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    Runatolia Half Marathon

    After our night in Antalya, we woke up early Sunday morning, ate breakfast, and got on the shuttle bus to the race start. This year, the race was called Runatolia. (David ran the 10k last year when it was called Runtalya.) We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. Antalya is just a beautiful place. The sky was clear and we could see the mountains.


    Runatolia Garden sign


    Two of our friends ran the half with David and our other friend ran her first full marathon. I love the energy at races. And it’s a great place to people watch. The race start is always such a sea of colors! There were over 6,000 runners this year.

    David was very pleased with his time. I nearly missed him. I was chatting with Dale and we realized David was yelling at us as he flew towards the finish. It was the first time he had run a half marathon and he finished in 1:55:13. He finished 597th (out of 1,740) and 224th (out of 559) in his age group.


    Turkish statue pouring water


    Friends before the race


    Shoe chips


    Runatolia with mountains


    Runatolia start


    It was like a giant Where is Waldo page… but I found them:


    Friends at race start


    Dale waving


    David running


    David with his medal


    Hannah running


    Shawn at the finish



    A Night in Antalya

    Last weekend we traveled south to Antalya for the RunAtolia Marathon (formally known as Runtalya). Last year we flew down, but one of our friends has a car and invited us to ride with her. We left early on Saturday morning. It took us about 7 hours to make it to the coast. I really like getting to see the landscape of Turkey when we drive. So many mountains, and crops, and colors.


    Driving down to Antalya


    Antalya oranges


    Antalya was sunny, in the mid 60’s, and gorgeous! We stopped by the race registration and then headed to our hotel. Our friend found an AMAZING deal through a travel agent for an all-inclusive stay at Akra Barut. It was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed at… and it was less than the price of a typical hotel in the States! Our stay included a huge buffet dinner on Saturday night, breakfast Sunday morning, and a shuttle to the race start.


    Akra Barut Hotel


    We have another friend who swears by staying in a nice hotel the day before a race. We can understand why!


    Akra barut hotel room


    I loved that the hotel was right on the Mediterranean. Being near the sea is good for my soul.


    Akra Barut Pool


    Stick pile by the sea


    Plant with purple edges


    David looking out to sea




    Mediterranean Sea boat


    Leah by the sea


    David climbing rocks


    Antalya water at night


    Here was the view from the balcony of our room:


    Akra Barut


    We had a great night’s rest before the race day. More on the marathon soon!



    Istanbul Marathon 2014

    After a day of exploring the sites, we stopped by the Istanbul Marathon Expo Center to pick up our race packets. There was a fancy countdown on the outside of the building:


    Istanbul Marathon Expo Center


    David outside the expo center


    Inside were lots of athletic vendors, a pasta station, and an art exhibit of student work. Their drawings and interpretation of the marathon were impressive!


    Istanbul Marathon art


    Runners with their numbers


    We woke up early on Sunday morning for the race. Our group of friends were the FIRST people on the shuttle buses out of the Sultanahmet area. We were proud of ourselves for that.


    At the race start


    They had updated race start area with landscaping. You can see some of it behind the chestnut man’s head:


    Man roasting chestnuts


    Seven teachers ran: two in the marathon, four in the 15k, and one in the 10k. Mom and I walked the 10k. Here are their shoe chips:


    Runners with their shoes and chips


    Istanbul 10k Start


    It was drizzly all day, but it was still amazing to walk across the Bosporus Bridge:


    Bosphorus Bridge


    Bosphorus Bridge


    There were a ridiculous number of participants this year. This photo is looking back at the Bosporus Bridge. Even at our slow place, the bridge still had a long trail of people:


    View of Bosphorus Bridge


    The Istanbul Marathon is the only intercontinental race. You start in Asia and end in Europe!


    Welcome to Europe sign


    Leah and mom at welcome to Europe sign


    The walk is a great way to take in the city:


    Rainbow stairs in Istanbul


    We made it back to Sultanahmet just in time to watch David finish his second marathon. Check out those calves!


    David finishing his second marathon


    David cut over 25 minutes from his time from last year! He finished in 4:02:04. I am so proud of him and all of the hard work, time, and training he put in to run 26.2 MILES!


    Marathon finisher!


    After the race, we flew back to Ankara and Mom flew to Izmir for a Seven Churches of Revelation tour. It was a great weekend!



    Adventures in Marathon Training

    David has been training for the Istanbul Marathon again. He’s only a few weeks out! The race is November 16.

