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Published: October 22nd 2011
The Starting Line
The announcer who was trying to get the crowd revved up for the start had a great list of greetings in various languages. "For our English speaking guests, Welcome!" "Pour les francophones, Bienvenue!" and on through at least ten languages.
Last weekend was the Istanbul Marathon. Every year the second bridge is closed to traffic and the marathon starts in Asia and crosses the bridge to Europe. They say it’s the only marathon in the world that takes place on two continents.
Istanbul is split by the Bosphorus, which runs from the Black Sea down to the Sea of Marmara. There are only two bridges to get from one side of the city to the other, and they are unimaginatively called the “first bridge” and the “second bridge.”
I am not a marathoner and don’t aspire to be one. However, the opportunity to walk from Asia to Europe on a bridge that is entirely closed to pedestrians the rest of the year was not an opportunity that I could pass up. Happily, there is an option for those of us who do not run, or who have a recent knee injury. The “fun run” is commonly called the “bridge walk” and people here treat the marathon as an excuse to get out on the bridge. Several people told me that on nice days everybody brings food and has a walking brunch along the bridge. I may never be a
Who ever thought I would go to a marathon in my snowboarding coat?
marathoner, but I do hope to be an accomplished walking bruncher one day.
Several other teachers signed up for the fun run, which started after the real marathoners and half-marathoners left. We got up far too early for a weekend and piled in cabs to get to the start line before traffic got too bad. Last year almost 200,000 people participated (according to Hurriyet Daily News, the main Istanbul newspaper). I heard a lot about the possibility of the bridge collapsing and several people asked me if I had seen footage of the bridge that collapsed in Washington (
). The Istanbul bridges are much more modern: the first one was built in the 70s and the second in the 80s. But still. The wind here is impressive. And we get earthquakes. You never know.
Luckily the weather was absolutely awful, as you can tell from my pictures, so not so many people showed up. While we didn’t have to fight much of a crowd the storm did come with wind, as any good storm does. Most of my photos are smudged from rain on my camera lens or clouds of rain whipping by at the wrong time. I
Race to Europe
Few tried to pull out an umbrella on the bridge. I saw several blown inside out and one take off flying. Most people just accepted that they would get wet and cold.
still think the ones I included give you a pretty good idea what it was like. If you go back and look at the newspaper photos from last year’s marathon you see sun and smiles and an almost carnival atmosphere.
This year it was more along the lines of Orhan Pamuk’s huzun. We were all out on the bridge together, in the rain and cold, soaking in the misery of the beginning of winter and loss of summer. Even if marathoners come from all over the world for this event, and even if Istanbul is a very international city, I still felt like that was a cultural experience. The marathoners might have flown from Canada and Berlin, but the folks on the bridge walk were locals – or foreign teachers living locally.
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