Humphrey alumni Eralp Polat (2007-2008/Boston University) had been engaged in sports for many years when he decided to try long distance running back in 2012. He ran the 35th NN Rotterdam Marathon in April 12, 2015  (http://www.nnmarathonrotterdam.org/home/)  and accomplished a milestone on his way to run Boston Marathon where he spent a year on his Humphrey Program. We congratulate Eralp and wish him many success in the future.

You can read his marathon experience below;

Running the marathon: Much sweat, blood and tears… and dedication by Eralp Polat

Turkish Humphrey Alumni Eralp Polat of 2007-2008/Boston University had been engaged in sports for many years when he decided to try long distance running back in 2012. “Having played basketball, I hardly understood why we should be running for so long… especially without a ball to run after”, says Eralp. He was fortunate enough to get a slot on the New York marathon 2012, and he spent the hot Istanbul summer preparing for the marathon. Oh yes, you remember correctly, it was the year that hurricane Sandy hit the US, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York, flooding streets, and leaving the city and its periphery without power. “The marathon was cancelled at the last minute and I was very disappointed. So, I made my marathon debut in Antalya the following March, and ran my second in Antalya again in 2014. Now, I was ready for a more strenuous training program to make an effort to qualify for the Boston marathon”, recalls Eralp. The Boston marathon has been held by the Boston Athletic Association on the Patriots Day since 1897. It is different from the other world major marathons in that it requires certain qualifying times for different age and sex groups.

Offering a flat route, cool weather and strong support from the residents, the Rotterdam marathon seemed to be a good alternative. Its relative proximity to İstanbul was another advantage. So, Eralp and his two buddies registered for the race and started to train under the guidance of a very young running coach. “Although we had never stopped running, we did not follow a strict program during the summer. Then in November, the coach came up with a schedule marking two interval and two tempo runs in a week. We had no days off (he thought of a 40-minute jog as no training). Contrary to the previous year, the weather did not help at all; it was a very cold, rainy and long winter. On some days, we had double trainings. I lecture on the capital markets, and especially when you have to stand on your feet day after day, training gets even harder. When I had out-of-town assignments, the first thing I would put in my bag would be my sports shoes and running gear, and I would throw myself out for a run as soon as I would finish the lecture. With such a strenuous program, physical endurance is not the only factor, mental strength plays a significant role as well. I was lucky to have the support of my buddies. At times, I would say, “No, I don’t want to do that anymore.  Am I crazy or what?” And the answer would come immediately: “Of course you are, we already know that. Now shut up and run”. At times, I would be the one to get the team back together, but the important thing is, there would always be one or two of us to keep us going.”

So, the team of three flew to Rotterdam, leaving the surprisingly cold Istanbul. To their astonishment, the weather was quite warm in Rotterdam, and everyone spoke Turkish. “Every attempt I made to communicate with people in English ended up in a conversation in Turkish. We quickly learned that Rotterdam is the European city hosting the largest Turkish population”, says Eralp.

Prior to the race, they spent much of the time eating, reading and watching TV. Then the big day came. “I was excited, but nevertheless managed to have my usual pre-race meal. We took the subway to the start line. It took such a long time to drop the bags that we had no time to warm up and hardly made it to our wave. As the race started, I forgot about the excitement, and focused on my pace. It was a sunny day, and happily for me, there was not much wind. Everyone was out on the streets cheering for the runners and offering fruits and water. Altough I had experience on running a marathon, it is always like the first time you got excited. Besides it was my first marathon abroad. After the start, all has gone and I was very concentrated. I knew my pace and I managed to keep it all through the race. Surprisingly, every runner around me was more or less running the same pace with mine which kept me alive. Thus, I have had a better understanding of the starting pens. All except last a couple of kilometers I was very strong and dedicated and when I was at 35K I knew I would achieve my target time. It was 39K and I started to feel the pain in my legs yet I was supposed to make two more kilometers. Finally the finish line was there, just before me, with the crowd calling my name. My time of 3:16:54 was far better than the target of 3:25:00 to get me to Boston. So I sat down for a few minutes, shed a few tears and felt the joy of having accomplished a long sought after goal. I welcomed my buddies at the finish line, only to tell them that we should start training for Boston. I am happy to be returning to Boston, where I spent a year on a Humphrey scholarship -to run the marathon this time.”