2010 Bucharest Marathon, Ex Ante

by Steven van Groningen on 9 October, 2010

The Bucharest Marathon, one week to go. There is nothing I can do anymore to go faster but a lot I can do to go slower. I have a special relationship with this marathon. In the first place, Bucharest is the city in which I ran my first marathon, in 1994. In the second place, Raiffeisen Bank, my employer, is the main sponsor. Most important, Valeria, my wife, is President of the Organizing Committee. (In case you see a conflict of interest here, yes, that is the case. No need to worry, it is properly managed). Reasons enough to run a full marathon again. I have run 15 marathons, including the one I did as part of my Ironman triathlon a few years back in Austria. Still, I am not getting any younger and time to train and facilities remain a problem.

Running Becomes More Popular in Bucharest

Nevertheless I succeeded in losing 10 KG of weight over the last few months and I have put in a reasonable amount of training. Last weekend I managed a 2:45 run on the uneven concrete slabs around Herastrau lake, the “official” running track in Bucharest (it says “Pista de Alergare”). Runners share this with increasing numbers of bikers and others that just go for a stroll. It is good to see that more and more people are running these days. In 1994 we  – I run most of the time with my wife – were the only ones and kids would shout “faster, faster” or “1-2-3, 1-2-3” after us and old ladies would shake their heads.

Biking Too, But Not Enough Bike Paths

It is also good to see more and more bikers. As sponsors of the I’Velo project from Green Revolution we are partially responsible for this.  My opinion is however that making bike paths on pedestrian areas is not the way to go. Not pedestrians should make way for bikes, but cars. We need decent, safe bike paths on the streets but that is another story.

Give Running A Try

The last two years I ran in relay teams with colleagues from the bank (the marathon is 4 laps of 10,5 KM, each teammember runs 1 lap) and it is good to see that more and more are participating. Sport has always been important for me. It has helped me to maintain balance in my life. I know it makes a difference and hope that more people will discover the benefits of running or biking (or other sports). If you want to give it a try or need more information visit Ro Club Marathon. If you decide to give it a try, why not sponsor one of the charities that support the marathon, Hospice Casa Sperantei or Viitor Plus ?

I Love My Wife

I am very proud of my wife who has succeeded, with tremendous efforts, to create an international accredited marathon in Bucharest. Marathons were organized before in Bucharest and we ran several of them, It was great fun and I have great respect for Silviu Dumitrescu and the others organizing those. Times were difficult, runners few. Besides several Bucharest marathons years back, we ran marathons in Stockholm, Chicago, Rotterdam, Budapest, Moscow, Amsterdam, Berlin, Athens, Prague, as well as many international half marathons. Valeria made it her personal project to continue the work of  others and to have an international standard, accredited marathon in Bucharest, the only EU capital city that was missing on the international calendar.

Race Preparation

Anyway, I am going to run and visualizing the race and going over the race preparation are an important part of my pre race routine and I  decided to share this on my blog. I’ll will comment afterwards on how things went. Nobody should take this as advice on how to prepare or run a marathon. I am a 52 year old banker and weigh 86 KG. I have different energy and water intake needs, different preparation, experience and heart rates than other runners.


Breakfast. This is a bit too early but Valeria wants to be at the starting area before 7:00 and I want to go with her. I want avoid too much fiber and will have white bread toast with honey and maybe some oat flakes with apple juice or soy milk. I’ll drink tea with honey.


Running shoes, lightweight running socks, shorts, shirt, start number with chip, safety pins, heart rate monitor, heart rate monitor belt, footpod (measures my strides per minute), layers of clothing, old t-shirt, energy gels, belt with bottle holder, 3 x 500m bottles with diluted fruit juice and sports drink to drink before the race, banana, toilet paper, body glide (sort of vaseline that I apply on strategic places in order to avoid irritated skin), telephone, something to read, backpack, plastic bags, change of clothes for after the race. Some bars and chocolate for after the race.


At the starting area. I’ll find a quiet place to sit, the Raiffeisen stand is probably a good place. I’ll bring something to read, but expect there will be plenty of people around to talk to. I drink from the bottles with water or diluted juice or sports drink that I brought with me. I’ll want to stay off my feet, be comfortable but not too hot or cold. Make sure to have several layers of clothing with me so that I can adapt to the circumstances. I”ll eat some more, bread with honey, bananas. Walk around a little bit and enjoy the atmosphere and talk to others.


Get ready for the start. Drink one coffee. Go to the WCs, bring some toilet paper to be on the safe side. If it is cold and/or wet, I”ll take an old T shirt and garbage bag so that I can keep a bit warm and dry before the start. Throw them away a few minutes before start.  I’ll also bring half a liter bottle of sports drink and a banana to the starting line and have them a few minutes before the start. I don’t do a warming up.

