Don't hesitate to check out all our videos and posts on Facebook that we made throughout the project.
Writing down the entire adventure takes an enormous amount of time!
Don't hesitate to check out all our videos and posts on Facebook that we made throughout the project.
Writing down the entire adventure takes an enormous amount of time!
The idea was relatively simple : I wanted to get a big run in the month of April, but I wasn't sure of what I wanted to do. In the end I had it planned out between Amsterdam-Brussels, 200km and a running version of Paris-Roubaix, 260km. Although after looking more into it I'd found out that I would have been bothered by cyclists all weekend since I was taking up a bit of road that was definitely destined to them for the beautiful race. So, I decided to head up north and make my way almost to my front door (that way it would be easier to waddle home once I'd finished)
But I knew that Amsterdam-Brussels would be an amazing event and it was set out to be the furthest I'd ever gone. I had no idea how the legs would be feeling nor if I'd reduced my kilometres enough doing the week. I'd pretty much stuck to the basics during the week, going and coming back from work (70km all week).
But anyway! All 'normal' runners doubts aside. We set off on what was sure to be an amazing adventure. I'd tricked two good friends of mine, Joscha and Fred, to crew me throughout this non-race challenge, one would follow by bike throughout the day and the other would take a car from point to point. A bit like how this summer is going to be!
So after a quick night on a blow up mattress in Fred's cousin's apartment in Amsterdam we were off! The idea was to have a bike with me throughout most of the day and have the car meet us from time to time, at least once every 10km, to fill up water bottles and eat a bit. The crew would switch between car and bike every 20k to come have some fun and not stay alone all day. Honestly, can't thank them enough for keeping me sane and trying to keep conversation for 12hrs each. Their job was certainly as hard as mine.
As the day got started, we left the Amsterdam area to be met by water. There is so much water in the Netherlands! Just like how France has garden pride in each city, I'm sure they have water pride. Even houses had bridges and moats. It was beautiful. We ran down a river for a good marathon and every thing had gone perfectly to plan until the 60th km.
It's at that point where planning would have gotten us across faster. Who knows? Maybe I would have gotten an hour faster?
We'd taken a wrong turn and suddenly realise that we actually had to cross the river. Fred and I looked at each other and asked if either of us have any money. Of course not... Obviously... After further investigation in our best dutch, we realised that the boat captain won't let us through. And that we had to pay 1.05 euros each to get across. Then, between the extremely unpleasant boat captain constantly pretending he didn't understand a word of english and repeating :
eerste betalen (first you pay)
and Joscha telling us he'd be there as soon as possible. There was not much we could do.
The boat captain was having none of our story that our friend was on the other side, and that as soon as we'd gotten over the guy would pay for both of us. In hindsight it was pretty good of him, since Joscha was nowhere near the other side of the river. Luckily, we'd found a lovely dutch couple out for their Saturday lunch ride who were willing to loan us the money.
In the 30 second boat crossing we were briefly able to explain what we were doing that day and what we planned on doing that summer. The woman, looking very dubious about my random story said, ''Here, consider this our contribution to your race.'' (Thank you, if ever for some reason you read this).
With the boat captain telling each of us to have a great day, pretending it was the most normal encounter he had just had. I just couldn't help myself from replying:
'''Asshole...'' (I could really say what I want, he doesn't speak english remember)
We then continued running and called Josch to tell him we made it over and that we'd continue until he met us up. But we also knew that another ferry was coming up shortly and that we would have to face the same problem. We then proposed that Joscha meet us on the second ferry so that we didn't have to miss a lot of time.
Once we get to the second ferry (67km, 2PM, sunny, hot, no water):
Ralph: Alright Josch says he's stuck in a traffic jam to cross a bridge and that he should be here shortly.
20 minutes pass.
(on the phone) Josch man, where are you? We're kinda starting to stress we have no water left and its starting to get drastic. Panic buttons are starting to go off.
Joscha: I'm at the ferry. Which one are you at? Oh, shit... Man you're gonna have to deal with that ferry I must have missed the first and was at the second one before.
Ralph: Fuck... Fred... now its your turn to find 1 euro 50 for us both to cross this stupid water.
So after a lot of explanation to a lovely Belgian couple that was exploring God-knows-where 20km east of Rotterdam. We got our 1.50 and were able to continue on our journey. The fact we lost an hour wasn't drastic. Things like that happen. We soon met Josch, who had spent the last 3 hours, in a car rushing from point A to point B to try to find us. We ate a good deal, drank and went on our way.
Next stop Dordrecht! One more ferry taken, with money, our story shared one more time with the ship captain and off we were again!
We were back on track! No more ferries to take. No more problems to immediately face and everything we needed to do now was rely on my legs to keep us moving.
