Monday, March 27, 2000

TR Turin, Italy Marathon

Turin Marathon
ITALY – 3/23 – 3/27/00

This was my fourth trip to Italy in the past year! Believe me, it’s not because it is my favorite place or that I want to keep donating to the thieves in Italy! On two of the previous trips I had run marathons in Italy but neither counted as a completion in Italy (Monaco and Vatican City). Therefore I decided to find a marathon in Italy to complete two goals at once. The Turin marathon enabled me to finally count a marathon in Italy and I also celebrated my 56th birthday by running my 157th marathon. Yeah, yeah! I know. The numbers should match and that is what the master plan called for –but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to run that extra marathon in Morocco. So I will learn to live with it!

Nicole and I left on Thursday so we would have plenty of time to explore the city. On Friday we met up with a friend from NYC who is a member of the 50 + DC club. We all took a city tour to get the layout of the land and history of the city. The tour took us through the old town, past many of the statues, palaces and museums and through some of the suburbs. The guide was proud to point out the original FIAT factory. A tidbit – FIAT- Fabrication Italian Automobile Turin (sounds much better in Italian). I never knew that the Fiat was started and is still built in Turin. Turin is a pretty city, not too large and easy to walk around. It was established about 1,000 years ago but the most significant period was the 17th century when it was rebuilt as the capital of the Savoy Duchy. Most of the buildings and architecture in the old town are from that period.
There are lots of museums in the former palaces from that period. The other major tourist attraction is the ‘La Santa Sindone’ or Holy Shroud that is kept in the Duomo or Church of Saint John the Baptist. Only an actual-size copy is on display most of the time but for those interested the real Shroud will be on display from Aug 26 through Oct 22 this year as part of the Jubilee Celebration.
We did a lot of walking and exploring. There are some great cafes and restaurants. And another interesting feature of the city that I liked were the 18kms of porticos or porches that cover all the sidewalks in the old town. The porticos even cross the roads so that you never have to step out into bad weather.
The city has two major rivers, the Dora and Po flowing through it. You can take a boat tour along the Po, which we had intended to do after the marathon but never did have the time.
The western edge of the city is flanked by the Piedmont Hills and beyond that lay the Italian Alps. Turin is the host city for the 2006 Olympics. Had I known that when I arranged the trip I probably would have extended the trip for a few ski days in the Alps.
On Saturday we explored the city some more and found our way to the Stadium to collect our race numbers and final instructions. It is a big race with several Kenyans and other elite runners. As fate always does, the weather was great on Friday and Saturday but on race day, Sunday, it was cool, cloudy, rainy and windy. However the rain let up about three miles into the race so it was not too bad after that. The course was fairly flat but had a lot more hills than described in the brochure. It was a 26-mile loop that started at the stadium and circled the suburbs of Turin but the last 10K went through the old town to finish back at the Stadium. The traffic control was good but the water stations provided sparkling water, which I hate. I hit the half at the exact same time as last week in Germany (1:50) but remember remarking to myself that I was doubtful that I could hold that pace for the second half. Thus I was surprised when I got a second wind or burst of energy around 17 miles and started to drop the pace. The last 10K were the fastest of the race and I managed to run a negative split by 90 seconds to finish in 3:38:30. Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often! So it looks like I am finally starting to get back into marathon shape but I expect it will take another sixty days before I will break 3:30 again.

After the race we had planned to take a boat cruise on the Po River but we had to wait over an hour to get a bus back to the hotel and that delay put a major crimp in our plans. Nicole had to leave Sunday night to get back for meetings at work so we just didn’t have enough time. My friend and I stayed over till Monday but the cruises didn’t operate on Monday. Unfortunately we discovered that nothing operated on Monday! All the museums and palaces were closed. I would have taken a train up to the ski resorts just to check them out but Edson doesn’t ski so we spent the day exploring the city and suburbs on the trams. Bottom line is that three days is all that is needed to visit Turin.

