I had such a joyful day at the Samarkand Marathon last weekend. My daughter Ocean, her friend, and I ran the 10-kilometer race and it was special for me to be able to coach the girls to complete the run. At age 55, I am grateful I can still run long distances considering I started on my high school cross-country running team at her age back in 1981. The girls overcame discomfort and some pain to complete the run in about an hour.
This is the biggest public race in Uzbekistan. Race organizers have made it to be an international-standard massive road race. There were people from 40 different countries running with 1,080 runners in the 2km and 1,210 runners in the 10km. They also organized a music concert and other events over the weekend.
Samarkand is a beautiful city with ancient mosques and madrassas preserved from the 14th century. The city was the capital of Amir Temur (Tamerlane in the west) empire. He was one of the great warrior-conquerers that came after Ghengis Khan. He probably killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined. 900 years later though, he is considered a hero here in Uzbekistan. Anyway, he had an eye for design and captured artisans and architects and lots of slaves, helping Temur build an impressive city in the middle of the desert.
Foreigners are rare in Samarkand than in Tashkent and people were fascinated with our dog Obi. We only saw one other dog during the weekend. The people were very friendly and we had a nice stay at the Bibikhanum Hotel, next to the mosque of the same name. I recommend The Platan Restaurant for lunch and dinner. Gourmet salads and lamb from the grill as well as other choices, are all high quality.
We drove from Tashkent because all of the trains were full. It was not a pleasant 4hour+ drive with below-average roads, lots of traffic, and the ubiquitous tailgating of drivers in a hurry. Take the train or fly if you are going there.
The weather was absolutely perfect with sunny skies and a comfortable temperature. Samarkand feels more like a desert than Tashkent. The forecast predicted rain, but blue skies were all around. The course was hilly but went by many of the ancient archeological sites and the start and finish were close to the famous Registan.