjoyed an afternoon in an Irish bar (a few people even knew Claire’s Dad!) Then we all eventually met up, together with Gareths ipad, after an afternoon of watching a game called Hurling. We went for food in a local steak restaurant, the Sphyn restaurant I believe a common chain in Poland It was good quality as was the Polish beer. Following this was a late night as we managed to drink until the early hours in the hotel bar. Gareth and Amanda visited Krakow the next day, I went to Krakow with Claire on Tuesday. Krakow is worth a visit allow 5 or so hours in the city. On Monday night we went to a Polish restaurant, for 7 of us we all had dinner and beer for around 70 quid total very expensive..!
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN..?
Maybe..but I like new challenges.. so probably look for another one? but would definitely recommended it.. Probably not myself, as I like the variety, but for those who want a change from the massive numbers of London and Berlin, this is perfect - large enough to warrant feeling you were at a big event, but far more relaxed at the start.
I cannot leave a write up without giving a little info on my race.. This was another attempt for me to break 3 hours. My previous attempts have been
- 1998 Las Vegas 3:03: Splits 131 / 132 * to be honest my goal in this marathon was to qualify for Boston in the April (8 weeks later rather than break 3 but it had remained by PB for 13-14 years)
- 1998 Boston 3:05 ( Cannot recall the splits something like 129/136)
- 2011 Edinburgh 3:09 (splits 126/ 143 – a windy day),
- 2011 Berlin 3:06 (127/ 139)
- 2012 London 3:00:30 (129/131),
In the run up to Warsaw I’ve done some very high mileage, I’d managed 4 weeks of 80 miles and a week of 100 in August/early September- ran a PB at a half marathon in a 70 mile week. And did some less exciting speed work on my own of 800m reps and mile reps so I felt reasonably well prepared. It also included 3 sports massages in the preceding weeks to get any stiffness out of out my legs. In my race I started well, target pace i’d eventually decided was 4:09 per KM(2:55-2:57 pace). I had lots of helpful discussions with Ed Donavan and others on suitable pace I’d also say Ed was very helpful in providing guidance for suitable marathon track sessions in the run up. With the realization that if I hit even pace I’ll go 255 and with a 2 min drop off I’ll be 257, at the expo I predicted my race time was 256:59 on the Adidas win a T-Shirt stand.
THE RACE FOR ME:
I started fairly steady at 4:09 pace. A few of the KM markers seem to be placed 50 meters or so in the wrong place as I did a 400 km then a 415 km a few times. Cannot see that happening in Berlin. It was very good for me to have two similar paced experienced old heads in the same race, Brian and Dave. I managed to keep them in my sights for the first ½ passing Dave at half way. I struggled in the woods and after that the wind was tough. I generally felt comfortable, much more so than London – no cramp. I was quite gutted when I passed Brian at 32 or so km because I had been running to keep him in my sights as I know Brian was a good pacer. At about 34 km I was close to 255/256 pace. But slightly eased my pace as I knew I was well inside 3 hr pace but wanted to make sure I broke 3 and remove any risk of going above 3. The last 2 KM going down hill didn't quite feel as much down as I expected but none the less a good experience to finish under 3 (approx 127/129 for me a very happy camper). Now looking forward to London 2013.