As the day started winding down the kilometres kept racking up. The day had gone pretty well and I wasn't showing any signs of fatigue yet. It was the good life, you know? Running through 18° weather with two great friends in a place you don't know. Perfect! At one point we even crossed an enormous river, on the side of a high way. This being the Netherlands of course, there was a cycle path on the highway!
We had just passed the 100k barrier in 11h and were headed into the final sun part of the day and into the night and of course only 20km from Belgium.
As night falls, hallucinations, optical illusions, and demons come to play in my mind. Therefore from 123k in until I'd say 193k it was naturally time for Ralph Mesquita to feel cold, speedy digestion and fatigue. I say all this but I think I was delightful through most parts of the evening... More or less...
As soon as we got into Belgium there were just little quirks here and there that made things more challenging. I don't know if it was the contrast between the fact I felt perfect all day, or the fact that it was 1AM but that's really when things started cracking.
The crew decided to take 15km checkpoints instead of 10. So they could sleep somewhat in between. And from 1AM on it was a matter of counting, which I absolutely hate doing
.... 14... 13... 12... peepee time 11...10...9 alright less than 10 to go!
Damn, a kilometre goes by slowly at this pace.
Damn, a kilometre goes by slowly when you can't stop thinking about every moving step.
Ahh! But I pooped like an hour ago! How is this possible?! (Sorry for the potty talk its part of running)
8!! yes!!! Alright Ralphy if you can do 8 you can do 7. 7, chiiiiil,
Alright you must be at 4 or 5 now. You haven't been paying attention to the watch for a while. What?! still 7 what?!
This is what 4AM and 163km in looked like:
From then on it was all about following one single road to Mechelen then Vilvoorde and seeing people finish off there Saturday nightlife activities. Shoutout to the goers of the Copacabana club for completely ignoring my presence, and being more focused on the Kebab line right outside the night club. A second shoutout to the prostitute that waved to us through her pink window.
I won't lie it wasn't a gruelling hard running. In fact, once I ran things were actually quite nice. They went faster. The hardest thing was starting off after a pit stop at the car! Every time I stopped everything would cool down. My muscles would stop working and I'd feel the 2° temperature. It was then a routine of starting again with two pairs of gloves and a hat. Every km onwards I'd take one item of clothing off. Strip-ultrarunning of some sort.
The worst pit stop restart was the 6AM one where shops are opening. The sun is almost out and its suuuuuuuuuuper cooooooold. So there I was. 175km in, no sleep, Mc Donald's coffee at hand and an athletics jacket from a club I'd never been too. Looking good huh?
Still things didn't start getting better just yet. I still had to cry for it to be a real ultra event. This time it was because of Cuba Gooding Jr's movie : Man of Honour. If that guy could get through that moment and still pass the diving program in the marines. Then hell, I could do this. Actually don't get me started on that movie or I might start crying again.
We get to Vilvoorde and everyone is exhausted. I was always secretly wishing to get in before 24hrs. But once I see that there is 1h30 minutes left and 12kms to go I was really skeptical. I leave the last pitstop at my grandpa's running pace and of course things start picking up again.
Somehow mysteriously all aches, pains, and itches were gone. I was hitting 4:30/km pace at 23 hours of running!! It made us do the 12km in around an hour which is much more than I could say about most of the previous 8 hours to finally make it to the Cinquentenaire!
That feeling of finishing something is too hard to describe. But it feels pretty much like this I'd say!
See you for new adventures soon! D-43 until crowdfunding ends! If you got this far in my blog post then you surely want to see us do this crazy thing this summer. Don't hesitate to send some love our way! All, I repeat, ALL DONATIONS ARE RELEVANT!
Milano Marathon Day 1. After a 4 o'clock wake up to get to the airport by foot in time. I fly to Milano Malpensa and start my commute from Malpensa to Milan. Ended being a beautiful 52k run in the sun next to grappa producers, Italian flags and a surprising amount of prostitutes 😂. I finished off in sunny Milan. Time for runners fare and fooooood!
Milano Marathon day 2. We had picked up the bibs on Saturday evening and got back to the hotel to eat some grub and chill before the big day. It was Alvaro's and Alice's first and they knew they'd be on the dot with their finishing times. So we decided to stick together for the race.
As soon as the race started things didn't go as planned. Alice decided to stick to her pace, struggling from the start with her allergies and Alvaro felt good and followed my brother and I.
After about 13k there was a hairpin and we could see 2km behind us. We eventually spot Alice struggling. So, I decided to turn back and run to her to see if everything was ok. It wasn't... she was having some horrible stomach cramps and couldn't find things she could digest at the aid stations. I then took her bag and gave her my arm warmers so she could muster on! I promise to come back (I didn't) and check on her and run back to Alvaro and Jon.
