Race Review – Liege Beer Lovers Marathon (Okidoki, Dr Jones)

 

The original plan had been to run as the Ghostbusters. There would have been four of us and so the Guinness World Record and a beery time could have been had by all. But, with me being solo I decided, given the theme was “heroes” to go as one of cinemas greats – Indiana Jones. I got the hat sent from Universal Studios, the shirt from a Cosplay company, fast wicking Craghopper trousers, the idol from Ebay cast to order, and then the whip. Not sure Indie got his from Pleasure Palace online, but it would do the trick.

Deciding or not whether to dye my beard after trimming it, maybe that is too much of a cry for help, signalling yet another midlife crisis. Also what would the real life people say? Running a marathon dressed a Indiana Jones is one thing, almost expected I’d say, but dying my stubble? That’s just too weird. I’d never live it down.

Guinness Book of World Wankers

After cancelling the Ghostbusters record I applied to run the fastest marathon dressed as Indiana Jones, applied and the cocksuckers at GWR said no, it was too specific, and why not apply for the fastest marathon dressed as a movie character. This was impossible as the record is 2 hours something by some dude dressed as Forrest Gump. And too specific? Seeing as they have records for any old shit nowadays including most fucking Custard Creams eaten in a minute, they could have let it go. But no, after the lifeguard half issue I had with them, this did not change my opinion of them, and their assessors are a massive group of Bellends. They probably have the record for that too. Or is it too specific?

Drink Fit

Getting drink fit is a real thing. You can’t just go into a drinking session cold. So the day before I warmed up with 3 beers and an unexpectedly large half wine glass of Limoncello, oh and the beer festival at packet pickup.

Beer Festival and Packet Pickup

You know the phrase “couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery”? One line was coming out of the Race HQ when I got there, and it was already around the whole open area and out onto the street. And it only got longer. The issue was that, despite there being 4 queues inside the tent (0-500, 501-1000, 1001-1500, 1501-2000), there was only one going into it. It was the whole Manchester Marathon bagdrop 2016 in reverse and it annoyed the shit out of me. On top of that, ON TOP OF THAT! They came around asking if you wanted a beer, and then charged you for it as you queued for what seemed like forever.

Once in though it was slow too. There had been some issue with the race numbers and, despite being given a number in the mail, one that we HAD to print off and HAD to bring with us, we ended up with another number. Mine? Well, I guess I was drunk and had a cold when I signed up for this one.

Cups Up

I am a big fan of races trying to limit their footprint on the planet. In the UK races are trying to stop single use plastics being used for bottles and cups, some are telling you to bring you own, others are trying out compostible paper cups. At the Liege Beer Lovers Marathon they issue you with the solution, a bib and cup holder belt and a cup.
After finally escaping with my number, race tee and cap it was time to head over to the beer festival. There were 15 guest beers out on the route. Here, at the festival you could try them out. You pay for glasses then tokens to get to try the beers that will be out on the race. It was a great atmosphere and nothing says “I mean it” quite like spending the day before a beer marathon drinking beer.

The Plan

  • Jog walk drink
  • Jog walk climb
  • Jog walk drink
  • Jog walk medal
or
  • Drink the ups
  • Drink the downs
  • Drink the flats

The Route

The Race

It was obvious pretty early, as I watched the 1,800 runners milling about in Place Lambert, home of the Race HQ, Beer Festival, start line, finish slide and bus station, that virtually no one opted out of the choice to wear costume. It was like the Goodwood Revival, or Bacchus, where you do stand out if you are in running gear. I stood with a French group in matching yellow tees. I was a little concerned that I was going to roast in my Indie kit, and one of the guys said it will be a struggle. But he also said that the last time he ran it half the runners did not make the 6 hour 30 cut off. I planned to, though.

“Ils sont fous ces romains”

The start was pretty abrupt. Suddenly a few people around did a half assed Mexican wave and then we were off, and things were already a little tricky for me. Losing the cross body satchel, in which I had originally planned to carry the idol, before the race meant I now carried it. I therefore only had one hand free. The whip, shaped around my body and held together with cable ties (glad they didn’t open my case on the way. Cable ties and a whip?), was flapping about and annoying me. I had to hold that with my spare hand but then to my right I heard either Bananaman or a 6 foot, semi bearded Wonder Woman say “Indiana Jones has lost his cup,” prompting me to look down and see it had come free from the belt supplied. I had to stop, fix the cup in place and decided to bin the whip at the next bus stop. It would not be the last costume change of the day.

