Nice little race in a charming town. I wouldn’t fly across the ocean for it, but it is worth a try if you are already in Belgium (or possibly France). This was the opposite of a big city marathon. 2018 was the second year of the race, which had less than 1,800 finishers.
Bruges (or Brugge) couldn’t be more charming if it tried. It’s a medieval UNESCO World Heritage Site that is known as the Venice of the North due to its extensive network of canals. It looks like a storybook and is definitely worth a day trip. However, do your sightseeing before the race, as you’ll be dead tired afterwards.
It’s an easy train ride from Brussels – 50 minute ride, and 3 trains per hour.
Flat and fast, for real. Although there are a few rollers, they’re so slight, you don’t even notice them. The largest elevation gain registered by my Garmin was an incline of 17ft over the course of a mile, but most miles were well below that. The first and last 2k of the race take you through the historic town center, which is really pretty to look at, but actually made the for the toughest running of the course. Pounding on cobblestone killed my feet, ankles, and knees. However, the rest of the course takes you through the Belgian countryside to the North Sea and back. Be warned: the course crosses an active train track, but they will adjust your time if you get stuck at the crossing. I’d estimate that 20 miles of the course is through rural roads or along the canal. It’s very scenic but very quiet, and there is no shade. If you’re someone who needs to be distracted during long distance runs, you probably wouldn’t like this race. If you enjoy peaceful runs out in nature, this one’s for you.
Support/ Supplies/ Spectators:
Water and a (local) sports drink (not Gatorade) was provided every 2.5k. They let runners supply their own drinks beforehand to be placed at the aid stations, but I was too nervous about the volunteers messing it up that I just carried my own Gatorade instead. No Gu or gels. They gave out bananas and raisins. I appreciated the bananas but couldn’t get past the thought that having runners stick their hands into open wooden crates of raisins was not sanitary. So bring your own gels or fuel from home.
There are virtually no spectators, except for a stretch along the beach when you hit the North Sea and the last 1k in Bruges’ historic center. The race organizers set up two cheering zones, but they were pretty sad. This is a runner’s race. You will be alone with your thoughts – good or bad. The race organizers asked people not to bike along the course, but there were people on bikes supporting certain runners. It was annoying and dangerous in spots.
The medal and finisher shirts were quite plain. Runners get a ticket for the Food Market and a free beer. The post-race food consisted of fancy cocktail appetizers, which were tasty but not voluminous. I was starving afterwards. Belgian beer was excellent. Run for the experience, not the keepsakes.
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"Marathoning is just another form of insanity." John J. Kelly, winner of the 1952 Boston Marathon