“In Flanders Fields” Peace Marathon – 11.9.16

Race Report by Mylene Feeney

Several weeks after my first marathon, I finally feel able to produce a race report !

This was the ‘Peace’ or ‘In Flanders Fields’ Marathon, held in Belgium in September. As the name and location suggest, this race is run for remembrance, to honour the fallen soldiers of WW1 and to promote peace.

The first hurdle for me was training during the summer, which I find difficult due to the heat . My training was further impeded by a recurrence of plantar fasciitis and a subsequent foot injury due to over compensating for the same. I had been aiming to get to 20 miles in training but, in the end, managed 14 miles as my longest distance before the actual race.

The marathon has quite a small field of 1418 runners and a strict cut off time of 5 hours, 15 minutes. It is a linear route commencing in Nieuwport on the coast and finishing at Ieper ( Flemish spelling – they get a bit upset with the French Ypres ) It is also a mainly very flat course, following the river and meandering through countryside and small villages.

Staying in Ieper , there were buses provided to the start at Nieuwport  from 7.30 am at 7 euro’s . The marathon was 24 euro’s so, all in all, very good value.

Given the small, fast field, it isn’t long before the slower runners are fairly few and far between; which could make some feel a bit vulnerable.

I decided to stick with the 5 hour pacer and was quite surprised that I managed to keep with him until the half marathon point – especially given the weather, which was very, very hot.

After this, partly due to my foot and also because of the heat, I decided it would be wiser to take it a bit easier and that I would need to maybe walk – run the remaining distance.

Although you don’t actually see any of the war graves or monuments, the course passes very close by to some and you are very aware that you are running through areas that were devastated by war a century ago. There is also an option to have the name of a fallen soldier from your own country added to your bib on registration – I had Jimmy Duffy for inspiration.

The route, while being very flat and quiet, can also seem a bit relentless at times; with long flat country roads and lanes stretching off into the distance with little to distract. It is very beautiful and peaceful though.

I had hoped to eventually finish around the 6 hour mark, finding the cut off time adding a bit of pressure, but with my foot worsening and having to walk more and more; I really didn’t think I would make that. Fortunately, the frequent water stations gave plenty of opportunities to rest and reassess.

I eventually met up with another couple of runners, one Belgian and one Dutch, who had both completed this marathon in good time before but who were also struggling with injury. Subsequently, by cajoling and motivating each other through the last 3-4 miles (needless to say, their English was better than my Belgian or Dutch !), we managed a time of  5.48.

The iconic nature of the race, with a nice medal and great vest plus the PB potential; as well as the  the beautiful countryside, make the journey to this marathon well worthwhile.   I hope I can return, maybe in 2018 when the centenary of the end of the war will be marked – and maybe when I’ve been able to train a bit better !