Finally my boredom was over and it was time to return home. And I was so pleased that Turin seemed like a nice quiet city without all the thieves/pickpockets common in the rest of Italy-until I arrived in England to discover that some A-hole in baggage handling had broken into my sports bag and stolen my heart monitor! When I reported the theft to the airport police at Stansted they just smiled and commented ‘Yes, there is a major problem in Turin. We keep asking the police there to help us stop it but there doesn’t seem to be much interest”! I wish they had told me that before I took the trip.
So another donation to the thieves of Italy! But these thieves are going to be a bit disappointed because they only stole the wristwatch and forgot the chest transmitter. All they have is a very ugly watch that is difficult to operate without the instructions.

Oh well. I am now looking for a place that staples all your valuables to your body before you take a trip to Italy? That way I will know when someone rips me off?

But I can’t let these A-holes get to me and spoil my fun! So I am getting back on the horse so-to-speak and going back to Italy tomorrow! Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer for me!

Sunday, March 19, 2000

TR Germany

Steinfurt Marathon
3/17 –3/19/00

This was another of those trips where the problems of setting up the trip were the most difficult aspect of the journey. However this time the problem was not travel agents.
Some of you should recall that I solicited the help of my running friends and family (especially those that had lived in Germany) a few months back when I hit a brick wall on the first step. Somehow I had discovered a marathon in the Steinfurt region of Germany but only had information in German. When I asked for assistance in translating the information so that I could figure out where and when I should go, all I got back was –NOTHING! To be fair, my brother-in-law, Tim did pass the email along to a colleague in Germany but by the time he got off his butt and asked what help I needed I had solved the problem. How did I solve it?

I persisted on the net until I finally located the race director (Ralf Kleeman) whom fortunately understood English. Ralf went over and beyond the course of duty in responding to my emails and assisting me. Once I decided on the closest airport (Dusseldorf), he got me train schedules, booked a hotel for me in Burgsteinfurt and even insisted on meeting me at the train on arrival. He took me to the hotel, helped me check in (nobody at the hotel spoke English) and then drove me on a tour of the course. That evening he and his wife picked me up at the hotel and took me to dinner. I have never been treated so royally at a marathon! As it turns out I was a bit of a novelty since I was the first and only American whom has ever entered and run the Steinfurt Marathon in its 17 years of history.
It is a small town marathon that caters to local runners and runners across Germany and neighboring countries. It is well organized and liked and thus they don’t advertise. I still can’t recall how I heard about it –must have been from another marathoner in my travels.
Because it is considered a runner’s marathon the turnout is good –1100 runners and the top two male runners had sub-2:20 credentials!
The race starts and ends at the fachhochschule (university) in Burgsteinfurt. Burgsteinfurt is a small university town located about 30km northwest of Munster and close to the border of Netherlands. It is only slightly bigger than Stortford and reminded me a lot of our new adopted hometown. The town is about 700 years old with a lovely castle –Furstl Schlob (Front Castle) on an island in the center of the town. The main street still retains its’ original appearance with cobbled streets and buildings that are several hundred years old. It was very pleasant walking around the town and sightseeing. The only drawback was that since it is a rural environment nobody spoke English. I went to the local tourist office to get information on the town and region but it was only available in German. I could not even buy a book or information in English –it just didn’t exist!
Other than Ralf and his wife the only other person I met in three days whom spoke English was a reporter from Munster. She grabbed me at the end of the race for an interview for the Munster paper.

So I had another one of those three-day language immersion lessons, only this time in German. I got to where I could understand the basic words and very simple sentences but I cannot speak it at all! And I still have difficulty with the menus.