    He ran over a half marathon after school last week! After runs like that, he usually comes home caked in salt. He brought back a couple of casualties on his windshield, too:


    David after running


    David with bugs



    Runtalya: Antalya 10K

    After the Istanbul Marathon, David really wanted to run another race. Several of our friends signed up for Runtalya and he decided to join them. A month before the race, David sprained his ankle and was on crutches for over a week. It took a while, but it healed enough for him to run in the 10K.

    We left after school on the last day of March and traveled south to Antalya. It was a very quick trip. We got in late on Friday, hung out Saturday, they ran Sunday morning, and we left Sunday afternoon.


    Ankara to Antalya


    Where we stayed: We stayed at Altun Apart Hotel and highly recommend it. Each “room” is a small apartment with a bedroom, living area, and small kitchenette. It was very clean and the owners were friendly and accommodating. We had two rooms; the guys stayed in one and they let us squeeze five girls into the other.

    It was nice to have a day before the race. We slept in and walked to Konyaaltı Beach, just a few blocks from our hotel. It was overcast and foggy, but we could still see an outline of the mountains in the distance.


    David on the Antalya beach


    Leah on the Antalya beach


    Rocky beach


    Antalya beach and mountains


    We found a cafe near the water for breakfast. It was a little chilly out, but warmer than it was in Ankara.


    Antalya restaurant


    I love Turkish breakfast! You can find it buffet style at most hotels. Restaurants also serve single portions or family style. Turkish breakfast includes cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, meat, pastries, fruit, bread, and çay. Yum!


    Turkish breakfast in Antalya


    After breakfast, we went to the race check-in at Terra City mall. Then we got coffee and walked around the old city. The port was really pretty at night:


    Antalya port


    The next morning was race day. It was a smaller event than the Istanbul Marathon. Still, the energy at these races just might be enough to inspire me to run one someday.


    Runtalya start


    Three of us tagged along as cheerleaders. We went up on the overpass before the start of the 10K. It was a sea of bright colors below us!


    Runtalya 10k Start


    Here’s David in the last stretch of his race:


    David running towards the finish line


    And there he goes to the finish line! He passed a couple of people at the end.


    David finishing his 10k


    David's 10k Medal


    There is something really incredible about the race community. Here’s a group called Adım Adım (“step by step”) that runs for charity:




    We saw runners both young and old:


    Older runtalya athlete


    This man is an incredible athlete. We also saw him at the Istanbul Marathon.


    Runtalya runner on crutches


    There was even a man who juggled while he ran:


    Runtalya runner juggling


    All of our friends ran the 10K. After they finished, we stuck around to see the first place marathoner:


    The marathon winner


    It was a great weekend getaway!


    The runners and cheerleaders


    David was happy with his time of 52:36 considering he had just come off of an injury. See his results on the Runtalya website. You can search for “Benedid.”


    Istanbul Marathon

    Running a marathon was something that was on my never-to-do bucket list… then I gained 30 pounds.

    Before we moved to Turkey, I only dabbled in running. The summer we moved overseas, I was near 210 pounds at 5′ 9″… and by near I mean greater than or equal to.

    After we moved to Turkey, I started losing weight primarily from the change in diet (smaller restaurant portions/less preservatives/fresher produce). To complement this, I decided to start running again. I soon realized that when I stopped running, so did my metabolism. Before last year, running was never something I loved and it is still difficult to motivate myself. It is a small price to pay to keep healthy.

    I am goal and statistics oriented. I think that is why the Nike+ app was such a motivator for me. I loved tracking my average pace and how I compared to others my age. I also loved logging personal records. As my running strength and endurance grew, I became interested in long distance. In the spring, I experimented with several long runs to see my pace, including several ten milers and a half marathon. Sometime around then I decided to participate in the İstanbul Marathon. I thought it would be a good challenge to encourage me to run.

    After a couple of minor injuries last spring, I spent a lot of the summer biking and trying to keep my metabolism going without the high impact on my legs. However, the marathon was always in the back of my mind. When we came back to Ankara in August, I started running again.

    It took me a while to register for the marathon. I actually started training for it before I registered. I don’t know why I held back. I think I secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to run it. I finally registered and made travel reservations, so I was committed.

    Training was difficult and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I was running 40+ miles some weeks. At times, I despised running. It cut into my schedule and school become more stressful, not to mention I was helping coach men’s volleyball through several weeks of training. I found myself trying to come up with excuses not to run the marathon, but they were ruled invalid each time.

