One weekend in April more than a dozen Ssideliners travelled to the beautiful city of Belgrade. Our Serbian counterpart, BURT (Belgrade Urban Running Team) had invited run crews from all over the world to visit their city for the yearly half marathon. Zagreb Runners, Patta Run Team, Run Dem Crew, NBRO and Red Snakes are just some of the teams that make up the Bridge the Gap network, with the idea to have running bring people from different places and cultures together.
Carbing up and making friends
There is no BTG Race Weekend without a carb fest. You will need those glycogen levels topped up before conquering the course. BURT invited us to a great venue, Kenozoik, where they served up pasta galore (yes, vegan and gluten free as well) and our race bibs to go!
It was a great opportunity to meet runners from other teams. I had a blast hanging out with some of the Red Snakes from Milano and meeting runners and cheerers from Berlin, London, New York and of course, our hosts from Belgrade. My only regret is that there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone. But there will be more opportunities for that, especially as Ssideline City will be hosting the first BTG event in Stockholm in September. I can’t wait!
The morning of the race was hot and dry. After a long and cold winter in Stockholm is was a bit of a shock for some of the Ssideliners, while others managed to make PB:s. Yours truly had quite a struggle and crossed the finish line wet through and through after pouring several bottles of water over her head during the race! Not far from the finish, people from lots of different crews were in the cheer zone, cheering on their running sisters and brothers no matter what club or nationality, giving runners the boost they needed to put in that extra effort.
We are proud of every runner who challenged themselves, with an extra shout out to Ssideliners Rikke and Pilvi who managed to place in the top 20 women with their extraordinary achievements!
After everyone had enjoyed a shower and a rest, it was time for the peak of the weekend – the Urbanears Active Run Down. In what must have been an old factory, or something similar,next to the river Sava, the night club Monsun was the venue of a great after run party, hosted by our friends in BURT. Everyone danced (some of us on rather stiff legs!) and talked and hugged and high fived, congratulating each other on their accomplishments.
BTG Park – Some Things Last Forever
The Bridge the Gap network is pretty special to begin with, but the day after the race, the Belgrade crew managed to level up the magic even more than we could have expected. The founders of BURT wanted to commemorate the coming together of so many crews from around the world, and petitioned the city to dedicate part of a city park as Bridge the Gap park.
It’s fittingly located between two stadiums, and each running crew in attendance has a tree planted in our honor. They also dismantled a Bridge the Gap graffiti wall, giving a section of wall to each of the clubs, to symbolise the importance of each piece of the network, and of the network as a whole.
The lessons here were: never underestimate the powers of BTG’s persuasion, and don’t book your flight home for the day after the race (okay, not everyone can help this one).
Why I Can’t Wait for My Next BTG Event
Aside from some fantastic photo booth pics from the party, a new hole in my favourite compression socks and a medal to add to my modest collection, I have a heart full of memories after this wonderful weekend. The experience of running, of challenging oneself and showing crew love by supporting each other, of forgetting about your own race time to help pace another runner to the finish or to cheer, to meet people who are different from you but also the same and who you wouldn’t have met otherwise, these are just a few of the things that make our community so special.
If you are hesitating to sign up for the Stockholm half marathon, when Ssideline City will be hosting the first BTG event in Stockholm, consider the months of crew love and support you have ahead of you to get ready for the race. If you’re still worried, make sure to mark the event in your calendar anyway – there is always room in the cheer zone! You won’t regret it.