Roberts and Fumis Marathon-relay

written by Robert Szemere


Home run:  A narrative of a Marathon-relay with Fumiaki in the city I was raised

One may find this article rather long and too personal. However, I felt that I must put my most memorable race in context of my short running history. What I feel fast, is only fast for some of us but not comparable with the Word-Class performances of the top Basel Running Club runners. Especially, I was thrilled by reading the news on David’s 10 km PB or the 2:52 Marathon of Maren (with David). But time is not everything.  I was so happy when Astrid finished her first marathon or when Serena and Jason completed the Boston Marathon despite of the pouring rain and cold. I feel so lucky to be part of BRC, to run with others and follow the guidance of the excellent trainers. Wearing the club jersey gives me more energy than any gel or bar. Before the details a few words from Fumiaki.

The run from Fumi’s view.

Despite lack of course marshals and some confusion at the relay exchange points between the relay for 2 and relay for 4, the Budapest Marathon event was well organized and its ambience was great.

Following a disappointing performance of 3h31 at the Berlin Marathon (2 Majors completed) three weeks earlier, the weekend in Budapest was more than just exceptional.

Now a 5-time sub-1:21 half marathon finisher, three of them in 2018, I am looking forward to participating in many more half marathons in Switzerland and abroad (ex: Budapest Spring Half Marathon, Great North Run, Edinburgh Half Marathon). What is more interesting is that the New York City Marathon (one of the six majors) accepts half marathon as qualifying time alongside marathon time. By meeting the qualifying time of sub-1:21 in my age category, I would be eligible to apply for a place via Guaranteed Entry application. It would be a dream come true to run in my birthplace.

More details about the New York City Marathon at:


Before Budapest, a short running autobiography

When Serena shared the Budapest Marathon event on her Facebook I got super-excited. Coincidently, it was held a day before my mother’s birthday.  I felt I had to run in Budapest during its biggest running festival (with family walk, runs from 500 m till Marathon) on the 6-7 October weekend. What can be nicer than a long weekend with family celebration and my first major run in the city I was living for 33 years? After all I was not a runner, not even a jogger but a lazy chap during most of my life. I could only recall a 11 km running event back in 1995, where I had to walk the final kilometres, and a Marathon relay for 6 a few years later. I was tempted only once, in 2007, to run the major Budapest Half-Marathon, advertised as an “achievable target for everyone”. I meant it too literally. Just two months before the race  I started with 10 km runs out of the blue at a time when my sport consisted of 1-2 fitness or swimming sessions  per week. With this fatal mistake my adventure unsurprisingly ended with a strong pain and limping in just three weeks. The newly purchased running shoes ended in the wardrobe and I started to run again just last November on the week of the Basler Stadtlauf. One week later I was at the start of the Allschwiler Klausenlauf after which I decided to give another try to the Half-Marathon. In March the almost forgotten dream became true. From that day on I could not stop, and participated at several running events.

I initially planned to enter the 30 km race in Budapest as a training on my route to the Valencia Marathon. That 30 km is quite unique as the runners enter the Marathon course at 12.2 km, one by one, based on their planned pace, joining  the Marathon runners with similar pace. However, when Fumi talked to me about his own family gathering in Budapest and asked me whether I would like to run with him, I was thrilled by the idea. I knew that he was a nice modest, and fast runner, and he knew that my 1:27:41 HM PB from was far from his sub 1:20 HM PB.


The weeks leading up to the big day

Looking at last year’s result we realised that we have a good chance for a podium place, without forgetting that competition can be stronger this time. The prospect of finishing among the fastest teams was stimulating. During my 10 months of running life I never aimed for a podium place, but in Aargau I felt the sensation of getting a medal at the very first run as BRC member. Fumi and I had a few trainings together in the weeks leading up to the big day, and I was thrilled by the freshness of Fumi right after his Berlin Marathon. Myself, being in the middle of the Marathon training I  was unsure whether with only a few speed sessions I can get close to my best time.

The first ever pre-race anxiety caught me on the plane. I was overwhelmed by the sensation of running in Budapest, representing the BRC in a relay. We aimed to put the Basel Running Club (BRC) on the Budapest map.


