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Astana Marathon, Bewertet am 15 September, 2019
I was very excited to run this race as part of a Central Asian sojourn before the KL Marathon. It was my 20th race of the season and having arrived in somewhat blustery Astana (Nur-Sultan) at well pas... I was very excited to run this race as part of a Central Asian sojourn before the KL Marathon. It was my 20th race of the season and having arrived in somewhat blustery Astana (Nur-Sultan) at well past midnight, and less than 36 hours before the race, I was a bit tired - especially since I had arrived from south China and had been running throughout SE Asia during the previous 5 weeks. So for those runners who enjoy the northern Kazakh steppes in early autumn and the temperatures that range from 6-16 degrees C, well then this is the race for you! For me, it was an abrupt change of pace - although i had expected it - from the milder climates at the lower latitudes. But honestly, the cooler temperatures actually provided great running weather. The race, including pre-race bag pickup and post-race festivities were well-organized, as was the race route and the water stations, which although being 5km apart were well-stocked (except for some of the latter ones that ran out of isotonic beverages fairly early). There were also portable toilet facilities at each of the water stations spaced 5km apart, although I preferred "au naturelle" usage of the surroundings. The race course is fairly flat and fast, although the street pavement is a bit broken in some areas. The pre-race warm-up was well-designed and the event started on time, at least for the full marathon runners. Overall, the course - as promised - passes through the central areas of the city and extends out towards the northeastern suburbs, crossing the Ishim River. It thus provides access and visibility of all of the governmental and administrative buildings and structures that lead to Astana/Nur-Sulran being dubbed the "Dubai of Central Asia". The course even extends towards the older and more mundane northern and north-eastern neighborhoods, thus providing a sense of more regular residential and commercial areas. The course then turns and repeats some of the same distance, although usually along different streets, so runners have a chance to absorb new sights in similar neighborhoods. There were two bridges that cross on the north and south sides of the river that were part of the course, along with an brief underpass crossing. Besides that, the course is essentially flat. Heading south, towards the finish line at the World Expo Park area, there were some gusty headwinds but honestly not too bad. I ran in a long sleeve shirt covered by a tank top but wore shorts and I still felt a bit hot towards the end, especially when the sun briefly appeared at times, but overall, it was pretty chilly. Many folks ran in full running jackets and pants while a few brave ones ran in tank tops and some women even had their bellies exposed while running in sports bras and shorts or long pants - so to each his own. I didn't see a single African runner participate and it appeared as if there were very few foreign runners, of either Western or Eastern background. Of course, there were many locals and probably some Russians who crossed the border to participate as well. The race director is a joy and she has tremendous passion for developing the event further and also for the volunteers and staff that she leads. There was a glitch with the pre-race pasta party not starting at the scheduled time in the luxurious Hilton hotel, where the bag pickup was also taking place. However, the race director quickly worked to mitigate the issue. I was also pleased that given the lack of sizing information when I had registered online, I was allowed to freely exchange my XL running shirt to a proper M size that better fit me, without any hassles during the back pickup. I also liked the gawky and unique design of the running shirts and the long-sleeve nature of the shirt...because I certainly needed to wear it given the 8-degree temperatures at the race start! I would recommend this newly emerging race to anyone who wants to visit KZ and Central Asia and who wants to challenge him or herself to run through an exciting new metropolis under early autumn conditions that may be more chilly than what one might expect back home. Not many foreigners seemed to be registered for the event -- I am actually pretty chatty and I didn't meet anyone from other countries except Russians, so that should provide a uniqueness factor to future prospective overseas runners. Also, I met some KZ runners who traveled for nearly two days on local trains to participate, so stories like that leave me numb given my relatively neager 7.5-hour flight to the event location.
06 September, 2019
The 10km race (no half marathon event) was circular in nature, just like the full marathon. Within the last 15 minutes that I was on the course, the weather conditions changed immensely as compared to during my run on the earlier part. For example, first it was a bit windy, then bright sunshine appeared and it warmed up for a few minutes and then shortly after I had crossed the finish line, intense rain and dark clouds appeared. It is a pity that there could not be more post-race festivities, but it was simply unpleasantly chilly/cold -- I did start to shiver, and ti was simply not comfortable weather for folks to continue to hang out after finishing. It was also great to see runners who had finished earlier or who had run the shorter 10km race spending time to high-five runners on the course as the former walked back to their homes or to catch public transit. There were also some early finishers or 10km runners who were holding up signs and cheering during the last few kilometers of the track, at the turning points near the finish line. That was great to see and they were motivational - although I'm certain that they scattered once the heavy rains started after the sunshine quickly ended. So for volatile weather - either pro or con - this is a great race to challenge oneself in new conditions and while seeing some other-worldly sights along the core area of an amazing new city that is just over 20 years old. Having run through China extensively, new city landscapes are common to me, as they appear in many marathons, but there is still a special, intriguing charm to the Astana course and to the race's overall remoteness and, hence, exotic appeal -- despite not taking place on a desert island.
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