Back to the race. The marathon started at 1pm on Saturday. I don’t normally like afternoon starts but since the weather was so cold it gave us a few more hours to warm up. The weather turned out to be miserable –cold, rainy and very windy. As I mentioned the race started and ended at the fachhochschule. The course was a 14km loop on the rural roads around the town that we had to repeat three times. Fortunately it was flat and fast but not very scenic as we ran past farms and through a few forests. But I did see several deer along the route. And of course we had to run through the university three times as we passed over the finish line on each loop. (Boy do I hate that-especially at the end of the 2nd loop). As usual they had water stations every 5 km that were well stocked with wasser (water), tee (tea?), electrolute (electrolytic drink like Gatorade), and bananas. One water station was serving local water but the other two were serving carbonated bottled water. I hate drinking that stuff at any time and especially during a race- but you have to do what you have to do! It sure makes my carbohydrate gel taste funny.
I was surprised and pleased to finish in 3:41:02 in spite of the weather and also the fact that I had been in bed for the three days proceeding the race with a flu. And it is one of the few marathons where I didn’t hurt (much) during the race. But 30 minutes after the race I couldn’t (and still can’t) lift my right leg. I must have pulled or overused some muscle. (I still think it all goes back to that damn hamstring injury!)
Hopefully some rest and massages will mend this injury quickly since I have another marathon next weekend.

After the race Ralf introduced me to a German running legend –Franz ?. He had just completed his 940th marathon so I looked like a wimp next to him. But he has completed most of his marathons in Germany and neighboring countries so I have him beat in continents and countries completed. He is in his late 70s and still runs 30+ marathons each year. He needn’t fear me catching him in number of completions.

The next morning turned out to be the nicest weather of the trip, cool but sunny. Since my train routed through Munster on the way back to Dusseldorf, I decided to stop off in Munster to visit the old historic part of the city. Having lived in Munster Hamlet, Ontario I was curious what Munster, Germany looked like. It is a very pretty city and the old historic section is very interesting. The buildings and churches have been restored to their original appearances circa 1600/1700s. Unfortunately it was Sunday and everything was closed so I could only walk around and enjoy the exterior views.

Now I am back in England hobbling around and frustrated that I can’t continue my training for next weekend’s marathon. And I can’t even get any sympathy from Nicole because she left on Saturday for a business trip to NYC. (Do I really believe I would get any sympathy if she were here? But I can dream can’t I?).
Life is such a bitch! Take care and stay tuned for the next episode- from ?????

Tuesday, March 07, 2000

TR Morrocco

Gibraltar, Morocco – Part 2
03/02 –03/09/00

Now where did I leave off? Oh yes, I had booked a 3-day package to Casablanca and was getting ready to depart Gibraltar. It was only a one-hour flight to Casablanca and I arrived in the early afternoon. The airport in Casablanca is new and very modern. But that is where new and modern (and clean) started and ended in Morocco! I was not long into the 45-minute train ride into the city when I began to see the dirt, filth and poverty along the train route. And of course the most common mode of transport in the rural areas is donkey and horse carts. As we entered the city the scenery did not change except there were only a lot less donkey carts.

Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and is the financial and business center of the country. There are about three square blocks in the city center that contain the banks, business headquarters and the international hotels. This is the only part of the city that is modern and clean! The rest of the city is filthy and full of slums! There are only four major tourist attractions in the city. The Grand Mosque of Hassan II, situated on reclaimed land west of the port, is the world’s largest mosque outside Mecca. It can accommodate 25,000 people and is indeed a beautiful structure but the surrounding areas are some of the worst slums that I have ever seen.
The Medina or old walled city has been converted to souks or market places where you can buy anything you want or don’t want. On the outer edges of the Medina the shops and streets are fairly clean but as you delve into the bowels of the Medina, the area looks just like that –bowels! The filth and stench is unbelievable! I observed one old Arab sitting in the middle of the road with a pile of about 10 rotten oranges in front of him. He was trying to sell them for one Dirham (10 cents) each. I as told that he would sit there for 10 –12 hours trying to sell them because that represented his total income for the day!
The third attraction is the Place des Nations Unies, a grand public square surrounded by the city administrative buildings and includes a huge central fountain (that didn’t work?).
And the final attraction was the Parc de la Ligue Arabe, a large park in the center of the city. I was hoping to run there but it was the sorriest excuse for a park that I had ever seen and I refused to run in the filth!

