Running across the bridge 15 years in a row

Running across the bridge 15 years in a row

ITIR ERHART - Istanbul
Running across the bridge 15 years in a row

I remember my first 15K in Istanbul. It was a very cold November morning in 2005. Running on the Bosphorus Bridge, which, I must tell you, is one of the most thrilling things to do on this planet, I could feel the freezing rain on my face. Since that day, I ran the 15K race 15 times and the marathon three times. I did not skip a year, even the year when I was pregnant with my daughter.

Well, I guess you can call me an addict. Is it crossing the bridge, my love for the city, running down Barbaros Bulvarı, meeting my friend Mehmet Vanlı, who comes to take our pictures all the way from Berlin, at the very same spot on Galata Bridge or the ever-growing Adım Adım community I am part of what makes this a must-run race for me? I would say, probably, all contribute to my obsession with it.

During these 15 years I have been participating in, the race has improved a lot. In 2005, one felt very lonely on the course. I bet the marathoners felt even lonelier. There were no cheering spectators except for the few tourists here and there.

What got coverage the next day were the elite runners and their time, alongside with picnickers or backgammon players participating in the FunRun. Non-professional runners who trained to complete a certain distance and competed with no one, but themselves were not on the radar of the reporters. Charity running was still unheard of.

This picture began to change as sports brands started running groups in big cities and when Adım Adım (Step by Step), which aimed to raise money and awareness for NGOs through endurance sports, was founded in 2008. In 2012, when I went to fair to collect my marathon bib number the volunteers handing them out insistently asked whether I knew what I signed up for.

I certainly did not look like an elite athlete and they tried to make sure I was not confusing the marathon with the FunRun or the 15K. It is hard to blame them for I was one of the 80 women from Turkey who was going to complete the 42.2 km race that year. I ran the marathon again in 2017 and 2018 when I was cheerfully greeted by the volunteers who asked me my target time and wished me the best of luck.

On Nov. 3, 10,000 Adım Adım runners fundraising for 45 NGOs will be on the course. The total fundraising target is 15 million Turkish Liras. Alongside thousands of Adım Adım runners, there will be other teams running for various causes.

To name a few, 30 İhtiyaç Haritası (NeedsMap) runners will be going the distance with an aim to raise 150,000 liras for the social cooperative together with their 75 cheering volunteers. Renkli Kampüs and ALİKEV running teams will also be there. Their supporters will be greeting them at the finish line.

And I, while waiting at the start line, will be remembering the 18 previous races—running the marathon pushing Martin in this wheelchair, guiding my friend, the legendary Necdet Turhan, through the course singing his mantra “Birds fly, fish swim and we run;” Kıvanç and Savaş meeting me at 35 km to run the last, and the hardest, seven by my side; spectators offering cigarettes, candy bars, döner sandwiches; running in the snow, in the rain, under the burning sun.

Adım Adım will be running for Educational Volunteers Foundation (TEGV), Basic Needs Foundation (TIDER) and Alzheimer’s Association.

Crossing the bridge, I will be admiring the spectacular beauty of my city, feeling grateful for my 50 supporters who contributed to my Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG) campaign this year, whose names will be written on the back of my Adım Adım jersey around our motto “Run for Good.”