The start was a short loop back to, well, the start after a long incline bending around our main drinking square. And then we started up toward the famous steps, the Montagne de Bueren and an immediate traffic jam.

374 steps 5K into a marathon? But, you know, whether it is a set of steps, or a river crossing, or a mountain, or a suspension bridge, or a woodland trail thick with mud, it is just the next challenge, the next thing to run up, climb, cross, run through or over. So turn that frown upside down and channel your inner S Club 7.

Don’t stop, never give up, Hold your head high and reach the top Let the world see what you have got, Bring it all back to you

It was the breakfast check point too and first beer stop. It took an age to get to the bottom step. As the beer was one of those hot Bovril looking dark Belgian beers I decided on giving it a miss and ran behind the beer tables of volunteers and hit the steps running. I am ok with steps. It was pointed out to me that I ran the Vertical Rush Tower 42 race twice, climbing 932 steps in 8 minutes. And that I regularly run up the 232 at Hampstead station. I would counter with “yes, but I didn’t have to run 23 miles afterwards,” but I got their meaning. It shouldn’t have been a struggle. And, truth be told, it wasn’t. I met support crew teamster Jen Morris a third of the way up, taking photos of the spectacle. She seemed to be having fun. We chatted on the way up to the top and then… well, it was more of an incline and then yet more steps up to a cenotaph, statue, something. It was here that costume change #2 took place. I was sweating more than Gary Glitter’s travel agent and had to stop. Fortunately my Indiana Jones trousers were fast wicking Craghoppers with zips mid-thigh that allowed me to take off the legs, turning them into shorts. Phew. Some sort of relief, and then the next few KMs on a downhill through a spiralling park.

It was then that it all came to a grinding halt again. First, the next beer stop was a mess. With the beer poured out from a few jugs by volunteers, the sheer number of people meant you were standing around for ages. Same for water too. It meant you were stuck, you could listen to the band or, as a group of guys dressed as Bob Ross did, you could paint a scene. I didn’t get a photo, but they all hung a canvas on the fence and then painted. It was brilliant.

The second grinding halt was a KM down the route and we just couldn’t work out the bottleneck. Hundreds of us were stuck at a single path, climbing over a boulder to get onto it, but it wasn’t moving. It took 5 minutes to get to the rock and another 5 to get slowly up the path to discover…. A photographer, assistant, and flash setup. They were taking professional photos, posed, and it was causing a massive traffic jam. Still, if that is the only photo that comes out, I am ok with that.

There was another dark as treacle beer at the next stop, needed a cup of water to wash away that bonfire taste, and then came the first bit of actual running. A single person wide country trail ran for the next couple of miles. The runners all formed up and you were a stride ahead of the person behind, and behind the person in front. Low hanging branches, tree roots, rocks, other trip hazards, stinging nettles. There was little room for error, especially with someone on your tail, and so for a while at least, the fun went out of the race and we all had to focus on not ending up in a pile up.

It was a relief to come out into a residential street and pause enough to take off my felt Fedora and relax a bit. The hat and shirt were killing me. I was sweating like Michael Barrymore at a pool party and chafe was already apparent on my right nip and between my thighs. I knew I should have gone as 1966 Bobby Moore, despite it being a bit too easy a costume choice. I decided to call in the race equivalent of FEMA and asked Jen to bring the race issued tee and baseball cap to one of the cheer points. The organisers had put together a map of a walking route that allowed supporters to cheer at several points, the next being 28KM.

And that kept me going as I went through a couple more beer stops before a really long there and back along the river to a small Island where a rave in a tent was taking place. I was sweating like Joseph Fritzl at a family reunion and decided to bin the poor idol. The bins in Liege having narrow entry with a metal divider (stopping people throwing anything bulky away), as soon as I found one without a divider I tried, but I guess movie based fertility idols are too bulky too.

It meant that finally I could run. After a loop of the island, going back across the bridge onto the west bank of the river, I ran with a group of sailors and their cyclist buddy. That wound me up. It has happened at a lot of races that I have been to, mostly in Europe, where someone cycles next to a runner. It is a danger. It happened a lot at Vienna, so much the police tried to stop them. Here? No one did. Later I would see several runners cheating too, taking the city bikes onto the course, or getting backsies, and a group dressed as firefighters (in the loosest sense) did the whole thing on scooters. How was that even allowed?

