Twenty three kilometers done. My feet are finally touching some asphalt instead of sinking away in mud. This last part through the forest was killing; so steep, so muddy. I needed my running poles to scramble up the hills. It took all the energy out of my legs, and I still have 22 more kilometers to go in this Mighty Marathon at the MUT Festival.
In front of me I see the refreshment post. It’s an excuse to stop for a minute and shake out my legs. My hamstrings are on fire. They will be happy with a little shake.
A kiss from Sara
A bit of water, a banana and a kiss from Sara, and I’m on my way again. Seeing her makes me happy. Seeing my parents makes me happy. They are my crew today. At every refreshment post they are waiting with some dry clothes and extra energy bars if I need them.
So far I’m good. We started in the pouring rain, but after 6 kilometers it got dry. Kind of dry. Dry enough to take off my rain jacket and run on in my long sleeve. All the rain has made this trail muddy. Very muddy. I’m happy I’ve got my running poles with me, because around me I see people slipping all the time. My poles are giving me some grip.
Mud or not, I’m running fast. Well, fast for me. One hour and 16 minutes on the first 11 kilometers and they have been far from flat. I mean we’ve already done 4 hills, some pretty steep. Well, that’s why I’m here. I wanted altitude, I’m getting it.
Not just altitude, also beautiful scenery. We’re running over country roads from forest to forest. All of them covered in beautiful small, blue flowers, within them a small single track of mud.
Just before the first refreshment post we had to run up a little hill and I wasn’t sure if we were running on a pad or through a creek. I mean the water was flowing down and I sank up until my ankles in the mud.
Wout van Aert
It’s what makes the trail hard today. Well for me. It looks like almost all the Belgian people are flying. This is the country of Wout van Aert, the famous cyclocross and road cyclist, but I think Belgian people aren’t only fast racing on a bike through the mud, but running through it on their feet. Although I just ran a few kilometers together with a Belgium guy and girl and both were wondering if there is a cut-off time somewhere. They are afraid not to make it, as all the others are way ahead of us.
My strong point are normally the downhills, but not today. Today it’s almost impossible to speed up. Today is more about trying to stay on my feet and not slip. One little downhill was extra funny. There was a rope tied to a tree to hold on to, as it was so steep you couldn’t run down normally.
That downhill was directly followed by a killer climb on a field with long grass. I think that’s one of the things that’s making this Mighty Marathon so beautiful; no kilometer is the same.
Finally a flat part. I’m running next to a fence, passing a house and a couple of farmers fields. Although I’m running, it feels like a resting moment for my legs. And they feel surprisingly good. I mean it’s only 2 kilometers ago I left refreshment post 2 with heavy legs and now they are okay again. Must have been Sara’s kiss.
Or is it the idea that I’m counting down? I’ve done 25 kilometers, so I only have 20 kilometers to go. That doesn’t feel that long anymore. Especially if I compare it with the ultra in Sussex last month. 25 wasn’t even halfway there, now I’m past the halfway point. Or am I just playing mental games with my mind?
Carpet of flowers
Another carpet of flowers, another forest. Almost 29 kilometers done. The trail is sloping down gently and this time I can speed up. The mud isn’t that thick. Relaxing is another thing, as there are a lot of trees laying on the path, so I continuously have to jump over them. It’s a bit dark here, so the red signs are hard to spot on the brown trees.
While I’m running here and eating another piece of polenta, my phone is beeping. It’s Sara. She’s already waiting on the Markt in Geraardsbergen. Or waiting, she’s having a beer in a bar, together with my parents. I’ve got another 15 kilometers to go, so no beer for me for at least the next two hours.
The Markt is coming closer now. I can hear the church clock, I can hear voices. Yet, it’s far away as well. We just had another hill with a rope. This time to get up the hill, as it was too steep to run or walk up. This hill went straight into my calves, so not only my hamstrings are burning now, my calves are burning as well. Is this why they call it the Mighty Marathon? Luckily I’m in the outskirts of Geraardsbergen. Normally I don’t like asphalt, but now I’m happy to run on a hard surface for a moment.
Wall of Geraardsbergen
Refreshment post 3 done. The last kiss of Sara before the finish. It was fun to pass through the center and run up the famous Wall of Geraardsbergen. Steep, but not too bad. That’s probably why we had to go down over a field and straight up again. From here on it’s only 5 kilometers to the finish.
42,5 done, less than 2 to go. Hamstrings are painful. Quads are getting painful as well. It’s now walking, running, walking to the finish. But the kilometers go fast, as I’m joined by Kevin Provost. We’re talking about our next races. He’s running the MaXi-Race at Lake Annecy next month, I’m running ERYRI at Ultra Trail Snowdonia. Having a nice chat, is always a good distraction of the painful legs.
One more corner
Music. We’re here. One more corner, one more bit of grass. I can smell the sausages, I can see the finish-line, Gerrit, my mum, Bruni, their dog, Sara, all the runners and their supporters, sitting, waiting, drinking, having fun. What a mud, what a race, what a Mighty Marathon, what a feeling, what a finish.