In Flanders Fields / Ieperfest – The aftermath

Alarm clock. 07:30. I get up and get dressed. You snooze, you loose, especially if the remainders of hurricane Bertha are headed your way and you’re about to go for a 76k run. Every k I can do before it hits is a plus here. I have big breakfast, pack my stuff and at 08:00, I start running. Ypres, here I come!

The first leg of the route is kind of boring. After about 3k, I’m out of the city centre and then it’s basically a straight road for the next 10k. Luckily, the new Mastodon album is amazing and I’m going strong. Still, I’m happy I can get away from the cars. It’s 09:00 and I’m way ahead of schedule. 13k when I should have done 11. Oh well, plenty of time to worry about that later.

Some small streets and my first wrong turn of the day. Nothing bad though, minutes later I’m back on track and arrive at the Leie. This is where things get more fun. For the next few hours, I’ll be running next to the water on small bike tracks. Time for some Rise & Fall!

In no time I reach Deinze and cross the city centre. I arrive at the Brielmeersen, a recreation park which I kind of know. I decide to go through the park instead of around it. Bad call. I end up at the wrong side of the canal I’m supposed to follow for the next leg and have to retrace my steps. A 2k detour. Oh well, it’s not going to make all that much of a difference, is it? Back on track, next to the canal where I would stay for at least 1.5h, straight to Ooigem. A mild headwind kicks in, but nothing bad. If this is all Bertha’s got, bring it on!

It isn’t all Bertha’s got. A drizzle first, but soon that drizzle becomes a pouring, steady rain. On the positive side, after just over 3 hours, there’s “only” a marathon left to go. I put on my rain jacket and decide not to let the rain spoil the fun. I reach Ooigem and switch canals. The new one will take me more or less straight to Izegem.

Not much to tell about the in-between bit here. Rain though. Lots of it. Still going strong and I’m way ahead of schedule, despite the small detour. In no time I reach Izegem. Kind of special since it’s on of those Belgian cities that used to have a really active hardcore scene. Good times were had here! The running promises to be less enjoyable from here onwards though: away from the water and no man’s land from here onwards. I exit Izegem and dive into the vast fields.

Uphill. who knew there ware actual climbs in the flattest part of Belgium. This wasn’t part of the plan. I’m starting to feel my legs. But I’m getting closer too, only 26k to go. And on the upside, after every climb, the descent feels like I’m flying. Still doing over 12k an hour here. I go in and out of Moorslede in no time, back into the never-ending fields. Nothing much to tell except for rain & wind maybe, but I think there’s no need to keep repeating that bit. I reach Zonnebeke. Super close now, 10k to go. I stop at a small bakery to buy a coke. The amiable lady jokes about being thirsty in weather like this. I’ll laugh at anything now. “You have a long way to go?” – “No, almost there. I’m headed for Ypres, so 10k, give or take.”

I continue. About 6k to go when I pass “Saint-Charles de Potyze“, a cemetery for French soldiers who died during WWI. I stop to take a picture, but the call of the Menin Gate is strong now, so I decide not to stall too long.

With about 3k to go, I see the gate. I’m there. Never mind those remaining 3k. I’m still feeling quite good, the legs are holding it together nicely, still doing 12k an hour. As planned, I stop under the gate for one minute and then continue. 2.5k to go. I’m flying. Through the city centre, take a right, the Poperingseweg, over the muddy field, to the entrance! I have arrived! All in, I’ve done 79.3k in 6 hours and 47 minutes, stops included.

I head for the backstage, looking for Fay who brought my fresh clothes (thanks again!). Funny looks at my outfit. Hey, not everybody likes there pants baggy, ok? I find Fay in the kitchen and I’m immediately rewarded with pads on the back, food, drinks,… it feels like coming home.

I try to stay out of the way of the kitchen crew, somewhere in a corner. And while I do so, I’m thinking (as if there wasn’t enough time for that during the run here, right?). I’m thinking about wars. Ypres will do that to you I guess, no way around it. I’m thinking about Syria, Iraq, Israël, the Central African Republic. Don’t expect me to pick sides on any of these conflicts as I know too little about them to judge any party involved. But I’m thinking… here I am, at what feels like a second home, while millions out there don’t even have one. We are truly lucky. Even when they announce the remainders of a hurricane on the very day you planned to do a 7 hour run.

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