On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How far is that marathon, anyway?

After careful consideration (read: a long run of 15k done over a month ago, followed by only about 4 runs in the past month), I have decided that I will not be participating in the Egyptian Marathon.

However, with an overnight train ticket and two nights in a hotel booked, both non-refundable, I will be doing the so-called “Luxor-Run” this Friday, an almost half marathon distance race of 22.289km. Yes: 22.289km.

I feel kind of lame that I’m in Egypt and yet couldn’t get myself together enough to run the marathon that I’m already registered for. On the other hand, I expected to have more free time than I did. I had none. I’ve been lucky to sleep 5 hours a night for the past three weeks and my whole time here has been full of junk food and stress.

To give you an example, I arrived in Cairo with 16 students. Yet 14 students showed up for the bus to the airport. The other two had gone missing, somewhere in Cairo, and were nowhere to be found and without cell phones.

So, it’s an easy half-marathon instead for me, once I hear back from the race director to confirm my registration change. I don't think it will be a problem. Each of the races, whether 10k, 22k, or 42k, is considered a "marathon" in their parlance.

I can’t complain: it’s supposed to be in the low 80s this weekend in Luxor and my hotel, which is on a secluded island, has an infinity pool that looks out over a gorgeous part of the Nile River. And also, a guaranteed PR at the 22.289km distance!


  1. Is that a picture of your hotel? I might be tempted to just sit by the pool and to heck with racing.

  2. Yes, Ian, we all know your propensity for bailing on races.

    That's a not very good aerial view of the hotel, yes. It's actually quite a lovely hotel. They have a petting zoo.

  3. Well, the petting zoo does it! I'm visiting. ;)

    Good luck at 'the marathon'. :)

  4. Low 80s? I am jealous...have you been checking the weather reports for the NYC area...its been freezing and some snow. Aron

  5. Good luck!!! Tell those students to have some tasty bevvies along the course for you ;)

  6. Heard about riots in Cairo today and immediately thought about you and your students. Safe travels.

  7. I've been staying on an island called Zamalek in the middle of the Nile, in the heart of Cairo but also completely removed from it. The people who live here are mostly expats and wealthy Egyptians. I was a little surprised that there was no echo of the demonstrations, at all here (except for empty streets), but there you have it. Thanks for the thoughts. So glad my students were long gone as I can almost guarantee they would have gone down to the site of the demonstrations in order to mix it up a bit. And then gotten tear gassed or arrested.