At the end of my first day in Casablanca I had visited all four of the above ‘tourist attractions’. In addition to the filth and poverty, my other important observations were that nobody in Morocco spoke English and they had no concept of how to treat tourists.
Even the staff at my 4-star hotel, one of the French-Mercure chain could not speak English and the service was poor or non-existent. And I was still not sure or confident how the local people regarded tourists or strangers. Even though I had shucked my ‘American uniform’ for dull drab European clothes, I noticed that almost everyone in the streets would stare at me as I walked by? I quickly realized that I had made one mistake in my dress –I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and everyone wears long-sleeve shirts and jackets. But even after I put a nylon running jacket on to cover my arms they still stared at me? Then I realized that with my fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes that I must have looked (because I certainly felt) like ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ walking through the streets! I did not see one other fair-haired Caucasian walking the streets in my three days in Morocco? But to be fair not once did I feel threatened, hassled or unsafe. And I walked into and through the Medina at night and through the slums to the Mosque and not one person approached me – but the stares and looks were difficult to interpret and did unnerve me a bit.

As I mentioned before, nobody –and I mean nobody spoke English! If you do not speak some French it would be very difficult to survive in Morocco! Fortunately my high school and college French gave me enough base to get by and I just considered the adventure to be a 3-day immersion lesson in French. I could get by well at the hotel and restaurants but had difficulty with the taxi drivers-especially when I needed to explain that I just wanted them to drive/tour me around to explore certain areas of the city.

So Casablanca was a big disappointment! I couldn’t find Bogey or Ingrid or their ghosts re-igniting their passionate love affair. Casablanca is certainly not beautiful or romantic.
There is no ‘Rick’s Place’. And the friggen airport is 45 minutes from the city – nothing like the movie. I don’t know whom to be pissed off at the most –Hollywood or Casablanca?

But it’s not time to jump ship yet? The next day I decide to take a train to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. It is about one hour north of Casablanca. On the way I stop off at a seaside resort town called Mohammedia that is supposedly a weekend retreat for the citizens of Casablanca. I walked around for about twenty minutes and then hired a min-taxi to drive me around for about 30 minutes to show me the beach (1 mile of nice beach with oil storage tanks at each end) and the golf course. In one hour I decide that the resort town is just a miniature version of Casablanca- filthy and slums! So it’s time to move on to Rabat after I pay the taxi driver 10 Dirhams ($1) for his 30-minute tour.

Upon arriving in Rabat I tried to find or buy a map of the city but could not find one. A helpful citizen suggested that I should go to the Ministere de Tourisme. Since Rabat is the capital all the government departments and buildings are located there. So I take a taxi to the Ministere. Are you ready? Not only did the Ministry of Tourism have no staff who could speak English, but also they had no maps or information for Rabat or even Morocco? And they are supposedly trying to make tourism the number 1 industry? Good luck- not in my lifetime! But you can’t keep a good man down so I found a large international hotel and surprisingly even a concierge whom spoke English and he gave me a map and information on what to see and do in Rabat.
So I spent the rest of the day visiting the tourist sites. Oudaia Kasbah, a 12th century fortress that has been converted into a residential quarter; the Medina, bigger and cleaner than the one in Casablanca and the Hassan Mosque and Tower and the Mausoleum of Mommmed V. He was the king who achieved independence for Morocco in 1956.
Rabat is smaller and cleaner than Casablanca especially in the section of the city where the government buildings are located.

