Ostend Night Race Report by Dave Borrill
Ostend Night Run 26/9/2015
The EHH massive gathered at North Sea Ferries on a warm early autumn afternoon for the second of Nippy’s Tours to Ostend. The format of the weekend was different from last year. This time it was night run starting at 8pm with three races of 7km, 14km and 21km. The crossing was fairly calm with light winds. Nippy had organised a bus to take up to the hotel, so we were spared the joys of navigating our way around Bruges railway station. With such a long wait for the race itself, it felt a bit like waiting for an exam. Having dropped our bags off, we all went to the sea front to pick up our numbers. The race sponsor had included a free sample of ‘Meta relax’ with each number. These tablets were supposed to relieve the symptoms of stress and generally relax you. Kelvin and I decided to walk the course, particularly the section that went into the North Sea! In fact the course followed a fairly wide pier of concrete blocks that protect the port of Ostend. Barriers separated the ‘out and back’ runners but we both wondered ‘How will we see?’, as there was not obvious artificial lighting. We later came across two portable lighting rigs which were placed at strategic points along the pier. We wandered around the city centre before returning to the hotel to get changed.
By the time we returned, the scene had been transformed; thousands of runners and spectators packed the start and finish area near the Casino (Kursaal). Marshall’s handed out plastic bracelets which flashed as you moved. Other runners wore head torches and all manner of flashing gizmos – it was certainly a spectacular sight. We all huddled in the start area and just after 8.00pm, we were off. After a mile or so along the wide sea front, we were out into the sea along the pier. There was tricky turn at the turn around with 6 steps down. Back along the pier took you back to dry land and a circumnavigation of the marina. The course turned sharp left and then began the more bizarre features of the race. Firstly, the route took us through a shopping centre and out the other side. More lefts and rights followed until we reached the casino. We went right through the main entrance to be met with the rhythmic thud of a night club sound system and a kaleidoscope of neon colours. Turning sharp right, we climbed two flights of stairs, ran along a landing and down another set of stairs to bring us back to the seafront. A long out and back section brought is back to the start/finish area. Two more laps followed, the second of which I decided to push on. The 7km and 14km runners gradually filtered out of the field, leaving the 21km runners to do this final lap. Matty now found himself in the lead and for the first time in his life probably, had a police motorcycle to escort him all the way to the finish… blue lights and sirens all the way. Nige was not far behind, so it was a ‘1,2’ for the Harriers. I pushed on as much as I could and finished in 1:59, an improvement of some 9 minutes on last year’s time, though on different course and on a cooler day.
After watching the last few minutes of England’s hugely disappointing match against Wales, we hit the town with everyone else. We found ourselves in an Irish themed bar. The pictures on Facebook will tell you what sort of night it is was, with the hardcore partying well into the morning. Breakfast the following morning had few takers as you can imagine as people recovered from the previous night excesses. A bit more sight-seeing followed before gathering in a bar we went to last year. The tab at the end of the afternoon was 90 Euros, which was pretty cheap considering how much was drunk. We hoped to have one final drink in the hotel, but they didn’t want to open up on a Sunday afternoon. We repaired to a bar round the corner for one last Leffe, before catching the bus back to Zeebrugge and the ferry home. I suspect there were not many takers to view the Supermoon/lunar eclipse at 3.15am!
The return crossing was uneventful part from a delayed arrived at the ferry terminal due to the exceptional high tide. The massive dispersed to all points of the compass after another hugely enjoyable week-end. Thanks again to Nippy for getting it all together. Thanks also to Angela/Richard for the photos and congratulations to Matty and Nige for leading the field home. Finally thanks to the Harriers ‘family’ for great laughs and camaraderie throughout the week-end. Here’s to next year! There is some spectacular video footage from a drone camera of the race, which is worth checking out on Face book by the way.
Full results at: http://www.startracking.be/Ranking/RankingList?eventID=220
Pictures courtesy of Richard and Angela Alsop, full gallery: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10153161592903587&type=1