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Druiven Marathon; carnival music between the grapevines

Race name
Druiven Marathon
42 kilometres
614 metres

Mud on my face, mud in my mouth. I just did a beautiful face plant. My feet were sinking ankles deep in the clay. A creeping plant was hiding in it. I stepped on it with one foot, tripped over it with the other, and before I knew it, I was stretched out in the mud. Let’s say, it’s part of trail running. Especially of running the Druiven Marathon here in Belgium, because we’re either on the road or in the mud.

It’s time to do another test. A speed test. This one I will do in Tervuren, a small village just outside of Brussels. Together with the Flemish municipalities Overijse, Huldenberg, Hoeilaart and Terhulpen in Wallonia Tervuren forms the green belt, where grapes grow in greenhouses.

Rolling hills of Belgium

It sounds beautiful. With the rolling hills, you could say there is a hint of Tuscany in the air, but that’s where the comparison ends. The air is wet, cold. No colours melting into each other, no old houses built with local stones that match the surrounding nature. No geometrically perfect town squares, that make you feel like travelling back in time. Instead, on our little sightseeing tour, we drive by whitewashed greenhouses that have seen better days, little industry yards with supermarkets and hardware stores you see everywhere and closed shops with signs that say the season of grapes is over.

Fast pizza

In Tervuren we struggle to find something to eat. Although it’s only 1.30 pm, the kitchens of most restaurants are already closed. Belgium people have lunch early. Luckily the pizza oven of Il Carrettino is still burning, and if we’re fast, we’re welcome.

Going to an Italian restaurant with Sara is always a risk. One look at the menu and she can tell you if it’s an authentic Italian restaurant or not. The pizza Hawaii doesn’t promises a lot of good, but as it’s the day before the race, we don’t have a lot of choice. Luckily, it’s only the Hawaii on the menu that’s a commercial genuflection, as the pizza we eat is made by Italian hands, served by an Italian waiter and tastes like an Italian pizza; savoury.

To digest, we stroll through the park in front of the Africa museum, which dates back to 1897. The paths are swampy. That doesn’t bode well for tomorrow. I knew I wasn’t making it easy on myself, now it might even be harder.

Rotterdam Marathon

In 1993 I ran my first Rotterdam Marathon together with my sister’s boyfriend and some of his friends. They had done it before, so it felt safe to stick together. Well, up to 30 kilometres. By then I had enough of the walking breaks and decided to run the rest on my own. I finished in 4 hours and 35 minutes. That’s the time I would like to beat tomorrow.

Okay, I’m 51 years old, not 20. However, I do think I’m smarter. In those days I had no clue what I was doing. I just ran. Every training was as hard as I could. I had read one book on running, The Complete Book of Running, by James (Jim) Fixx. That’s it. There wasn’t a lot else to read. If you wanted to run, you ran. Strength training, nutrition weren’t a thing.

Looking for confirmation

Beating 4:30 will feel like I’m on the right path. That my training is working. I know I’m taking a bit of a gamble. Rotterdam was a road marathon. Tomorrow I’m running a trail marathon. Then again, Tessenderlo, October last year, was a trail marathon as well. I came close: 4:37:11.

That was a huge improvement compared to the first marathon I ran, in this second running life; the Run Forrest Run Ommerland Trail marathon. I needed 5 hours, one minute and 39 seconds for that one. 

Race day

I admit, I’m a little nervous this morning. Sara and I just picked up my bib number and now the long wait (40 minutes) begins. Big races make me nervous, small races don’t. This is supposed to be a small race, but now I want to beat 4:30 it feels big.

I know I can do it. I recently ran a personal best in training on the 30 kilometres. That was a test run for today’s race. However, that was a run on flat terrain. I ended up having 32 metres of altitude, not the 600 metres I have today. At the end of that run I still felt strong. I still felt like I could keep the pace.

The schedule I have in mind, has room for error. I want to run 6 minutes and 10 seconds per kilometre. If I do, I finish in 4 hours and 20 minutes. Ten minutes faster than I have to. Those 10 minutes I can waste at refreshment posts. I probably will be quicker, but just to be sure, I’m giving myself a safety margin.


Four, three, two, one. We’re off. I’m in the back of the pack, as usual, but the street is wide and I find space for my long legs. The start isn’t too crazy fast. We’re running together with the 60 kilometres ultra runners, maybe that’s why. I’m even moving a bit up the field. At the start. I never do that.