My biggest dilemma at this point was that after two days I really hadn’t identified a site to accomplish my hidden agenda –to run a marathon in Morocco. I had considered going to the Ministere de Sports in Rabat and asking them for help but after my experience at the Tourism branch I figured that would be a waste of time.
So when I returned to Casablanca I stopped at the Hyatt Hotel and talked to the concierge (another person would spoke English) and asked his advice. He recommended an area called ‘Le Corniche’ that ran south along the Atlantic coast from the Grand Mosque. So I hired a mini-taxi to take me out along the Corniche and determined that it could work.

The next morning I started very early (5:30am) from my hotel. I carried three bottles of water with me to drop off at 20-minute intervals. It was only a mile from the hotel to the Mosque and when I reached it I met three army squads doing their morning run and ran with them for a few miles. After 5-6 miles I realized that the road continued further along the coast and decided to keep following it. I would prefer to run out 13 miles and then just turn around and head back if possible. Luckily I found a taverna open that early to buy 3 more bottles of water and continued out the road. Eventually the road turned inland to join the main highway south to El Jadida. There was very little traffic but I did have to share the dirt shoulder with some horse and donkey carts. Finally at 13 miles I turned around and headed back. By the time I hit Le Corniche on my return there were hundreds of local citizens out running and walking. Again the funny/curious stares. But then again I was dressed only in a flimsy T-shirt and shorts and they all wore sweats or jogging suits including hats and hoods. Some even wore gloves. I never did figure out why? Was the clothing to keep warm? (temps were in the mid-70s) -for modesty (the women maybe but the men too?) –or to prevent exposure to the sun?
And in spite of the stares many of them greeted me with a friendly nod and a “Bonjour – Ca va?” (Good morning-How’s it going?) That made me feel much more comfortable. So I continued to run easy and finish my Moroccan Marathon!

The rest of the day I toured around some other sections of Casablanca but just found more of the same old filth and poverty. I was not too disappointed to leave the next day. On the train to the airport I met a Moroccan who now lives in Montreal. He confirmed all my evaluations. They treat him just as bad or worse than tourists. They have no concept how to treat tourists or what good service is –and yes the country is filthy and poor! But he did indicate that Marrakesh is probably the best city for tourists and it is also the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. That will have to be another time and trip.

Back to Gibraltar to catch my plane back to England.
But first I need to finish my tour of the Rock. I still haven’t been to the very top! So I take the Cable Car to the top for some magnificent views of Gibraltar, Spain and Africa. There is a nature reserve at the top with trails and roads leading to many other attractions. On the walk to St Michael’s Caves I experienced my first encounter with the world-famous Rock apes. In fact, these creatures are not apes at all, but a species of tail-less monkeys known as “Macaca sylvanus”. The locals were amazed that I had not heard of these ‘world-famous’ apes until just recently. I learned about the Rock in school but I must have missed the lesson on the apes? There is an interesting story associated with the apes – “the Churchill story”. On a visit to Gibraltar Sir Winston Churchill, on learning that their numbers were diminishing ordered that they be replenished. So the saying now goes “Gibraltar will cease to be British on the day that there are no apes left on the Rock”.
St Michael’s Caves are natural limestone caves that are huge and have such great acoustics that they have built a 500-seat concert hall within the caves. A concert must be a breathtaking experience with all the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites lit up with colored spotlights. Then it was on to the North face to explore the Great Siege Tunnels, a vast network of defensive tunnels excavated during the Great Siege of 1779-1783 (so they could shoot cannons down at the Spaniards approaching across the isthmus). In all there are over 33 miles of tunnels honeycombing the Rock. Most were excavated during WWII and are not open to the public yet.

On my final morning I do one last run up and down, around, over and through the Rock for nostalgia. Then I do my last minute shopping for some souvenirs and booze. Gibraltar is a tax and duty-free port so the prices are very good.
Upon arriving back at Gatwick I am surprised to find myself converged upon by two customs agents whom stick to me like fleas while they search my bag thoroughly and ask lots of questions such as “where have you been”, why do you travel so much”? I find this strange since I haven’t ever seen a customs agent during all my trips in and out of England the previous 10 months? Fortunately all they can find is a deranged marathoner and they send me on my way. Passport control must have noticed the Moroccan stamps in my passport?