    There were two key people that encouraged me throughout my training. A dad of one of my students has run multiple marathons and Iron Man competitions. He gave me a lot of encouragement and taught me exercises to help prevent injury when I had some weak spots in my legs. I credit a lot of my race technique and injury prevention to him. The second person that encouraged me throughout training was Leah. I knew that she wouldn’t let me give up. Three weeks before the race, I had my longest training run and was super nervous. I had burned out on my long run the week previous and I had resorted to walking. Leah’s encouragement helped me work through this tough time in training when I was about to give up.

    Fast forward three weeks and I was in Istanbul with Leah and friends. We stopped by the marathon expo where I picked up my number, shoe chip, and race bag. There were several vendors and booths. I even ran into the dad previously mentioned and he helped talk me out of some pre-race jitters.


    Marathon Expo


    There were two of us running the marathon and two that ran the 15k:


    15K and Marathon runners


    Leah and three of our friends registered for the fun run. As you can see, they were really enthused about getting their numbers:


    Fun Runners


    The morning of the race was crazy. We lined up in Sultanahmet Square to get on buses that shuttled us to the start of the race. I feel like I had a higher risk of injury getting on the bus than the actual marathon. People climbed and clawed onto the bus like rabid cattle.

    Finally at the starting line, we made last minute preparations and paused for a few pics.


    Shoe chips


    We met up with one of our Turkish friends and spent some time getting pumped up together:




    The place was hustling and bustling. There were vendors selling çay (Turkish tea) and coffee:


    Crowd at the race start


    Other vendors sold simit (Turkish bagel):


    Simit bread


    Leah decided to support our home state by wearing her Michigan Awesome shirt during the fun run:


    Michigan Awesome TShirt


    The Istanbul Marathon is the only trans-continental marathon. We all crossed over the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to Europe.


    Bosphorus Bridge


    Bosphorus Bridge


    Here’s Leah with the Welcome to Europe sign:


    Welcome to Europe sign


    While I spent the next four and half hours running in the marathon, Leah and our friends enjoyed the beautiful sights of the fun run and the trek to the marathon finish line. They even stopped for milkshakes and coffee.


    Istanbul Marathon




    My goal was to finish the race. I relaxed and didn’t push too hard my first 15 miles, then tried to pick up the pace for the last half. At about 30 kilometers, I was pushing about all I could. I am quite pleased to say I did not walk as much as I thought I would, probably less than a quarter mile (I know I keep switching between metric and standard – such is international life). I knew that I had given almost everything when I thought about the finish line and almost started bawling. As I drew nearer to the finish, the cheering crowd grew thicker and I pushed harder.

    I ended up finishing on a dead sprint, passing several people in the last three hundred meters. I think I finally realized how close I was and the adrenaline gave me an incredible rush. I heard Leah and my friends calling my name and took off:


    David and his medal


    At the marathon finish


    The relieving beep of the chip being detected and my name being announced over the loudspeakers was almost more than I could bear. I had done it. I finished my first marathon. I was excited, covered with salt (see above), and exhausted.


    David's Marathon Certificate


    I had a lot of fun at the marathon and enjoyed the challenge. There were times where I felt like giving up. I remember praying throughout the race that I would have the strength to finish.

    I can honestly say that I plan to keep on running. I may not always enjoy the training, but the end result is definitely worth it. I think this race will encourage me in future situations, both athletic and not.

    Philippians 3:12–14.

    You can search my name on the Istanbul Marathon results page to see my time splits and stats!



    Running Club’s 10K to Panora

    During the last two months, I trained with the running club. The running club met once a week since last fall. It is a group of sixth grade students led by two friends of mine. After running in the ActiveWater 5k, the running club set a goal to run 10 kilometers from our neighborhood to Panora Mall.

    The two boys that ran with me are both in my sixth grade class. I enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them outside of the formal classroom setting. As we ran, we worked together to find a reasonable, but challenging pace.


    Running Club's 10k race


    Panora Mall


    Because we live in Ankara, the first 6 or 7 kilometers were pretty much uphill, with over 600 feet in altitude gain. We were fortunate to have a good downhill finish.


    Nike Run Info


    Running towards Panora


    When we reached the finish, there were friends waiting for us with water and congratulations.


    Approaching the finish line


    I am proud of all of my running partners. They demonstrated hard work and perseverance throughout the race. I’ve had a lot of fun and am thankful for the conversations we’ve had on the trail.


    The Running Club