For my fifth marathon I again ventured overseas to the sunny climbs of Barcelona. Travelling overseas for running events adds a little more adventure to your trip and it’s also a good way to explore new countries.
I picked up my spot for the 2018 Barcelona Marathon through Disfruta Sports Tours, a small company based out of Cape Town, South Africa, who specialise in running and cycling tours. It also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the event, which to me showed that it is a popular event for runners from all across Europe and the world.
I arrived in Barcelona early on the Friday morning. Not being able to check into my hotel until 2pm, I left my bag and headed to the Expo at Fira Barcelona, which wasn’t too far from the hotel.
I try to choose my hotel based on proximity to the start/finish and luckily for me in this instance this was the same place. Instead of using public transport, which would probably have resulted in me getting lost, I decided to walk and use Google maps – at least I got to stretch my legs and explore a little.
The Expo was very well organised and it was very easy to pick up my race pack. As with any expo, there was plenty going on and it was a hive of activity but still easy for me to navigate my way around. The final stop was to collect the event tee, which every runner gets. They had me down for a medium which made me chuckle and they were kind enough to change the size for me.
Expo done, I headed back to the hotel to check in and then went out for a bite to eat. Having been awake since 4am (even though I’d set my alarm for 5.30am), I was starting to feel tired. Time for bed.
For Saturday morning I set my alarm for the time I was going to wake for Sunday’s marathon and headed out for a little shake out run. I also chose to run back to the expo so I knew the route I needed to take on Sunday morning – don’t want to be running around like a headless chicken before the main event. I also hate being late.
Run done, I had a shower, ate some breakfast and headed out to explore. There was only one real place that interested me and that was La Sagrada Famila.
It was a long walk, probably far too long a walk to do the day before a marathon, but it was worth it. What an amazing building! Even though it has been going through construction since 1882 (and it’s still not finished) it is a sight to behold. On the way back to the hotel I stopped of at Las Ramblas, stated as Barcelona’s most famous street. I also had a wonder around La Boqueria, a food market just off Las Ramblas, that houses lots little stalls selling food of all varieties. I wasn’t adventurous at all and opted for some fruit. I was tempted to try some tapas, and I know it would have been fine, but I didn’t want to try something different just in case ‘Delhi Belly’ struck! I headed back to the hotel, checking out some sports shops on the way. There were a few bits that I could have purchased had the Euro prices not been so much higher than the UK’s.
By the time I had got back to the hotel I was ready for bed – tomorrow was the big day,
11th March 2018 Barcelona Marathon.
As always, my body clock beat my alarm clock. It has a knack of waking me up around 10-15 minutes before I set my alarm for. My final kit check was done. Remembering to take my pre-made electrolyte drink and gels from the fridge, I made my way to the start line.
There was a buzz of excitement building as the crowds grew, although I’m fairly sure a lot of it was nervous excitement. I don’t think that it matters if it’s your first or 50th marathon, there will be some nerves. If there weren’t any by the time 8.30am came then there definitely were when ‘Barcelona’ by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Cabellé blasted out of the sound systems as each wave started. It certainly woke me up and was a great way to get going. Other marathons should follow suit, and indeed others might have, just not the ones I’ve done.
My goal was to run 3:25-3:30 for this marathon, how did I get on? Read on a you’ll find out.
As I have learnt from previous marathons it is wise to let the field spread naturally and to avoid weaving in and out of other runners, this not only uses energy unwisely but also adds to the distance you run, a marathon is long enough already so why add to it?
Im not going to bore you with loads of split for the first half of the race as everything should be going to plan, ultimately I was aiming for 8 minute miles for the entire run to get under 3:30 which every mile was for the first half, crossing half way in 1:41:48 which according to my pace band was 2m 10 seconds ahead of the time, but we all know the its what happens around 20 miles and onwards that will define the rest of the race.
Water stations were in plenty of supply, every 2.5k after 10k so the organisers had planned it very well.
The next milestone in the race was 30k and I passed through there in a time of 2:25:48 leaving me a minimum of an hour to get my gold goal for the race, 8 miles in the remaining time was going to take effort but I hadn’t come all this way not to try.
The next mile (19) passed ok but then I began to feel sick. In past marathons I had used 4 gels but today I had 6 with me as I thought that seeing that I was pushing myself more than before I would benefit from adding a couple. I had just taken my 5 gel when I felt sick so when the next water station came I took my time and walked through to slowly sip water and to pour some over my head, it was starting to get a little warm, not that warm that it wasn’t bearable but warm enough to make sure I had to hydrate well to see me through I also ate some orange and bananas that they were giving out.
Mile 20 was my slowest of the day at 9.18, not a disaster but an indicator that the remainder of the race would be much about mental strength as it was about physical.
Each time my watch vibrated it meant that I was nearing the end, the remaining miles were a matter of making sure I just kept moving. It was those last 5 miles where the sub 3:30 time went but ultimately I was still way ahead of my PB of 3:40:07 set in Edinburgh in 2017.
Mile 25 had a nice downhill section and the legs started moving again going through that mile in 8.09. The final full mile in the race had a sting in its tail in the from of a 79ft ascent, not what you really want when you’ve been running for so long, that mile split was 8:29, not bad considering.
The finish line is in sight and I muster what I can to finish in some sort of flourish.
I crossed line in 3:32:16 and new shiny PB by just under 8 minutes, it may not be what I went for but still immensely happy and proud to achieve what I did. according to strava I ran the 26.2 in 3:30:15 just a shame I ran 26.4 miles.
I reunited myself with my bag and saw others soaking their feet, I decided to join them, it was freezing but there were so many other parts of me aching the temperature of the water soon faded.
It was an enjoyable marathon to take part in and was very, very well organised. There were two out and backs on the route which I didn’t particularly like but it must be a logistical nightmare to plan a run of this length and to have the start and finish in the same area so I will let the team off and give them a pat on the back for a great day!
Next stop for me on my marathon journey is Manchester on April 8th a month after running Barcelona but in two weeks of writing this. I also have London 2 weeks later making 3 marathons in 7 weeks.
I thought I am crazy for doing that amount of running in such a short amount of time but seeing others doing 2 in 2 weeks I don’t feel so bad!
Hope you’ve enjoyed my Barcelona Marathon experience, until next time its adios from me,