by Paul McNally
After not being able to enter the Liverpool Marathon last year (work always gets in the way of things) and reading the club reports about it I made the decision to enter my first marathon in 2012. After some Google research I decided upon the Barcelona marathon or the Zurich Marató de Barcelona to give its full title.
I chose this one for a few reasons, mainly because of the date which was the 25th March would keep me focused on some good winter training. Another reason was just the fact that it was Barcelona. I have visited the city a few times over the last few years for short breaks, to watch Liverpool Fc play in the Camp Nou and just to see Lionel Messi in action for FCB with my own eyes. Every time I have visited the city I have really enjoyed the atmosphere and everything the place has to offer which is quite a lot. The nice weather at that time of year was also a deciding factor as well.
After signing up in early November 2011 I drew up a 12 week training plan to start straight after the New Year. With hindsight I think a 16 week plan may have been a better option as it was my first full marathon and I caught some man flu in February which meant reduced running miles for a few days. When I recovered from the deadly virus which is man flu I made another mistake of trying to catch up with lost running miles. This is when a reoccurrence of an old Achilles injury I suffer with returned, which again reduced my mileage for over a week. After a visit to a physio and some good advice on stretching and ankle strengthening exercises I was back running again. I did manage all the long runs on the plan but missed a few 10-14 milers out, if I had done a 16 week plan then I may have been able to absorb the injury better and allow more time to build the mileage and complete more of the middle distance runs. The weekend before the marathon I also completed the Liverpool half marathon in a time of 1’38” which was quicker than was in the plan and it took me a bit longer to recover from than I anticipated. This was my first full marathon so it is some lessons have been learned the hard way.
After a short flight direct from Liverpool airport to Barcelona I was checked into my hotel and went to registration the next day (the day before the race). At registration I received my race number (7811), chip, starting pen, tee shirt and course route etc. The course takes in all the cities major landmarks starting at the Fira Montjuïc and includes the Camp Nou, Arc de Triumf, Sagrad familia and the La Ramblas to name but a few. The morning before the marathon there is a short run organised that takes in a few kilometres of the Olympic marathon route that was held there in 1992 called the breakfast run which is open to 2000 bibs on a first come first served basis. Unfortunately I did not find out about this until it was too late so I did not enter.
The morning after registration after a mix up with the clocks going forward and me getting up 1 hour to early I was at my starting pen ready for the prompt 08:30 start along withover 15000 other runners.
After the slow start due to so many runners I was starting to get into my target pace of 5min per Km (12KPH). After the first slower than planned 10k which rounded the Camp Nou and headed back towards the start all was well and the kilometres where passing with ease. Another 10k passed and I was on course for my target time of 3’45”. After the 25km mark I started to feel tightness in my right ham string. I started thinking maybe them missed miles in the previous months where taking their toll. So I tried a few different things to try and alleviate the problem including shortening my stride, slowing down and lengthening my stride nothing seemed to work. I continued with the pain for a few more kilometres until I came to an aid station where I stopped briefly for a quick rub of the legs and a spray of deep heat. When I started running again the pain seemed to ease up and when I passed the 30Km mark I was feeling good again so I upped the pace again to an average of 4min 50sec pkm until I reached the 40km mark which was the start of a final 2km incline. The incline put an end to my increase in pace. When I made it up the final 2km I finished with a chip time of 3hr 36min. Over all I am very happy with my time and even managed to negative split my first marathon continually building my pace throughout the race.
I don’t think the Kenyon athletes who finished 1st 2nd and 3rd have too much to worry about with my time as they were averaging 10km in 31mins for the whole race with a race winning time of 2hrs 11mins (average speed 19.2kmhr) .
Full race details via my Garmin
In summary the race is a relatively flat course with the biggest inclines at the start and finish of the race but neither elevate too much to cause concern. The whole event was very well organised with more than enough help and information and it takes in all the major tourist attractions in the city making the route very interesting.
There is an Expo before the event at registration for run tri and trail. During the race there are aid stations every couple of kilometres, these stations variably include toilets, water, powerade, wet sponges, Vaseline and deep heat (or the Spanish equivalent) at 25 and 30 kilometres (which may have saved my race), the entire length of the race the streets are lined with cheering locals who come out in their thousands to support the event. After the race there are nutrition tables for all finishers with nuts oranges, bananas, water and powerade. After the finish there is a massage service, physio service and chiropody service all free of charge should you need it, and the race is set in a magnificent backdrop. After the marathon all your chip information is available for analysis on-line (chip times are recorded every 5KM). Video footage of ever runner is also available at various points on route (this is linked to your chip time so no trailing through hours of footage to find it) and the usual photography services are available afterwards also. The tee shirts are quite good as well.