Sunday, October 18, 2009

from asia to europe

Five o'clock. It's pitch black. I slap on the snooze and curl back up under my blanket. Suddenly I realise that I've got to be in Taksim at 7:45 to catch a bus to Asia for the 31st Istanbul Eurasian Marathon Fun-Run. I hop out of bed, shower, and decide today is the day I get over my phobia of wearing workout clothes in public. I eat some olive bread and beyaz peynir, a banana, and drink a few glasses of water. I'm out the door at six.

The streetlamps are still glowing orange on the hill as I walk down it, stray cats and dogs stare at me with sleepy eyes. I pick up a bus at the bottom, and it feels like I'm the only girl up so early— all the passengers are men that stare at me. I figure it must be the workout clothes, and squirm in my seat.

When I get to Taksim, rain started to fall— and I wonder how walking eight kilometres without an umbrella or a slicker will feel. In workout clothes. I shrug my shoulders and accept the inevitable soaking that's coming my way, and wait for M to arrive at the bus stop. It's wet chaos; people are confused. Which bus? The 8k or the 15k bus? Where is it? What does it mean if my number is green? M and I squeeze onto an old halk bus and brace ourselves for the squished standing-room-only ride to the Asian side.

By the time we arrive, it's pouring. A man is selling cheap plastic ponchos for a whopping five lira— but hey, better to give up the cash than to get drenched. We navigate our way through the enormous crowd of singing, dancing and pushing people, and miraculously find a group of people we know. A Turkish flag was thrust into my hand by a man with a wide grin, and I can't help but think this is the coolest thing ever.

And we wait. We wait in the rain, we wait in the noise of thousands of excited people, we wait pressed up against strangers, we wait.

The countdown begins seconds before 9:30, and with an enthusiastic shout from a man on a microphone somewhere in the sea of people, we start to move.

When I was a little girl, I used to stare at the bridge from our balcony and imagine who the little people were in their little cars, zipping back and forth between continents. Never did I imagine I'd be a little person walking across it.

The rain tapers off, and the sun makes several cameo appearances from behind a boiling grey sky. Excited boys scrawl their names in the dust on the bridge pillars.

The feeling of today was enormous. Being among thousands of different people walking or running together for no real reason other than pure enjoyment, was inspiring. M and I passed the finish line ready for a çay and a köfte sandwich. We sat on the steps of the Beşiktaş Stadium with our little plastic cups and meat-stuffed sandwiches and watched the crowd continue to roll in. Oddly, a man with missing teeth tried to chat with us and offered me two amethysts as gifts, which I politely declined. Content with a full stomach and two heel blisters, I headed home with my fun participation medal and over-sized Marathon T-shirt, which I will fold up in a closet and pull out every now and then to look at.

My new medal and haircut. I've never gotten a medal for anything before, and while I didn't win anything, it puts a grin on my face to feel its weight around my neck.


Thomas Taylor said...


And that's a nice haircut.

Apologies for getting it wrong earlier;-)

szaza said...

Thanks so much, Thomas ;)