Race Review – Vienna City Marathon

Oh, my God. You cannot comprehend the amount of times this scene played out.

RANDOM

Are you running the marathon this weekend?

DARREN

I am running a marathon.

RANDOM

London?

DARREN

No.

RANDOM

London?

DARREN

No. Vienna

(Pause)

RANDOM

(In the style of Ultravox)

Oooooh, Vienna

Over and over and over and over and over and over for about a month. Sure, it became annoying at times. I muttered like Muttley at some, cursed others, described them as original, comic genius, or just walked away or shook my head. My favourite was one of those “misheard lyric” situations, when instead of Oooooh, Vienna, the individual thought it was Oooooh, Theodore. For some reason in relation to a visit from Roosevelt when he was travelling through Europe in his early 20s. Me, though, I had another song in mind.

Vienna was on the cards last year. When I entered both my brother and me in the London ballot I thought we had Bob Hope of getting in. And, over the course of the months and months of waiting for them to release the result (basically forcing people to run for charity) I had decided that regardless of what happens we would run a marathon together, and that should be on the same weekend as London and so that would be Vienna, a city I had not been to, that I envisaged being beautiful and expensive.

Fast forward a year and yes, we both got in the 2017 VLM and he vowed never to run again. A vow he is keeping to. But this year, when not getting a spot again I said screw this and booked the number one race in Austria, a race with the much vaunted IAAF Gold Standard status. Oooh, I hear you say. Snazzy, I hear you coo. You just wait.

I flew in on the Saturday morning and headed pretty much to the EXPO. I do love a good EXPO and this could have been that if it had:

  1. Involved a single cab ride and not two as the dodgy idiot in the first decided that I had meant I wanted to go to the museum district, despite me showing him where I wanted to go on a paper map.
  2. I had checked my race bag and realised that there was no timing chip. And it is a 29 euro charge for not returning it.
  3. There had been race tees for everyone.

And, of course, it didn’t. As we, me and the Irish/Scottish contingent, drank big beers and ate deep fried something or other, there were mutterings of disappointment about the tee being only pre-order, other than very few that were picked off within minutes at the Adidas store at the EXPO. Very disappointing as Jackie and Andy wanted one, with it being Andy’s first marathon. I got mine. But I always read the first email as have been burned before.

THE ROUTE

I don’t ordinarily look at race routes too much, other than to include them on the blog. I do look at the elevation profile. That is important as you need to be aware if a dirty great hillock is on the horizon. But the route? What would be the point? I don’t know the city. And, much like the song, it means nothing to me.

It apparently, as I was told, started on a hill. This worried my crowd. But the actuality was that it started by the UN buildings on one side of a motorway/river spanning bridge. This was the hill. And, as far as I can recall, it was the only one.

There were actually no signs other than KM markers so I just trusted in mankind and followed the crowd along one bank of the Danube, along a motorway, out as far as a stadium on a looooong there and back, before a loooooooooooooooong there and back in a park that included my one and only toilet stop on what would be the hottest day of the year, and 5 degrees hotter than London. And then, a lap through the park, and a long straight to the finish.

HOW I DID

The start pens were weird. I was in Pen 4, which was after Pen 2, and before Pen 6 on one side of the road, with Pen 1, 3 and 5 on the other. WTF?  Jackie and Audrey were in Pen 5 and Andy 6. But you were mixed with the 21K runners and the relay runners. So I found myself surrounded by those pacing shorter runs and, before too long, I decided to drop down my pace for the sake of self preservation.

Somehow the lack of timing chip freed my mind somewhat, the only incentive I had to run faster was getting out of the heat (it was 29 degrees), whilst energy conservation was a decent enough excuse to slow down. By 10K we had collapsers, flat out at the side of the road, in ambulances full every 5K. The water stations, as shown above, were carnage, a sea of single use plastic cups, used for a swig, a swallow, tipped over the head then dumped on the floor along with banana skins and gel wrappers, creating a slippery sea of litter. I did, almost, come a cropper, at one station, bananas mushed into the ground, are not the stuff of stable footing.

As I saw a scaffolding tower in the middle of the route with 2 marshals on top, one with a 42K sign to the left, another with 21K to the right, I realised that there was the option to drop down. Sure it was touching 30 degrees, many people had collapsed, we were wading through seas of plastic cups and slipping on banana skins, quitting at half way was very appealing but I was not sold on the idea. What would Hunter S. Thompson do? To quote the great man, “we’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way to the end.” And so I took the left path. Sweaty death or sweaty glory awaited so I turned the iPod up to 11. “Turn up the fucking music. My heart feels like an alligator.  Volume! Clarity! Bass! We must have bass!

Park & Cycle coaches. I made a note about this. These utter toolsheds, and there were several of them, 3, or 4 I counted, got in our way, upset everyone, ignored the marshals, and even the police to cycle along next to their runners. It should not be allowed. One guy in particular, as his runner/gf/daughter/wife was running near me, he was cycling along, talking to her the whole way, at times filming her on his phone, so zigzagging his bike as he steered with one hand. Arsehat. They should be banned from the route. But this was not the first time I had seen it, and not the first time in big European marathons. Should not be allowed though, not in my opinion.