And now finally(since I know you have been holding your breath)– the results of the ‘Europe contest’.
For those who submitted entries you have some idea of the difficulties entailed in determining the answer and probably want to know how I resolved those?
1) Europe/Asia border. Even most World Atlases don’t agree on the boundaries since some show countries such as Cyprus and Georgia in Europe. I finally consulted the National Geographic World Reference Book that clearly defines the boundary as accepted by most world laws.
2) Small sovereign states. There are many small states/countries such as Vatican City, Sam Marino and Andorra that can be easily missed. Fortunately I had noticed an article in USA Today listing them all.
3) Heritage/Politics. The most difficult! World Atlases depict the UK as a country. But believe me the citizens of England, Scotland and Wales and even other European countries recognize those countries as independent. They have their own governments and represent themselves in all world sports events (except the Olympics).

With these facts/assumptions in mind the correct answer is --- 47! The actual list of countries is attached for your reference.

The winner is---Nada Rutka with the correct answer of 47! I don’t know if she had the same countries but she had the right quantity. Congratulations!

Friday, March 03, 2000

TR Gibraltar

Gibraltar, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Gibraltar
03/02 –03/09/00

As I mentioned at the close of my last report the weather in England was still cold, rainy and generally miserable when we returned from Cyprus so I decided to head south again until the weather turned good. I am happy to report that the daffodils are now up and blooming, the blossoms are in bloom on the fruit trees and the temperatures are in the low 60s.

Where did I go? When I made my month-long sojourn last November through Spain, Portugal, etc I had wanted to visit Gibraltar but did not have time. So I decided to check out the Rock and perhaps have a quick look at Morocco while I was in the vicinity.
I was not disappointed in the Rock – it is a majestic sight jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. What surprised me was how small the country is! The Rock is 3 miles long and ¾ miles wide with the highest point being 1396 feet. It has a total area of 2 ¼ square miles –the total country is only 4 square miles! The total population is only 30,000 that are a hodgepodge of English, Spaniards and Arabs. But the country is very definitely British!

Gibraltar has been visited since 950 BC but was not settled until about 414 AD. In 711 a Berber by the name of Tarik ibn Zeyad conquered the peninsula and the name Gibraltar is a corruption of the Arab words ‘Jebel Tarik’ (Tarik’s mountain). The Arabs and Spain fought over the Rock for centuries until England took control in 1704. And Spain has tried to get it back ever since and is still trying! The border with Spain is a very narrow isthmus. During WW II the British built an airport on this isthmus and reclaimed land from the sea. To get to Spain you must walk or drive across the airport runway!

There is very limited habitable land and that is all on the west side of the peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and Spain. The east side is basically sheer cliffs as the Rock rises straight out of the Sea. The main street of the town is a pedestrian mall about ¾ miles long. It gets very familiar quickly since you can walk it in 10 minutes. In fact you can walk to any point in the country within 45 minutes! And my hidden agenda was to run a marathon on Gibraltar! Gibraltar does not have an official marathon so I decided to exercise my rights and privileges as a member of the 50+ DC Club to set up my own course. Where possible, we are supposed to request assistance from a local running club but I could not find one. But I did contact the Director of the Gibraltar Sports Authority (government department) and met with her. She helped me lay out a course on a map that comprised the longest possible route around the country. She guessed it might be around 10K? She also told me that she was not aware of anyone who had run a marathon completely within the borders of Gibraltar.

