The Other Half…


There seems to be a rejuvenated energy in me wanting to share more on social media. Whether that be Twitter, Instagram, Blog and even Facebook (which Im still not a huge fan of!) Its been a week since returning from Marrakech (when I started writing this!!) and oddly feels as though Ive been thinking about getting something up on 9to5escapes ever since. My schedule has been a little hectic and having come down with 'man-flu' has taken it out of me for a few days. But, as I write this Im sat in 14A on British Airways flight returning from business trip in France. Travel is something I enjoy but its never quite the same without Emma.

So, anyway, Marrakech, right…?? This is the second consecutive year we have been to Marrakech to run the Marrakech half-marathon. The great thing about Marrakech is that its roughly 3.5 hours flight time (from UK) and you are in a different continent, a wildly different country to European ones. I do often think about how lucky we Europeans are to have so much on our 'doorstep'.

These events are typically held on Sundays so we always try to have a 2/3 days post race day exploring the city we have travelled to. This helps combine a love of running with travel (a little more about this subject shortly..). Having been our second time in Marrakech we decided to book ourselves in to a nice hotel in the New Town. Last time we stayed in a beautiful Riad in the Old Town, which is great and something everyone must experience, but we do like a little luxury! But more importantly at the stage of booking, the hotel was a 2 minute walk from the start/finish! That little extra time in bed is worth a lot!!

The night before race day was as you would expect a little subdued. Not much in the way of beer or wine and stuck to simple eats to ensure we didnt have a dicky tummy the morning of the race. An early night and lots of water, followed by getting up multiple times in the night for a toilet spoiled any attempts at a decent nights sleep!

Its race day, the hotel is buzzing with super fit looking athletes ready to hit the roads of Marrakech. All seemingly analysing everything on the breakfast buffet to determine whether or not its good to have a chunk of cheese, ham etc an hour before the 'gun is fired'. Me on the other hand haven't really got a clue about nutrition so just stuck to what I like. Im not a huge breakfast fan but I do like to get something down before running for a couple hours.

At this time of the morning, the sky is clear, bright and blue but with just a little chill in the air. Perfect running conditions. We jockey in to position waiting nervously to get going….and we are off. Some slow, some fast and some super fast (“ill be seeing you soon..” I think to myself!). As mentioned, we've done this before in Marrakech so knew what to expect. The first few miles ticked away as you head further away from the Old Town, in to beautiful olive groves, before looping back and heading towards the hustle and bustle of the Old Town. This is the bit we dread! Its full of seemingly angry commuters trying to go about their day but being held up by police until a break in the stream of runners appears for them to cross.

The fumes from the obvious old and unmaintained (is that a word!?!) scooters and cars, spitting out god knows what fumes. It really stuck in the back of your throat. At this race, its vital to have water with you the whole way round so you can at least have a swig to clear your throat.

We plough on at a comfortable pace, not aiming to smash any records, but just get around in same time or slightly better as the year before. We cross the finish line and we did well and gave ourselves a good pat on the back. A short walk back to the hotel, shower, changed, pool action, food (lots of it) and beer was needed. The rest of our afternoon consisted of alcohol induced laughter and the odd achey moan about sore hips, knees, feet…the list goes on!

The next day was all about exploring the Old Town, more so than we achieved the year before. For nervous travellers, the experience in the Old Town (Medina) can be daunting. Everyone has heard about the Souks, right?? Well, these are a labyrinth of stalls selling all kinds of wares – stop and browse if you dare! Within 2 minutes you have not one, not two but three people jostling for your attention, thrusting objects in your face ready to start the all important haggle.

Well, this is part where it can and cannot be fun. Some sellers can be quite aggressive, can be obstructive (as in prevent you from leaving their store) and others can just be chilled, calm and 'ready when you are, Sir' approach. Unfortunately, those buried deeper in the Souks tend to be the ones that are the more aggressive. Lets face it, not many travellers will have the nerve to venture too far before it all becomes too much and they have to back out!!!

Truth be told, no matter where you are, the ambitious will always offer you 'free' directions to where you want to go. With this being our second time in Marrakech, you would have thought we would have learnt our lesson! Nope. We we're escorted to all sorts of backstreet locations having been informed of an amazing leather market that only comes to town once per week. We was in for a treat we was told!! Yeah, right…we was hurried along the streets, left, right, another left…before ending up at some guys 'odds and sods' store.

At this point you just need to hold your nerve and just so no thanks and move on. On this occasion, I thrust a small note in the guys hands and firmly said NO. Turned around and tried to make our way out. This is easier said than done. We was wondering around for about 30 mins before we managed to escape the Medina wall for a reference point.

The last few ours of not actually achieving much had severely taken it out of us. We looked for the nearest taxi and went straight back to the safety of the hotel! We was spent…

Perhaps see you again soon Marrakech.



Marrakech – what better way to see it than run around it!

Running, Travel

We have just returned from Marrakech having spent 4 days and nights. We went to Marrakech with friends with the purpose of doing the Marrakech half-marathon – the annual event where circa 7000 people descend on this city with their trainers ready to hit the tarmac (and avoid pot-holes – which I quickly learnt to keep an eye out for!).

Marrakech is one of those places where I have always wanted to go to but will find excuses to not. Whether that is because there are other places I want to go to first, I don’t know, but it always seemed to slip out of my grasp. However, this year, we had paid and secured our position in the 27th annual Marrakech Marathon (half).

The marathon was held on Sunday 31st Jan, one day after our arrival. The anxious breakfast followed but the healthy walk to the start quickly widened our view to what we have signed up for! Nevertheless, it was something none of us had done before and one of those kinda goals in life. We wasn’t in it to break records but finish with a smile on our face. And finish we did (not sure about the smile!). No blistering times but at least the efforts put in over the winter seemed to pay off. Some aches and groans ensued but otherwise we was all good.

Our post race recovery included pizza and beer. Yes, even in a Muslim country you can find establishments that serve beer! It was whilst we was supping back our second beer (or it may have been our 4th or 5th!), we met a chap who had travelled out to Marrakech on his own for the sole purpose of competing in the Marathon.
Now this guy, as it turned out, was actually quite the “enthusiast”. He trained many days a week and can comfortably do a sub 3 hr marathon. Basically, in a completely different league to us! But, we had some interesting conversations.
We both didn’t “like” running, we did it to help battle the bulge! But the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. I was learning this in my fledgling running years. What he said to me was that running helped him explore the world he has longed to see. He has competed in Siberian, holy (Jerusalem), North-American etc marathons. This rang true. Why else would I be here? I have wanted to visit but other places, other things, got in my way. Participating (competing sounds too competent for me!) in the Marrakech half-marathon has enabled us to see a part of the world we perhaps wouldn’t have done had we not donned those trainers.
So where to next…??