At km17 I pick them up and we continue our adventure. Alvaro was starting to struggle and getting cramps. It was then that the theme of the day turned into something else all together, survival. We had 25km left and a hell of a lot of pain to experience. From then on it was a fight through hundreds of emotions to get Alvaro over his walls and through his muscle cramps. And we made it! All the way to 39k that is 😂 at that point it was a pool dive into the asphalt and a big stretch of the calves. And guess who we saw trudge her way back into the pack? Alice! She made it man! She got back on our tail and passed us with the help of my other brother that had finished a few hours before. Finally, Alvaro manages to get up and we continue our journey to the line. 5h53 Minutes on a 6h cut off and proof that your mind gets you to the finish line.
There's a saying: you want to see what determination is? Go to the finish line of a marathon at the 6h mark. You'll understand. Emotional day! Amazing weekend!
5 came, 5 finished!
Thanks for all the encouragement and let's keep getting people involved in this rollercoaster of a sport that is running!
Km 34 of a very hard day
5 came, 5 finished
My family and I have always suffered with weight problems. As a child, I was on the brink of obesity many different times. Most of these times it was always the same cycle I’m sure some of you have also been through: gain enough weight so that your parents (who are also overweight) decide you need to go on a diet, lose a few kilos, much too few to be healthy, then progressively gain the weight back again.
This cycle followed me through my school years. Sometimes it would be a few months without a diet and other times less. It wasn’t only me, my brothers, my mother, aunt etc… When I was 16 years old my grandmother died of obesity related illnesses. And you would think that would be enough for something to ‘shift’ in my mind. Well it wasn’t, that only made me hide deeper in my problems. To a point where the Pizza Hut guy knew me on a first name basis. Being 16 in Belgium means that alcohol and cigarettes were cool, and a bigger factor that only made things easier to ‘escape’. It’s too easy for me to blame it on my surroundings, my families’ way of living or my friends but I do think that following blindly without asking questions is what sunk me in this hole. We are all made to question things, decisions and go against the common saying, ‘’ Well that’s how it has always been done’’.
I finally had enough of what my parents wanted me to do and I decided to break the cycle. I’ve always been a sporty person but I only really discovered running when I was 20 years old. Running gave me a new way to escape my problems, and even fix some. It gave me time to think, time to find out who I really was and if I was where I wanted to be with my life. 5 years later and I am a semi-professional long distance runner.
Running really started like how it does for most people. Going around the block just making it to 4k and dreading every last minute of it. Most of my runs were like this until I found that it was much more than just about the distance. It was about the challenge.
Things suddenly got a lot more serious after that. I ate up running articles and books for breakfast. Running finally took meaning in my life, it defined who I was. 5 months after I started running I finished my first marathon in Paris, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. An amazing feeling of liberation and happiness I’d never experienced before. Although the training was strenuous and pushing myself through the winter months is never easy, when I got to the race I knew all I had to do was try and enjoy the moment! I wasn’t worried about hitting splits, worrying about my carb intake or the famous tunnels and their ‘hills’ on the 27th km. I let my legs be pushed by the music I had put on my playlist and just went with it. On that first marathon I was even able to enjoy the run, until the 36th km that is.
In fact, I’ve found that the more I focus on the clock, the splits or distance, the worse I will race. The more I forget about all the training and just go for it and let the legs do the talking is the better I’ll perform.
I strongly believe that people worry too much about their running and they forget to enjoy it. They’ll try to apply a mathematical equation to running a marathon, or a 10 step plan into completing their 100 miler. Through all this they’ll find themselves stuck between gel 3 and 4 or in the first leg of an ultra, worried about the next kilometre and suffering because of the previous one.
Don’t get me wrong. I live for and somewhat with running which means I do study the science behind it. I train my ass off for it, put in the track sessions and hill repeats. But once I get to a race it’s all about forgetting the training and having fun trying to express myself from start to the finish. At that point, it could be anything from letting myself slide on my ass down a 33km ski slope whilst passing the struggling runners that had the sense to stay up on their feet or doing the airplane arms dance that went out of fashion before I was even born.
Recently I decided I wanted to share my experience. I wanted desperately to break from the status quo that is going on at the moment. People are being more and more openly critical or racist on the internet. I wanted to do something that linked my experience with a positive message for this world.
A few months ago I decided that I wanted run from the north to the south of Europe to raise money against childhood obesity and to bring a sense of unity in Europe. It is a 5200km trip that will take me around 70 days. I’m inviting people to donate and help out. But I also plan on inviting people to join me on the run. I want to help people push themselves. Get off the couch and go outside. To break the status quo, ask their own questions and do what they believe is right for them!
I want people to discover by themselves that they can do a lot more than they believe they’re capable of doing. The only way I can try to show this to others is by applying this to myself, which is why I’ve once again decided to do something I have no track record in doing. But damn if I’m not going to give everything I’ve gotten to raise that money and get to that finish line!