There are several ways to prepare for a race. Due some personal hardships and a gruelling month at work my training could be described as sporadic (i.e. non-existent). The Hard track of Bükki Kilátások* is 66.4 kilometres long, which is more than I ran in January and February combined, yet I chose to go anyway. I waited at the starting line with the calmness of a person who doesn’t stand a chance; my goal was to finish within the cutoff time. The only thing going for me was experience and what I like to call determination (others may describe it as stubbornness).
After picking up the bib I noticed that it is not made of the usual paper, but a cloth-like fabric akin to maps in collector’s edition RPGs or high-end tabletop games. It was by far the best material I’ve seen so far. If only the exact distances of the checkpoints were printed, it would have been perfect.
The weather was forecast to be on the cooler side, between 4-10°C, with 2°C on the mountaintops, so I opted for a warm long-sleeve above my Nike Pro T-shirt and a vest with a hood. I stashed a windbreaker coat in my backpack in case I got cold.
The previous days a copious amount of rain fell so the expectation was a very muddy track. In reality it wasn’t so bad, I’ve experienced worse, and the Nike Wildhorse 5 proved once again to have excellent traction even in slippery conditions.
Things started to go wrong after Szilvásvárad, around km 18, where the second checkpoint was supposed to be. We’ve been running together with another guy and wondered where the aid station would be, because according to the itinerary, we should already have passed it. When we asked fellow runners it turned out that we completely missed it… to this day I have no idea where it was supposed to be.
The problem was twofold. Firstly, I was missing a checkpoint so I couldn’t be sure to have an official time in the end or if I was to be disqualified. Secondly, and more importantly, it was also an aid station and I was running out of water at an alarming rate.
There were funny signs in the usual places where people tended to take a wrong turn in previous years’ races. (Sorry, no photo.) I have a recommendation for next year:
Don’t be like Peter who missed the Szilvásvárad checkpoint. Turn around, have your time registered and refill your water bottle at the aid station behind you.❌
From the village a pretty brutal ascent takes the runners to Istállós-kő (958m), the sixth highest point in Hungary. (We have wee little mountains.) The 2.4 km route took almost an hour for me, which is no wonder when within one kilometre one climbs more than 270 meters. The Hard part is in the name of the race for a reason, after all.
By this time I was spent. Done. I was out of water, weak, tired, and I started to feel cold so I put on my jacket as well. I decided to limp back to the third checkpoint and throw in the towel there at km 30. The point guards asked me if there was someone behind me, which I didn’t know for sure, but I was quite positive that I was dead last.
With the burden of the cutoff time alleviated I hiked back the way we came on a 10 kilometre descent to Felsőtárkány. The sun shone, birds were chirping and I was generally happy. I did not expect to run a great race — not training has its consequences — but I had a good time and I experienced the promised sceneries, seen snow, snowdrops, and friends. My only woe is that this way I did not get the headband from the finisher package. 😞
* Sceneries of Bükk (mountains)