Etyek 10km Cross-Country - Race Review
Chance to get out of the city. CHECK!
Cheap as chips? CHECK! Part of a series of races which will happen throughout the year? CHECK!
NOTE: we have a post in the works which will detail all of the remaining Futapest races plus information on how this series operates.
Runners from RCHU arrived in Etyek by bus from Kelenföld on Saturday to a grey and mostly desolate street. The 'inviting' neon sign of a Nemzeti Dohánybolt,
promising the usual wealth of un-health, was the only initial greeting. After a little search, though, it was possible to spy a folded over banner at the entrance of the school in Etyek, at which point all anxiety was shaken off as it read 'Futapest', the organiser of the day's event.
Etyek is a small village about 30km to the west of Budapest. Its main claim to fame is the array of vineyards which inhabit the rolling hills around the settlement. The bus journey away from the city takes just under an hour.
As is often the case, registration and facilities are supplied by a school. Here these were in two buildings. A friendly atmosphere prevailed through the registration process with cheerful people willing to support and be patient for lonely expats with an embarrassingly poor grasp of Hungarian. The registration for this race - and I believe all others in the series - was only 2000 ft which is amazing value all things considered.
The start of the race was a little way away from the warmth of the school buildings, so no-one was in a hurry to move. But, I don't think it was appreciated quite how far it was, so those participants who waited until the last minute had a panicked warm-up that consisted of trotting the 1km to the start line. The race began, more through general agreement that everyone had in fact arrived, than from any particular countdown; the race manager, obviously enjoying his role in the event, was wonderfully gentle and quiet as he spoke, almost in a whisper, "...három... ...kettő... egy..."
Now. Back to those rolling, vine-covered, hills. A slight thaw that morning changed what had only a few hours before been hard packed and frozen earth, into slick and clingy mud. There was some realisation that this was to be the case, at least one member of the RCHU party felt pretty smug about his choice of trail running shoes that morning, but it wasn't really clear quite how much of an effect the new conditions were to have on the experience and on times.
The course was essentially two rectangles which followed the outline of 'man-made' fields. These had little to do with the contours of the area, and the race felt a lot more interesting than the map suggests. It was only on the first major climb at approximately 4km that the mud showed itself. In equal parts a weight on tired legs, and a slippy surface overcome with each footfall, the mud added challenge to the event.
Times were slower all round, but in such races it is the experience which matters, the change of pace from city runs which build in an expectation of consistency in pace and times. When running cross-country one's approach must change. The course may be unfamiliar, ground uncertain or obstacles may block your path; it is the same for everyone, and everyone finds it in themselves to cope with the unexpected and to complete the race. Thus, expected times become irrelevant. This can be a freedom of sorts for a runner used to well trodden pavements and track.
The final approach to the finish was a good example. On first glance it would have seemed a gentle slope to a gaggle of spectators alongside the end of vine-rows. In reality it was a unstable mess of slippy mud. Each runner had to keep stepping in the hope of reaching firmer ground so as not to slide and fall in front of about 50-60 people. So with arms flailing wildly for balance each runner had one more unexpected challenge to overcome in the final 50 metres before salvation and a medal. FUN!
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we will soon have some information regarding other races in the series.