In November 2018, I found out about the Pyramids Marathon at the Beirut Marathon expo. The TriFactory, the race's organizers, were advertising this inaugural race happening at the famed Great Pyramids of Giza. Around for the last eight years, The TriFactory is a sports management company based in Cairo that specializes in triathlon events (in particular, the Sahl Hasheesh Traiathlon, Egypt's biggest triathlon event - going into its 8th year in 2019), and had previously organized two other marathon events in Aswan. They had the race announced for February 15, which would be the day after my 35th birthday, and when I told them this, they produced a special complimentary entry code for me to use if I decided to come down.
Fast forward a couple months later, as I begin to decide my 2019 schedule, and this race comes back onto my radar. I decide to plan out a detailed five day itinerary for a trip to Egypt centered around this race, pulling the trigger and adding it to my calendar. Planning the trip was quite an experience, as it seemed Egyptian vendors such as EgyptAir (for flights), Watania (for trains), and even AccorHotels (a French hospitality company overseeing the Sofitel brand, who owns the hotel I was looking to book in Luxor) were not accepting my credit card information online. I'd eventually be able to book these essentials of my trip through other means, but it was still risky -- would I have confirmations for everything I was planning? The only thing I did have was a hotel when I was in Cairo - I used points to book the ritzy Marriott Mena House, right next to the Pyramids, and at the time, located right where the start of the race was purported to be. I booked a direct flight on EgyptAir from JFK to Cairo on February 13, arriving on my birthday.
|The course map changes...|
|Traveler on a mission!|
I left work at 4pm for my flight to Cairo out of JFK Terminal 4. After getting my boarding pass, getting through security was pretty seamless, and I got to skip the massive line by utilizing my CLEAR access, and was able to get a beer in at the Irish pub located right across the way from the gate. I ended up meeting a woman from Connecticut who was traveling to Egypt for the second time, joining up with a tour group after a few days in Cairo. We even found out we'd be staying at the same hotel in Giza!
We left the gate with an unsurprising hour long taxi to the runway, and were in the air for the next 9.5 hours, routing over Newfoundland and the Atlantic, then flying over the British Isles, Holland, central and southeastern Europe, then over Greece and the Mediterranean. Before long, we would reach the Nile Delta, and through the cloudy haze, saw the stark contrast of the green and brown that separated the desert from the Nile River Valley. Overall, it was a tough flight for me to sleep on, as I sat next to a rowdy child who kept on putting his feet up on the seats and kicking me, so despite my best efforts of getting some z's, I was going to try to rally through the day ahead as best as I could.
|Uber in Cairo... the traffic is nuts!|
|Picking up my race bib at the outdoor expo|
|Bibs acquired, map evaluated.|
|An incredible view of Cairo looking west from Cairo Tower, toward Giza|
|Bib and outfit ready!|
It was 4am when my alarm sounded, and I got myself dressed and downstairs to the hotel lobby by 4:30am, when Le said she'd come to meet me. There was a couple in the lounge just off the lobby who looked like they were ready to go to the race start as well, so I befriended them, and found out they had arranged for a car to take them to the start. Rob running the full and Liz running the half were from Michigan, avid runner/travellers themselves. In addition to touring around Cairo, they were embarking on a nine day cruise down the Nile a day or two after the race. When Le arrived, Rob and Liz offered to have us join them -- originally, we were going to take an Uber, using a discount given to us at the race expo, but it was a good thing we didn't, as we heard afterward that there were horror stories of drivers not taking those fares and people stranded trying to get to the start. It would be even worse for many a couple hours later, as a few thousand participants were doing the half marathon and 10K races that started at 8am. Soon, we were off to the race start at the Fayoum Gate clear on the other side of the plateau, well before our 6am start time.
|It's SO EARLY!|
|Sun not up yet for our race|
|Pyramids in the hazy distance early on in the race|
|The downhill to the first turn around|
|Continuing on downhill|
|Band setting up...|
|Le captured this photo of me on the second out and back|
|On our way back toward the start|
|Last view of the pyramids on lap one|
|Village in the distance|
|Sun is starting to come out...|
|Official race photo from the Pyramids Marathon|
|The half marathoners about to start|
At mile 11.5, we began our second lap of the course, but I happened to arrive just as the 10K and half marathon were starting, and the road became as chaotic and crowded as everyday Cairo street traffic, but just with people. There was even a moment that the road bottlenecked as runners struggled to get over the narrow stretch of timing mat. I had to slow to a walk, pushing my way through before the road cleared enough to allow me space to move through. We were now 18.85K into our race, and my split was a 2:03:59. It was here when my quads and calves also began to start cramping (probably thanks to the steep climb at the end of the first lap) which significantly hampered my efforts for the rest of the race.
|A bottleneck near the start of my second loop (Official race photo from the Pyramids Marathon)|
|Me on my second lap|
(Photo by LeBinh Huy)
|The tough uphill in the wind|
|So windy now.|
|One of the windiest parts of the race|
Look just how windy it is. That box had no chance.
|More shots with the pyramids...|
Video taken by LeBinh Huy. Watch the other runners flag flap wildly in the wind!
|Official race photo from the Pyramids Marathon|
|Heading toward the finish!|
|The massage actually wasn't that terrible.|
|My favorite headstand pic to date!|
|What a celebration meal!|
|Ending the night with a drink with a good friend! Thanks, Le!|