Now it was time to check out the course for the inaugural ‘Maddog Gibraltar Marathon’. First problem. I need a car to drive and measure the course. There are only three rental agencies in the country and they all laughed at me when I said I needed a car for one day. They rent mainly to tourists flying into Gibraltar to drive to the Costa Del Sol in Spain so they rent for a minimum of 3 days and are booked weeks in advance. Next plan? Ummm! What is my next plan? I found an agency that rented bikes –motorbikes that is. Since I only drove a bike once in my life (through a neighbor’s flower patch after I lost control), I chose a powerful 50cc Moped. I had actually driven the kids’ Moped in Dallas ten years ago so figured I could handle that. So I set off with my new wheels. Next problem! The roads were laid out by the British for left-hand driving but Gibraltar converted to right-hand driving 12 years ago. Boy, does that ever make for some interesting intersections and ramps at the traffic circles. There were a few times that I would have had absolutely no clue which path to take if there hadn’t been another vehicle in front of me? But I was off to certify my course with my trusty Moped! Only 1 ½ miles into the course and another problem! They had sealed off a tunnel through the Rock where the road used to go? But I walk down to and along the beach and find the road on the other side. Just a slight detour! Now I must backtrack and rejoin the road on the other side and continue to the most southern point of the country that overlooks Africa. Then swing north again on the east side of the peninsula. Here a single lane road is cut into the sheer cliffs of the Rock and there is one long tunnel that climbs up into the Rock before opening out to a small fishing village called Catalan Bay. Final problem! The road is completely closed to traffic at this point because it is being rebuilt. Solution –cut down through a hotel property, along the beach and back up in the village to rejoin the road. Another slight detour! Now I have to go all the way around the country to get to that rejoin point and begin the measurement again. When it is all done I calculate that the course is 6.75 miles. Great! I only have to do this loop –FOUR TIMES!

Now that I have the course laid out and certified I spend the rest of the day walking around (took the Moped back before I killed myself on those roads!) and visiting some of the tourist attractions such as the 100 ton gun and several other defensive Batteries.
Saturday was M-Day so I got up early and started out on the marathon carrying three large bottles of water that I dropped off at 2-mile intervals. On the first loop I went counter-clockwise around the Rock and discovered that the three hills were much steeper in that direction so I switched directions for the next two loops. But on the final loop I felt strong and stupid and I decided that I could use some good hill work and reversed directions again. This put the steepest and toughest hill at the 24-mile mark! But since I was running easy and not competing against anyone or a clock the marathon was quite easy-and the scenery was fantastic! Now if anyone asks me if I have seen the Rock, I can reply “Not only have I seen it but I have run up and down, around, over and through it – FOUR TIMES!” I finished in 3:59:10!

After the marathon I decided to visit Spain. I considered visiting Marabella or Malaga on the Costa Del Sol but it was at least a 1-hour train or bus ride to those resort areas so instead I just walked across the border and caught a local bus into Algeciras. Algeciras is an industrial/port city across the bay from Gibraltar that serves as the major port between Africa and Europe. Ferries run between Algeciras and Tangiers and this is a major drug route into Europe! The minute that I crossed the border into Spain I was reminded what I didn’t like about Spain? I forgot to tell you about this little detail in my previous report on Spain. I think that every citizen of Spain owns at least two dogs and there are no laws or moral responsibility about cleaning up after them. So there are ‘messes’ everywhere – in the streets of Madrid, in the streets of Seville and at the border of Gibraltar! You really have to be careful where you walk in Spain! But the views of the Rock are great from Algeciras.

Another decision that I had to make was what to do with the remaining 4 days that I had planned for this trip? I decided that I wanted to check out Morocco in spite of many negative comments that I had heard from fellow travelers around Europe. So I went to a local travel agency and inquired what there was to do and see in Morocco. I ended up buying a 3-day package to Casablanca. Why Casablanca? Well if it was good enough for Bogey and Ingrid to have a passionate love affair in one of my all-time favorite movies, then it should be a great place to visit? And it is on the Atlantic coast so I was hoping (secret agenda again) that there might be a good place to run a marathon and mark Morocco off my list?

So I had a great dinner in Gibraltar and looked forward to my adventure the next day in Morocco.
That adventure will be continued in Part 2 along with the results of the ‘Europe” contest. See you then!