I’m not sure what fox they are referring to…maybe there are foxes in the hills just south of here. However, that Hungarian word you see in the title means “fox chasers.” I didn’t chase a fox today, but I can say that the day was long, but completely awesome and fun!
The race (as I will call if from this point on) involved teams of 12 runners running from Kaposvár to Pécs. The legs were varying difficulties and lengths, but it totaled 80 km (50 miles). I somehow underestimated the extent of that distance, as I didn’t start until 1:30, and our team was basically together from 8am to 8pm. But we had a great time.
Kellie came along but didn’t run, because she is still injured. I think everyone enjoyed having her there, and she got to meet some of my students while I even met some Munkácsy students who aren’t in my classes. I ended up discussing alcohol with them (more on that later), giving Melinda a mini Spanish lesson, and “earning” some homemade palinka from Laci.
I must mention to all of you American readers that the drinking age for hard liquor here is 18. And I was told that one could purchase beer at age 12, though I haven’t confirmed that. This was a school trip but the students (12th grade) were drinking alcohol on the bus, during breaks, after running….but they handle it very responsibly. I actually thought it was really funny when, on our 60 minute drive back home, the bus driver stopped at the market and the students went in to purchase… a bottle of champagne and many cans of beer. They drank it on the bus, offered me some, and totally handled it in a responsible, respectful, appropriate way. It was just after this stop that I entered a pretty complex discussion with András about wine. He (a student) invited me to drink some Tokaji Aszu with him someday, since it is well-known and I haven’t had it yet. I imagine American students getting ahold of alcohol and going into crazy party mode…it wasn’t like that at all here!
Back to the run. Originally we had to get on the bus destined for our particular leg. Though things seemed generally more complex than they need to be (the general pattern here in Hungary) the busses seemed to have a schedule, they made stops at transfer stations along the way and got me to my leg in plenty of time. The idea for this relay is that the timing chip is on a leg band. Among the 12 legs, there are 4 restarts. That means, for example, that leg 3 runners didn’t pass on their timing chips. They just ran through the timer to stop their chip, and the leg 4 runners had a scheduled start time where they would all wear separate chips. I think that for a 50 mile run, the idea was to prevent separation…that’s not fun for crowds and isn’t very motivating to a runner to have no one around you. By doing a group restart every 10 miles or so, it’s much more of a group event.
I ran leg 9, a 5 mile flat course through the city of Abaliget. I basically ran on a flat, gently-curving road. I had a strange start, though. There was a clear plan for who I was supposed to look for and retrieve the timing chip from. I was looking for her and the other teammates standing near me were also. We were only 20 feet or so from the exchange area, and right after someone remarked she wasn’t in sight yet, another teammate was standing at the finish calling out for our school. I awkwardly ran over, switched the timing chip and took off. I definitely had a poor start, losing a few seconds on the transfer, and because I wasn’t prepared I had a cough drop in my mouth. For the first few minutes, I had what I want to call a menthol burn in my lungs…very hard to breathe. It was as if I hadn’t run in a year. I also forgot to start my watch so I couldn’t judge my pace along the run. 😦 The closest runner to me was probably 400 meters ahead initially, and after 10 minutes of running, I was still almost that far back, but we had passed two or three other runners. They were all in other divisions, though. Minutes 10-25 were great- fast and very comfortable. At about 30 minutes one or two others passed me, one of them in my division. He got to about 15 seconds ahead of me and this was the first time I had to play the mental game, focusing on staying near him. We both passed another person. This race was on the main country roads, with occasional traffic driving past me. Just about 5 minutes from the finish, I actually choked on the exhaust from a vehicle driving by so I had to stop for 10 seconds or so. But then, I really picked up the pace toward the end looking for the mark which would designate 1 km from the finish. Nowhere to be found, apparently! It was kind of demoralizing, because I had a rough idea of my time, having started my watch several minutes late, and couldn’t believe that I still had more than 1 km to go. When I saw the city, I knew I was near the finish and took off even faster, finishing just a few seconds behind the competitor from my group.
Our school hired an 18-person van which picked up people after we finished, so it was on the journey from my finishing point to the next stop when I was offered a shot of pálinka. This is the Hungarian fruit liquor which is about 40% alcohol when bought in the store, but significantly stronger when homemade. It was definitely strong….The students were definitely into discussing my opinion of it with me.
I was 4 legs from the finish, and in Pécs, there was an award ceremony. We got 3rd place—better than last year, and we were given medals and a cup. The long day had already turned into 7pm by this point and he boarded the van to drive back the 50 miles to Kaposvár (and stop at the Penny Market.)
I can’t really express how much I enjoy spending time with students outside of the classroom. I think it’s so valuable to interact with students as people, not just as a student sitting at a desk. And NOVA was great in this regard. I have many fond memories of student activities like the basketball party at my house, for example. On the drive back, I made sure to let the students know I want to be invited to any student trips they have…. If they want me along, of course. I believe at least one group goes to London. There was a little bit of Pálinka left in the bottle, too, so Laci let me take it. No I didn’t drink it yet!
Finally, here are some photos of the day. Thanks for the great time, team.