Enjoy the moment. The start of a marathon is always impressive, a special moment.


Start, don’t bother about being in the front. The chip will take care of correct net time anyway, the relay runners and half marathon runners will be faster, let them go.

First lap 0-10,5 Km

Try to hold back, focus on getting into a good rhythm. Keep an eye on heart rate and cadence (strides per minute) and keep within set limits. It is easy to start too fast because of the excitement of the start and you’ll pay for this later as I know from experience. Drink at least 0,5 liter when it is cold and 1,5 when it is warm.

Second lap 10,5-21 Km

Focus on efficiency, to run with the lowest effort possible. Keep cadence above 82, heart rate below 160. Remember that the first half is the easy part. Drink at least 0,5 liter when it is cold and 1,5 when it is warm. Eat something, maybe half a banana.

Third lap 21- 31,5 Km

Somewhere during this lap things will get unpleasant. This might very well during the climb behind Palatul Parlamentului to the Marriot, which is at about 29 km. Running 4 laps is great for the relay teams but now you know the hill is coming.  Another problem is the lack of spectators. In many of the marathons I have run there was a wall of people encouraging the runners and that helps. The climb to the Marriot will be a particular empty area, so be prepared. Try to relax as much as possible. Drink at least 0,5 liter when it is cold and 1,5 when it is warm.

Fourth lap 31,5- 42,2 Km

Just hang in there, keep running, be diciplined, drink and eat where possible, when feeling good push, HR will have drifted to above 160, no problem, try to keep cadence high, above 80.

Finish !!!

Hopefully in a time in between 3:30 and 4:00.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

ana October 9, 2010 at 13:41

Hi Mr. van Groningen,

I have just started running this year and I love it already, I run in the Kiseleff – Herastrau area and I absolutely love seeing other runners there too, it makes me feel like I’m in a Western country :). You are a real inspiration for being able to fit a heavy training schedule into what I imagine must be an already busy life. And I am most grateful to your wife and the whole Bucharest City Marathon organizing team for the efforts they are putting into this, I am very proud to have such a great event in my home city! So thank you and have a great run next week :)


SvG October 9, 2010 at 14:09

Thank you for you comment, Ana, great to hear you “joined the club” and keep running !


Oliver Olson October 9, 2010 at 20:48

Good luck next week! This motivates me to start being more active. If you can find time to run in the midst of your busy schedule, then I certainly have no good excuses.


SvG October 9, 2010 at 23:33

Thanks Oliver. When someone asks me how I find time for training I ask him or her a question: “Do you watch television ?” The answer is usually “Well, yes, of course”. I don’t watch TV and that gives me time to train.


Juan Huitz October 10, 2010 at 20:17

Best of luck! Sounds like you don’t need it though, you’ve got a plan and have prepared. I run too, but casually. I run around Herastrau lake. It is very annoying. Too many are packed on too narrow of a path. I’ve was nicked by a bike once. Frustrating, but a lot of things are here are and at the end of the day I suppose this doesn’t rank that high.


SvG October 10, 2010 at 21:11

Indeed there are not a lot of places where you can go for a decent run. It will take some time until we reach the level of the EU also in this respect. That is the great thing about the marathon, you can run undisturbed for a few hours through Bucharest. The city looks different !


Hadrian Lupu October 12, 2010 at 10:00

Thank you! You and your wife are doing a nice job by having given birth to this marathon, keeping it alive and helping it grow. I also remember running by your side at the DHL halfmarathon a few years ago. You and your wife “showed me the heels“ on the slopes leading downhill after Predeal. :)
You are right, running becomes more and more popular in Romania but the final breakout will only come if we Romanians manage to change our views about running and sports in general! Maybe less TV watching and more practising! The education system should be a driving engine in this direction, too.
Last year I run my first marathon ever in Bucharest. I have memories impossible to forget – my muscles, too :). The impression it made on me was so huge, that I started a blog afterwards (http://runnerwolf.blogspot.com) and wrote the history of the Bucharest marathon as I felt it. The Vienna City Marathon in this spring was the second story worth telling. And finally I decided that every marathon race run by me will find its place in this blog.
For now I wish you and all runners to “enjoy“ a nice race on Sunday!


SvG October 12, 2010 at 23:12

Thank you for your kind words, Hadrian. I loved the story on you blog, thanks for sharing and good luck at your next marathon !


frieder October 13, 2010 at 23:25

happy to read that you stíll love Valeria (!!!) and impressed to read that you lost 8 kilos! Good luck on Sunday and don’t give up making Bucharest a better place to live…
Warm greetings from Berlin


descultii-europei September 7, 2011 at 18:40

good luck for 2011 Bucharest Marathon. See you there.


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