All I could think of, as the water stations, and slices of banana added the blue Powerade (Smurf piss) to their offering, was an ice cold cup of coke. According to the race booklet we would have coke after 30something KM. It was all I could think about as I ran along the Danube, the wide streets ignored for the chance of running in the shade for a few precious minutes. The 30KM water station did not have it. The next did not. I was starting to lose faith. But then, in the distance, I saw cups of brown liquid. Oh my God! I sprinted to it. I grabbed a cup. And took a big swig. But it was hot. Boiling hot. It had been left out in the sun for too long. Hot coke? Are you kidding me? After looking forward to it all day? I tipped it away, slipped off my hydration vest, pulled out a 10 euro bill and bought an ice cold can from a kiosk a few yards down the road. And it was fucking glorious!

Always (hot) Coca Cola

And, not far from here, the wide roads became the home straight. The PA system could be heard. Trees either side, cheerleaders, noise, music, crowds, cameras. I saw a guy in black a couple of hundred yards ahead of me,  a few others between me and him. I found the right tune and slammed my foot on the gas. I was sprinting, flying feet all the way, passing the runners, catching up with the man in black, and beating him over the line to complete marathon 21, but not number 23 towards the 100 MC club. That would have required an official time. And guess what I didn’t get?

The Medal

Talking about not getting what you were promised in the race brochure. Audrey did not get a medal. Well, she was given a sympathy Relay medal. That is not on at all. And Jackie and Andy got the last two medals and they finished after Auds. When people got to the Engravers they handed in the medal they were given at the end and were handed one already engraved with their name and time. A nice touch, probably due to being updated electronically, but not a nice touch when other marathon runners went without. With the Dnfs and Collapsers there should be more left over. With those who dropped down to the half there would have been more left over. With anyone who saw the temperatures, or didn’t train, or didn’t fancy it and bailed, the DNSs, would mean there should be, if anything, a surplus. So why for the love of Pete did dozens of people go without medals?

The Aftermath

Absolutely no response from their email for days (until I said I would be mailing the IAAF), or the twitter accounts as the organisers crow about seeing the president and the IAAF gold status. This is definitely a negative aspect when it comes to a lot of races, the organisers are all about getting you there, but tune out after the event as some clearly don’t care about runner opinions as they will always fill the race the following year with fresh meat for the grinder. Do they deserve their Gold Status? Survey says…

Customer Service?

They got back to me today (Wednesday), finally, and only after I said I would mail the IAAF and ask about how all the failings would sit with their Gold standard status? They moaned about being threatened. Apparently I am not a nice person, trying to find out why my friends did not get medals, or tees, and how I did not end up with a time for the marathon. Not nice at all. Bad Darren.

They said only 75 people did not receive medals. I know that is false. As I am sure they are not counting those who were fobbed off, like Auds, with a lesser medal. They did offer free tees for those who did not get them for a 7 euro postage fee. But I do not want a medal for me, I want Audrey and those who deserve them to get theirs, and I don’t want another tee, I want Auds, Jackie and Andy to get theirs. I would like the 29 euros back from the race for the timing chip I never got and therefore could not return. But they have ignored that. After all, why wouldn’t they? I am a bad person.

Scores on the Doors

It would have definitely scored higher if they hadn’t arsed so much up.

Summary

If it had been just me on this Austrian adventure, and all that had gone wrong was a lack of timing chip, then I would be talking this up more. But Audrey missing out on a medal is not going to sit well with me, especially as I let her rest, upset, in the park as I raced around looking for a medal for her under the pretense that I was getting us beer. There was no one from Vienna City Marathon around to speak to. And that angered me more. As did the t-shirt nonsense,  and running out of water on one of the hottest days of the year. As has the attitude of the organisers and their lack of communication until now.

I liked the route. I really did. I have run in a lot of cities and Vienna is quite beautiful in a lot of places. Running along the Danube was great, the financial district, the UN area, big, wide roads, all good, and was very grateful for the water taps being set up between the actual water stations. As I had decided to use my hydration pack (despite a few Twatter nay sayers saying they would not) my hydration on a crazy hot day was actually fine.

The ice cold Erdinger at the end, the unique bling, with the sparkly extra bling in the middle, I love. The tee is actually great looking too, the photos are superb. All good there.

This would have scored much higher if the medal, tee, timing chip, communications issues had not happened. It would have been up there with Barcelona, definitely top 4. But you can’t run out of marathon medals, not when you have a tonne of DNS, DNF, and drop outs at half way. Maybe some were reissued from the engraving tent, but Audrey didn’t get one, she got the relay medal. The fucking relay medal? Not on.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE VIENNA CITY MARATHON? If they can fix the medal, water, tee, chip, communications issues then of course.

WOULD I RUN THE VIENNA CITY MARATHON AGAIN? If they can fix the medal, water, tee, chip, communications issues then of course. Oh, and give me my damned 29 euros back.

NEXT UP:

THE BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION

TOWER OF LONDON 10K

And yes, it was, as first thought, Vienna was both beautiful and expensive.

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