The big day

I planned the race much more carefully than any other race. I looked at the locations of the refreshment points, and decided to take some water or Gatorade in every 6 kms. I also prepared myself, that I would enter the course in a group of runners faster than me and consequently I would be overtaken continuously.  I also expected to run alone during the entire 20.4 km (the organisers divided the Marathon to 21.8 and 20.4 kms).  Fumi lined up at the start 1.5 hours before the starting time for he can start right after the elite runners. Indeed, he managed to pass the starting line within 5 second after the horn signals. There were 8000 Marathon runners at the start, plus the 1700 runners of the relays for 2 and for 4. The relay runners wore a race bib also on the back, for they can be distinguished from those running the Full Marathon alone.  The course consisted of a short and long loop, allowing the supporters to see the runners passing twice the finish line. I also arrived to the relay point quite early for I could cheer Fumi at the 4 km mark. He was just minutes from the leaders of the individual race.  My anxiety has gone during the long warm-up.  Fumi arrived second to the relay point (with a 1:23:31 time for 21.8 km, very close to his sub 1:20 HM personal best.)

Finally, I was moving, but something was not right in the first km or two. While I looked to my pace and Heart Rate infrequently, I got the beep warnings that my HR was too high. Concentrating on my move I realised that my cadence was unsustainably high. (Based on the post-race analyses it was above 190 in the first 2 kms).  I started to decrease the number of steps and lengthened my strides. Finding my natural movement calmed my mind and lowered my HR. My pace was between 4:10-4:15/km just seconds below my average pace of the Aargau HM. The running felt good.  As expected, runners completing the Marathon alone, passed me soon. It did not take long to lose the second place, but I did not mind. I kept the pace/HR in line with my current endurance hoping that I can accelerate at the end. The course led along the Duna (Donau) river on roads popular for strollers with the exception of a few kilometres when we were heading out of the city center.  In this section I was not only running alone but without a lot of spectators. I mean alone literally as there were minutes when I did not see an single fellow runner. Finally, the silence was broken by the drums of kids of the “Brave camp” foundation. They were living with or recovering from cancer or other chronic disease. The organisers donated part of the registration fee to the foundation helping their life.  Some were cheering, others even danced. I smiled back and thanked for their support with a high five. Soon we turned south towards the city centre and left Buda (known as the hilly side of the city, divided by the mighty river). From the bridge we turned to the Margit Island a 2.5 km long park with pools, fountains, and other recreational areas. I passed the 32 km mark where I was at half-way.  Soon a runner passed me and asked about my current standing. He had a bib on his back so I told him that he just took the 3 place. He slowed down for a moment asking about the supposed position of opponents ahead of me. Then he went on but not without telling that with his 3.30 km/min pace he hopes to catch them. (His team won by 3 minutes). Losing the 3. place did not feel well,  but after a few seconds I closed my mind. (I did not know that I overtook somewhere the runner of the team arriving first to the relay point while he stopped for a while.)  At the end of the island we crossed the bridge towards Pest. Still 7 km to finish, and I started to sip my energy gel.  I was in the very neighbourhood where I spent my entire childhood, but at that moment I could have been even on the Moon as long as me feet move me forward. Soon a schoolgirl shouted “ Go Swiss man”. I had to come to Hungary to be called Swiss.  Our BRC jersey is really nice and distinctive. The gel and the 35 km mark mobilised my energy reserves. I love the last 7 km of the Half-Marathons, but I am quite sure   will have a different opinion on the last 7 km of the full Marathon.   I accelerated to a pace of around 4:04 min/km. I was never running at a HM with that pace, but this time I could keep it till the finish line.  I started to overtake a few marathon runners who had 35 kms behind them. Now, I was running for the podium, chasing a rival somewhere in front of me. Only hundred meters or much more? I had no clue. Maintaining my speed became harder and harder but I switched off my senses. Still a few km to go and I saw a small group ahead of me. “If one of them has a bib on the back that is my man”. I got closer and when we crossed the Liberty Bridge back to Buda I saw that none of them had a bib on the back. Just a few hundred meters to go when the loudspeaker announced the arrival of the winning woman (who had passed me during my first kilometres). I was approaching the finish line with the satisfaction of a really great and enjoyable run.). Fumi was cheering me. Seconds after arriving we learn that we made it to the third place out of 700 with a time of 2:48:45. Though it was 6 min faster than last year’s winning time this year we were “beaten”  by 4 minutes.  It did not matter at all. We were called to the podium as the Swiss teamJ. We both felt very happy and not only us.  We walked to Fumi’s mother (celebrating her birthday a day before) and to her grandmother. They both took part with Fumi at the family walk on Saturday.  After all it was a family celebration for both of us 🙂



Fumi is running a HM in Lausanne in a few days. Go Fumi for your well-deserved sub 1:19 PB!

(Valencia is in my mind and I can not wait for my first Marathon. To make it more memorable, I launch a fund raising campaign for a Hungarian non-profit organization training assistance dogs. Apart from guide dogs they train dogs helping the rehabilitation after accidents, and boosting the development of kids with Autism. I will top-up the offered if I succeed. More information soon on my Facebook page.