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The SuperHalfs Challenge – Sofia Ali

In 2020 looking for my next running challenge, I came across this fabulous series designed for runners who thought they would never do the marathon majors but could perhaps be tempted to do a half marathon majors equivalent.  The brilliant idea involved running a half marathon in five countries over a 36 month period.   It was possible to sign up to one event at a time or buy a SuperVoucher with entry to all five races.  I decided to do that as a sign of my commitment to complete them all.  I purchased all 5 as a birthday treat to myself, booked the first two, and, three months later, the country went into the first of several lockdowns.


As soon as the world opened up again, I began booking the races, organising the accommodation, mostly in Airbnb, and getting excited.  My first race in Copenhagen was easily the best, both in terms of my time (2.24) and also organisation and an enjoyable course.  There were plenty of distractions enroute, great buildings to look at, music diversions and a great atmosphere and glorious, perfect running weather.  


Cardiff, which I went to on my own, was a challenge.  I chose the wrong place to stay, close to the finish line, without knowing this was a favourite night club area.  I was kept awake until 5am with partying, music and joviality and had to run it on only a few hours sleep.  This added to the impossibility of finding anywhere to eat the night before, all full, and nowhere to eat afterwards, as the restaurants would not take a solo diner!!!!  That aside, this was the friendliest of the five races, the locals and other runners were really chatty and welcoming, the course itself flat but not remarkable.


Valencia was described as ‘fast and furious’ and potentially great PB territory, in the ‘city of running’.  It was certainly flat, without much to see and a bit relentless for that.  However, I was doing it exactly 6 days after the Palma Half Marathon, which had been in quite bad conditions, hot, humid, biblical downpour before and for the last 5k and with a dodgy knee. So, my time reflects that.


Lisbon, four weeks ago, was an interesting one because it had the most spectacular start, running over the river Tagus for 3km on the famous 25 April bridge, but after that, although it was technically by the sea, you were running around the docks and couldn’t really see the sea.  It was flat however, but unseasonably hot at 26 degrees and this led to a lot of runners collapsing.  There was a high ambulance count and worst of all, very few marshals in attendance.  Runners had to stop, and help collapsed people and wait for ambulances.  There was no signage at the start and people could not find the bag drop and had to run with bags!  The loos and urinals were in the middle of the start pens so not pleasant on a number of levels!  This was the worst organised of all five races, but of course Lisbon itself, and especially the old town were delightful to spend time in and enjoy.


Prague last week was the last of the five and a very enjoyable flat course running over bridges, through the city centre past wonderful buildings, sculptures, and monuments.  ‘All runners are beautiful’ was the race logo and this was reflected in the obvious joy of the participants and the spectators.  This sign was on buses, trams and the trains and it seems running is particularly loved in this city.  A few days before we arrived temperatures were 11 to 14 degrees but on race day the mercury hit 28 and again, this led to lots of people being carried off in ambulances, although this time, super efficiently.  Many runners altered their plans to accommodate the heat and it was not a day for PBs.  My own race was not good, the slowest of all five, carrying the knee injury from three weeks previously and my Aftershokz headphones breaking down at 2k and reverting to Chinese settings.  Running the whole thing in pain, over heated and without music was not fun!  However, this was the best resourced of all the runs with water, energy drinks, orange slices, half bananas, sugar, and salt rations at every 2.5kms!


Having completed all five and receiving a medal for each one, I was then able to enter the SuperHalfs hall of fame and receive the fabulous BIG medal with all the countries on it, which feels really good.   The organisation has now added Berlin to the challenge which makes six countries and extended the completion time to 5 years from the day of your first race.


I would highly recommend this series as all the cities offer various delights and it takes you to places you might not otherwise visit as well as giving you the opportunity to see the city while running…. and did I mention …the medal is black and gold and heavy and BIG!


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