Five minutes, 40 seconds, 5:32, 5:50, 5:55, 5:25. The first kilometres are faster than I’ve planned, but I feel good. We had a lot of road at the start, followed by an easy trail into the forest. Besides some muddy parts, it’s all runnable. Most of it is downhill, that explains why I’m going faster than planned.

10 kilometres

Ten kilometres done. Still ahead of schedule. Not every kilometre though. We had two short, but hard climbs. I lost some time there. Only seconds. The temperature today is amazing. It feels like spring. Half sunny, with a bit of rain every now and then. Great running weather.

Fifteen kilometres done in 1 hour, 28 minutes and 17 seconds. That means I’m 4 minutes ahead of schedule. Not bad, as we’ve just had the first refreshment post, and my legs do feel a bit heavy after more climbing. I grabbed some water and was in and out in no time. Saving my ten minutes margin for later this race.

20 kilometres

Twenty kilometres. 1:58:31. Almost a five minute margin. Feeling my right hamstring, but feeling good. Had a fun chat with a man who was running in a t-shirt that said; 100 marathons. It turned out to be an old shirt. This was marathon 119. But one of his first trail marathons. He’s a road guy.

I had my first walk a couple of kilometres ago. I try to run every climb today, but this one was steep and made out of cobblestones. With only a quarter to go, I had to walk. No grip, no power.

25 kilometres

Twenty-five kilometres done. 2:29:59. Four minutes ahead of schedule. Losing a bit of time. Mostly in the last refreshment post, where I filled up my soft flasks and took some Coca Cola. I start to feel my legs. We’re running a lot on asphalt, cobblestones and gravel roads, which are hard as well.

The refreshment posts are fun. I’m running the marathon solo, but you can also do it as a relay. The aid stations are where runners take their turns. To liven things up, every station has either a speaker or live music. A one man band, or a few guys playing loud carnaval’s music. It’s fun, passing through. 

My heart rate is around 152 beats/minute; the top of my zone 2. Sometimes a bit above, sometimes a bit under. I’m eating one energy bar of the Bisschopsmolen per 45 minutes. Which means 64 grams of carbs per hour.

30 kilometres

Thirty kilometres done, through rolling hills, empty villages, farm fields and parks full of willow trees. We’ve just been climbing forever. At this moment I plod along through ankle deep mud. I try to run, but it’s undoable.

My knees are protesting. It feels like we’re either running through mud or on stone roads. I’m doubting if I can keep this pace up. I ran 30 kilometres in 3:01:17, which means I’m still 3,5 minutes ahead of schedule, but I’m struggling.

35 kilometres

Thirty five kilometres done. 3:34:09. Only a minute and a half ahead of schedule. I lost time again on some steep hills, with kilometres of 6:12, 6:40, 7:26 and 6:44. I have to run 6:10; Luckily the last kilometre was in 5:48, so there is still something in my legs.

40 kilometres

Forty kilometres done. Feeling good again. Running around 5:50. My dip is over. Grabbed an orange in the last aid station, filled one soft flask and moved on. I was in there for maybe half a minute, so I am winning time by passing through the refreshment posts quickly.

I rounded the 40 kilometres in 4:04:11. That’s almost 2,5 minutes faster than my schedule, and that schedule is still the 4 hours and twenty minutes one. Which means I can even walk from here to the finish and still make it.

Extra meters

41.5 kilometres done. A few more metres and I’m there. One more corner. There’s the finish. Done it. Or not? My Garmin tells me I’ve run 41.6 kilometres. That is not a marathon. I’m here for the marathon. So finish or not, I’m going to run a marathon.

A quick kiss for Sara, taking off my running vest and I’m off again. Into the streets of Duisburg. 300 metres one way, turning around. 300 metres back. And…? And…? Yes 42.195 metres in 4:17:17. Marathon completed. Mission completed.

Other distances
  • 10 kilometres128m+
  • 16 kilometres218m+
  • 23 kilometres252m+
  • 32 kilometres416m+
  • 62 kilometres906m+
Facilities & Rules
  • ToiletsYes
  • ShowersLimited
  • Drop bagNo
  • Storageyes
  • CrewNot allowed
  • Pacernot allowed
  • UTMB Indexyes
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