Half way bizzzitches

Up the river and I actually remembered this bit from the map. Up one side of the river, cross to 28KM, up the river 5KM, then back to 38KM, then around to the main station and then kick for home. It put a spring in my step and I met up with Jen at the giant gnome and a salsa band, swapping the chafey shirt for the race tee, the Indiana Jones hat that was now soggy and looked more like it belonged to Paddington, for the race cap, and enjoying the greatest cold can of Coke ever.

The next bit, the 10K there and back, was my least favourite part of the race. You literally ran up one side of the river (there was a beer stop on a boat, that was cool, dangerous but cool), then one before crossing the river, before the there and back goes into the woods, a loop where you hit another beer stop and were given the after party wrist band (I assume you needed to make it to 30K to earn it) and then back. I do not like there and backs. You are always looking for the turnaround point in the distance. Here? You never saw it, as you looped back through the woods.

Still, once on the way back I knew I would be fine, despite the beer stops and bottlenecks. My watch had a brain fart and decided it no longer had enough battery life so turned off HRM and GPS, estimating the rest of the race based on average pace I am guessing. I kept up with two Norwegian Vikings who hadn’t disrobed and were dripping with sweat in heavy furry cape, helmets and numerous layers until at 39KM I met up one last time with my teamster by the amazing Liege-Guilleme station for a cold can of orange Fanta that tasted better than God’s own sweat.

Ahoy, mateys, climb about the beer boat.

And then it was a run to the finish. 3KM of winding city streets with the Vikings, two more beer stops, including one at 42KM that was particularly popular. I am guessing a lot of runners stay there and party here, dancing and singing until near to the cut off, and then leg it around to the finish under 6.30 to still get the bling. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Running back into Place Lambert there are finally crowds cheering you on, you are guided away from the finish arch though and up a set of stairs to the roof of the bus station and then you turn. I couldn’t see a way down and so waited for a girl dressed as Obelix, complete with inflatable menhir and a guy, who’s costume I forget, and it became apparent that the finish was down a 20 foot slide. Up a ramp and then weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Hopefully those photos came out.

Marathon 8 of the year and 39 towards the 100MC complete, beer, sun, more costume changes than Lady Gaga at the Grammys, great team support and somehow done. Gear change saved life at 28k. Wearing the full Indiana Jones was a bad idea. I must’ve been as mad as a wax banana. Drunk runners still coming through town late in the evening, long after I’d finished, swam, spent time in the  jacuzzi, sauna and had eaten. I’d like to see stats of how many finished in under 6.30. Slide was an interesting finish. I bet that is a real picture if drunk.

Bling
It is a bottle opener and it has the fact this year was a hero run. I like it.

Scores on the Doors

There was very little local support and I didn’t really enjoy the two huge there and backs or my costume, hence the low personal enjoyment score, but it was pretty solid as races went. Around town, on the train back to Brussels and even on the Eurostar to St Pancras, where they took over the restaurant cars, the blue cap and shirt wearing runners were a highlight.

Summary

It was a good weekend away. Liege is a nice little city, the city of alleyways, but also it has a homeless problem that is a little in your face as they are drunk, drugged or both. It was Whitsun weekend so the place was dead as the proverbial door nail, and much of the city was closed. It is definitely a race to do in a group. I pootled around well under the cut off, even with the clusterfucks at CPs and bottlenecks for photographs. It had a great atmosphere. There wasn’t much support to be fair. It had a lot of uniqueness. I do like the tee and was grateful for it and the cap. I didn’t like people cheating on bikes or scooters. And everyone dressed up. I literally cannot wait for the photos.
  • Would I recommend the Liege Beer Lovers Marathon? YES!
  • Would I run the Liege Beer Lovers Marathon again?  Yes, but only in a group
  • Would I do it again as Indiana Jones? No. Stupid fucking idea.

In one sentence – IF YOU ARE A FUN RUNNER LIKE ME THEN THIS RUN IS DEFINITELY FUN

  • Favourite Costume – Frida Kalho
  • Least Favourite Costume  – Not sure those guys should really have done Cool Runnings in black face

Was Indiana Jones the right choice? If I had my time again I’d have gone as that scandi eco kid Greta Thunberg, but then I would have looked like an old guy in pig tails and that may have been more creepy than cool.

NEXT UP: THE WALL

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