Nicely rested and recovered, Barcelona Marathon was on track to be a decent race… until I flipped up on the road three weeks before.
I was out running, an easy trot out, just thinking how decently my legs were turning, but not spotting the unbreakable band used to hold pallets of bricks together until I had got my right foot caught up in it. The predictable happened (as facebook followers will already know) and I went flying across the road emitting a mouthful of expletives.
I landed hard on my right knee and hip, superman-ing my arms across the road. My hip actually felt better than it had for some time, but my knee was throbbing.
A few days later and I was battered and bruised and my knee wasn’t functioning particularly well. Peak mileage week became easy week and I was into taper without a decent pace run in-hand.
We arrived in Barcelona mid-afternoon on the Friday before Sunday’s race. As usual, I took the obligatory bike tour the day before the race. I find doing this helps me get a handle on the layout of a city and what the hills will look like (I know Barcelona is not a hilly course, but coming from Qatar where the only hills are speed bumps, it has massive positive altitude gain 🙂 There’s a risk I’ll need oxygen at that elevation! )
The night before the race it became apparent that all was not well within our household and my hubby would not be lining up. Bleary eyed and really not feeling like running, I entered the start pen and tried to stay warm as what felt like a thousand runners hamster-wheeled around.
The gun fired to the strains of Freddie Mercury and we were off under a stream of confetti. The Spanish certainly know how to put on a marathon.
With 20,000 odd runners it was busy, and not wanting to get my knee-cap mixed up in the melee I ran a wide line. The track was thick with runners, swarming up the road around Camp Nou, when I suddenly spotted, two people with dogs trying to cross the runners’ path. Feeling a golden retriever’s nose on my left leg, there was much shouting from myself and other runners. We were nose to tail running without any canine crossway additions.
The aid stations were well fuelled with water, electrolytes, and fans. Drums beat loudly all along the route which took in some of Barcelona’s iconic sites. It was a good race and I’ll admit to having a bit of a boogie on course – the spectators love it!
My pace was okay, I knew I was on for a pb if my knee held out (it started nodding from 9km but nothing too bad), if I could keep fuelling and if I could keep my legs turning over. Luckily, I’d received a new supply of Honey Stinger chews from the UK a week before (thanks Paul!) and a couple every 3km seemed to be keeping the energy on tap.
From a cold start, the temperatures started to rise – nothing too bad for us desert dwellers – but I could tell that other runners were starting to flag a little. One Spanish guy and myself kept passing and re-passing each other until just after half way and with a few words, he upped the pace and was off. He was gunning for sub 3:05 – too adventurous for me.
The 30km mark along the seafront felt pretty warm and I made the most of it, passing tiring runners. At 35km I had another near miss as a guy skateboarding down the cycling lane in the centre of the road parted company with his board and came flying over my track. Thankfully, the runners had thinned and I just glanced back to seem him rolling down the road. Hope he survived!
My good old right hip started nagging at about 37km. I knew I could shut it up for 5km so no worries there, but at parts the track was narrowed to single file as spectators piled onto the course, eager to cheer the runners on. It was crazy.
Breaking into a smile on the line, I was greeted by the guy who’d left me at half way. We congratulated each other and I funneled up the supremely organized finish to collect a medal and finishers’ goodies (food and plastic sheet). I put my mac on to keep warm before trundling back to the hotel.
It would have been nice to have some sort of protein fuel on the finish line – fruit and isotonic wasn’t really enough but I fished out a half eaten chocolate bar which had also done the race from among the Gu gels I’d picked up from the aid stations for my hubby (I’m a tight-wad ultra runner, free stuff is always good 😉 )