DASK Anatolia Mountain Marathon. Bolu Mountains, Turkey.
17th-18th July 2010

A figure loomed in front. Having dispatched a delicious meal, my 8th glass of wine, and with the camp fire roaring to the left I looked up at the smiling figure in front of me. What ensued was the largest, juiciest and most delicious slice of watermelon ever consumed handed to me by one of our hosts. It all feels slightly bizarre and dream like, although that could just be the copious quantities of Turkish wine, but here is a rough account of the last few days (and preceding week)...

E-mails like this don't come through very often: ... this year's event will be held on 16-18 July in Bolu Mountains (200km away from Istanbul). The event is offering to provide flight tickets and all expenses for 5 days in Turkey... I rubbed my eyes - flight tickets and expenses paid for 5 days in Turkey - and the opportunity to do yet another Mountain Marathon. No brainer. Three things had to happen - I needed to confirm that Andy could go, book the time off work and confirm that we would like to take up this uber generous offer from the organisers. The order of those three things was not quite followed as stated (!!) but after several phone calls and e-mails everything was sorted.

Thursday. Istanbul is very hot and very humid. Two seconds off the plane and it is already clear that we are no longer in Northern Europe... our bag containing many kilos of dried food had failed to keep up with our transfer sprint through Amsterdam airport so with our hand luggage only (luckily containing all race critical kit) we met Faika, a most wonderful Turkish lady who was to be our host, and we sped off to the mountains.

Friday. The place amazing. Pine forest as far as the eye can see in every direction. We went for a local reccie to check out the runnability of the forest, the tracks and paths and to get our bearings. Later in the day the other competitors started to arrive and much time was spent on introductions, eating and snoozing. We learned our start time at the evening briefing - 5.33am - and headed to bed.

Saturday. Dawn had just broken, we were given our map and checkpoint co-ordinates and were off. We had a plan. Make the most of the fast ground to run at a high tempo, use handrail features as much as possible to avoid getting lost in the forest, slow down on the approach to checkpoints to avoid a LAMM like disaster and imbibe electrolyte drink . We blasted through the first day and into the lead by Checkpoint 2 and after heading high over the mountaintops dropped back down to the overnight camp for a much needed leg soak in the cool river.

Sunday. Again an early start which avoided the heat of the afternoon. Using the same tactics as Saturday we soon ran into the lead again and romped this shorter second day, which was predominantly on lower ground, in good time. The lack of high running meant that there was no cooling breeze as there had been on Saturday, and the obligatory leg cool in the river at the finish was more of a get-your-body-temperature-back-to-something-resembling-normality exercise necessary to avoid passing out on finishing. Back to Sunday evening and after a wonderful afternoon of banter and the prize giving it was time for dinner with our amazing hosts from DASK, Turkish wine and watermelon...

Monday. I was sad to leave the mountains and all of the awesome event organizers who had made us so welcome in their country. After yet another delicious Turkish breakfast we departed. Istanbul was still very hot and very humid and we were greeted by our hold bag which had been hanging out in lost property, at least we don't need to buy any more food for our trip to Sweden next month. Back in Glasgow it was blissfully cloudy and cool, what an awesome weekend.

Official results have yet to be posted but we won the long category (which was quite similar in distance and elevation to the longest course in the Highlander Mountain marathon but on faster ground) ! .

Sam Hesling


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