The emotional highs and lows of marathon training can often leave you feeling a bout of emptiness within your soul. Various approaches can be taken to fill this void, some book up more races, some like to set themselves new goals and others like to leave these fair isles for a spot of relaxation. A healthy mixture of all 3 seemed ideal to me, I've set myself some speed base goals, booked in a race and packed my bags for the distant lands of Hungary.
Situated in Central Europe, Hungary is one of those countries that I had no idea where it really was and despite sounding the same, Hungary the country is very different to that ever so familiar post run state that I seem to spend an eternity in. After 2.5 hours unnaturally hurtling through the air in a large metal tube we arrived in the Hungary's capital city Budapest. I'd done a bit of research before i left (one google search) and I knew that within this city there were spaces in which the art of running could be conducted. This wasn't planned as a running holiday, so I was pretty relaxed with where I could go, the novelty of running abroad was enough for me. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with what Budapest had to offer. I managed to get in two runs in my time in the city and they occurred chronologically in this order:
The Banks of the Danube
The city of Budapest is comprised of two formerly separate cities, Buda and Pest which were originally sliced perfectly in two by Europe's second longest river the Danube. Naturally you would assume that this would have some tasty river banks to run along and you'd receive top marks for thinking that.
A quick interlude of caution to anyone looking to run along the Danube in Budapest, its best to stay on the upper level of the promenade, the paths closest to the river are constructed out of large cobbles, a lot of which seem to have gone awol.
I set off from my inner city hotel at around 7am and headed straight for the cast iron Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd). Budapest was having a bit of a hot flush whilst we were there, even at 7am it was roughly 25 degrees. I reached the Chain bridge and headed south down the Pest side of the city. It was relatively quiet out, a few fellow runners peppered the banks and as the sun shone I reached my happy running place. Feeling terribly optimistic about my abilities at one point I even tried to race a tram as it delivered tourists and commuters to their relative destinations. After a 1km (hey look I've gone all European in my measurements!) I reached the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet Híd) which was to be my second of three bridges I had planned to cross. Passing over the flowing grey waters of the Danube, I took in a deep breath and enjoyed the morning air. I was feeling relatively good despite the Palinka shots I had accidentally ordered the previous evening. After navigating a few crossings at the exit of the bridge I was now on the Buda side of the city. I continued south bound along a pedestrian and cycle path until I reached the sturdy looking Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd). I stopped here to take a few photographs to document the occasion then headed back to the hotel. It was at this point my IT band decided it wanted in on the action and flared up so I had to walk, but I had accomplished what I needed and there were 3 rounds of breakfast waiting at the hotel so I wasn't too upset.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
If there was one place I knew I needed to run in Budapest, Margaret Island was it. I had read about it online and some residence of Instagram had got in touch and said I needed to run there, so it was a must. Situated towards the north of Budapest, Margaret Island sits happily slap bang in the middle of the Danube.
There was good reason for the hype surrounding this place because it contained a little running gem A 5K RUNNING TRACK. I was a little trepidatious about running here, I was concerned I wouldn't make it all the way round after my IT band flare up and it was also 30C, weather that made this years London Marathon feel like a cold winters morning. Arriving on the island, we headed to the central Rose Gardens, my partner stayed here whilst I went and explored the track. I arrived at the 1.5km mark and was greeted by what one can only describe as a runners dream. Laid out before me, under a welcomed covering of trees, was a red track that just seemed to disappear forever in to the distance. I headed north, toward the top of the island with a sense of excitement filling my stomach. After a little distance I started to notice little markings on the floor. The first was a KM marking which was a nice touch, then I noticed a tap with an arrow which pointed out the nearest water fountain and then I saw that stick figure couple which universally indicated that there is a toilet near by. These little touches really show that a lot of thought had gone into this track, it wasn't just an after thought by a council somewhere, this was well planned and made the whole thing feel very special. As I reached the top end of the Island, the scenic views tailed off a bit, running past a construction site wasn't that exciting and neither was the guy having a pee in the bush, but I wasn't going to let that kill my joy. After about half an hour of steady paced running I finally reached my starting point, the track pretty much rang in at exactly 5k. I left that track with a nice little bit of joy in my heart, and also a slice of disappointment that a track like this didn't exist locally to me.
Gellert Bath and Spa
After 4 days of walking and running round the city, my legs and feet were full of woe. This was a perfect opportunity to visit one of the cities many thermal baths. We hit up Gellert Bath and Spa. It's 40C thermal pools did wonders for the aching limbs. Its slightly strange, essentially having a giant bath with strangers, but once you're over that, the limbs will thank you!
Budapest is a wonderful city. If you're into running and plan on taking a trip to Hungary I would highly recommend Margaret Island as the one place you have to run. It has a unique charm to it that I'll remember for a good while.