Barcelona Marathon 2017 – Stephen Martin

Barcelona Marathon

I could have picked any marathon but when a friend mentioned to me that flights to Barcelona with Aer Lingus were going for next to nothing I signed up straight away. I booked it for just my wife and I. That way we could both have a little break away from the kids and my wife could go off shopping while I was running.

We flew in late on the Friday night so on the Saturday morning we went to the expo at first light to collect my number. It meant we could spend the rest of the day being tourists.

The expo was very efficient and I had my number within minutes. One thing threw me though. As with all expos there was plenty of stuff on sale. The oddest thing on sale was the finishers t-shirt. Apparently we didn’t get one at the finish line. Now I’m not superstitious but I wasn’t tempting faith. It also cost over 40 notes for the pleasure of having one too. There were plenty there who forked out and even people who were not running were wearing them. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

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After the expo we spent the day taking the sights in. Barcelona is a great city with plenty of cafes and pizza bars so I had no problem carbing up before the race. One thing I didn’t plan on was getting lost in the city and adding a 10k walk to our day. Google maps was no help and I passed the same building three times before my wife took over and had us at a taxi rank within five minutes. I’m still blaming Google maps no matter what she says.

The only worry I had was the heat. I had checked the weather all week before we left and it was only supposed to be 16 degrees over the weekend but the day before the race it was over 22. “It’ll get cooler over night” I convinced myself.

The morning of the race we found a café and got a bit of breakfast in. Then off we went to the start. For once I wasn’t nervous going into a long distance race. The hard work was done and all injuries were long gone so I was going to enjoy this one.

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I said goodbye to my wife and my savings as she went off shopping and got in my wave. It was half 9 in the morning and the heat was up to 19 degrees already. I was going to have to use my head today. The start to the Barca marathon was brilliant. Canons of confetti were exploding everywhere to the theme tune of Rocky. I think I might have even done a bit of shadow boxing.

The first 10k of the marathon were a disaster. You just couldn’t progress at all. The streets were cramped and there was no chance of jumping up onto the path to get by people as there was a steel fence going along both sides of the road. That first 10k took nearly 57 minutes. Thankfully after that it opened up a bit and I got into a steady pace. Water stations were every 2.5k so I made sure to use every one of them because the heat was rising.

20k in I was feeling good but I wasn’t enjoying the race. The route takes you away from the city centre into tower blocks and run down areas and there is not much atmosphere there. Well apart from the odd group of lads drinking beer and shouting at everyone.

It was around this time that I was starting to get hungry so I made a mental note to grab some food at the next stop. As I approached I saw that they were holding oranges and energy gels. I grabbed two gels and I was handed a full orange. I stopped and asked for a cut orange. The bloke handing them out just smiled at me and said “yes you cut”. I just laughed and gave it back to him. The gels would have to do but they were awful. They were banana and chocolate flavour and they were roasting. As soon as I tasted it I spat it out and washed out the taste with Gatorade ( which I also hate ). As I pushed on an old woman was handing out bananas and with my only Spanish coming from Dora the Explorer I managed to get three off her.

The heat was brutal but it wasn’t affecting me too much and my heart rate and pace were on point. Running through the city had sheltered us from the sun a bit but that was about to change. Around the 33k point you come out onto the coast and it was like stepping into a furnace. The heat was unbearable and I was struggling to catch my breath. A few kilometres on and two Irish lads pulled up beside me after noticing the tri colour on the back of my Pulse top. The conversation was mainly on how much beer and food we were going to have after the race.

One of the lads asked what time we were looking at keeping the pace we were running at and I told him if we kept it up we should hit a 3:40. He decided he wanted to beat that and the two lads tried to talk me into it but I passed. I was struggling and the heart rate was through the roof. I told them to push of and I decided to use the head and just guide it home. The last 5k were rough. It was 26 degrees and even the water at the stations were roasting. The roads were littered with people passed out. There were even medics who were running the marathon and if they didn’t like the look of you they’d pull you from the race. Thankfully I wasn’t looking like an extra from the Walking Dead even though I was feeling like one.

Coming back into the city towards the finish line I passed the two Irish lads again and it wasn’t a good sight. One of them had collapsed and medics had him in the recovery position. The race was over for both of them sadly.

At 200 metres from the finish line I saw my wife and went over to her. Being the empty-head I am I took a sip of her drink and started to tell her how the marathon went. She looked at me in disbelief and said “will you shut up and finish the marathon !” I left and went off to wrap up a hard day in the sun.

The finish line was a bit of crack and after I collected my medal I made was to the food tables to get some grub. I was starving. And what was on offer ? Oranges ! Someone is having a laugh here I thought. Thankfully when I got back to my wife she had been to the bakery and picked me up a bag of donuts. I made short work of them and went to the closest bar for a bit of refreshment.

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It was a tough marathon and it is a PB course but it wasn’t my cup of tea. The atmosphere for the majority of it was flat. Luckily there was a small group of Irish people who were out supporting their friend and noticed my Pulse and screamed me on to the finish line. I must have seen them at least 10 times throughout the marathon. They obviously weren’t using Google maps 🙂

If you’ve never been to Barcelona I’d recommend the marathon. It takes in most of the sights and as I said it’s a PB course. Just sort out your own nutrition before you set off.

As with most of my big races I use it as part of the Marathon Man to Ironman challenge to raise funds for a selected charity. This time Make A Wish Ireland. Thanks to everyone from the club who donated and left messages, all appreciated .

Next up Ironman Wales 😉

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