I had no knowledge about Luxembourg other than it was one of the top three richest nations in the world, had lots of banks, was small, rubbish at football, a founding member of the EU and had won 5 Eurovision titles but not entered for 20 years. All of this was no help in knowing about the geography of the nation or indeed the same called capital. This meant I went with low expectations and I was rewarded in many ways.
I travelled over with Clive Tilbury - his fourth marathon as a supporter. After a 3 hour delay on the outbound flight, we reached Luxembourg City and our hotel mid Friday evening just 23 hours before the marathon would begin. It turned out the hotel was literally on the course and 200 metres from a point where the course passed four times.
Luxembourg Night Marathon
After breakfast on the Saturday we headed to Luxexpo for me to register and suss out Clive's supporting plan and travel. This would be my 39th marathon - marking the first time my age and the number of marathons ran would match! The event is a night marathon and started at 7pm. Having had a 10 minute massage to help my usual neck problem (and complemented Bodyfixed excellent regular sports physio at home) , we were left with the day to fill - an odd occasion as, with the exception of Stockholm (a 2pm start) in 2005, every other marathon has started in the morning. Clive and I headed off to explore Luxembourg City - discovering a spot where different drumming groups performed near Notre Dame Cathedral, walking some of the Chemin de la Corniche overlooking and down into the Gorges and appreciating what a gorgeous city it is - and therefore why it's a UNESCO heritage site with some fine eateries too!
We headed back to the hotel and I changed, updated social media before we headed to the start by bus (back at the Luxexpo). During the day we had gradually seen the junction outside the hotel transform from a major interchange into a marathon/half marathon route point with balloons, bars, temporary toilets and more appearing. At the start, we parted company so Clive could head back to the 8km point near the hotel and I did my usual bag drop, vasalining, and two toilet visits before joining the line up. The start saw the marathon, half marathon and marathon team relay all start together followed by a mini marathon and mini mini marathon half hour later. At 7pm, we were off.
Unwittingly I went out far faster than I planned and my first two miles were far too quick for a marathon pace - one being sub 7 minutes! Despite trying, I failed to get this under control with most of the first ten miles sub 7:30 (my target pace). I put a lot of this down to the amazing support from the locals along the route - they were out in force on most of this section, which buoyed me along. Unknowingly at the time, as I passed 4.4 miles (around 7km) I ran through my official 1,000th mile in marathon races. It must have subconsciously been in my head as I had a huge smile as Clive saw me about a mile later. I was actually laughing at him and how busy it was: neither of us had anticipated it being so packed and Clive's previous three marathons have been very much smaller affairs! (3 of the 4 smallest marathons in terms of participants I've taken part in).
We had a gentle slope as we wound round north of the hotel and Avenue de Victor Hugo through Limpertsberg and then headed back through the major interchange - I passed Clive again and headed into Parc-Ed-J-Klein, out and into the city centre - which remained packed as we wound round narrow streets creating an atmosphere like that in Canary Wharf or the Embankment in London. Any concerns I had about fatigue after a day walking etc were replenished by atmosphere. It was also interesting seeing how fast the city had converted into a marathon course when we'd only walked through two hours earlier without a barrier in place! At 15km in Place Guillaume II the half marathon veered left as we headed out into the suburbs of Belair. We reached halfway - according to my garmin 0.3 miles sooner than the halfway marker on the route but in 1:40:04 I was happy with my time and pace, which had finally slowed a bit and was settling.
Clive missed me just before this point as he couldn't get across the route due to runners! He next saw me as I headed over the temporary bridge whilst they do work on Adolphe Bridge at 28km. In the meantime I had lost all sense of direction as the course twisted around suburbs and another park. It made a good route as you had very few straights to be bored by. By the time I saw Clive the dark was beginning to settle and he was out with the Union Flag. The only one I saw all night - unusually as I've always seen more than one every other international marathon I've done. There were UK supporters out as they cheered seeing my shorts. The shorts also got Grossbritannien, grande Bretagne, Groussbritannien, L'Angleterre and UK shouted at me and being a multi lingual nation and a city of over 60% non Luxembourgish residents, I lost track of how many languages of encouragement I heard - though allez seemed the most popular.
At 30 km's we dropped into the floor of the gorge in the Citadel Gardens and passed back under Pont Adolphe and through 20 miles - and I was still running! (I usually peak at 18 miles!) The climb back up was a lot gentler and I picked up my pace a little as the cheering continued as we came past the station and as it was now approaching 10pm a few merry people were also on route cheering!! It also seemed more challenging running in the dark. I have frequently trained at night (not as late) but never raced more than 5 miles by night light. It was more bizarre having crowds out cheering and drinking etc as I ran past. Clive spotted me again but I missed him as I re-entered the city centre and more narrow packed streets - which kept me going as I hit 23 miles.
Above: view into the Gorge from Bock
Right: Going under the Bock bridge into same gorge
Below: Lucas doing some pull ups on a Marathon sign at the major interchange - after arrival on the Friday night
The finish line as viewed at 11am - 8 hours before the race start time.