Forgive me for I have sinned and force my poor hubby to endure hell by running up a mountain.
While my road-bashed knee didn’t cause too many issues during Barcelona Marathon, it was enough to make me rethink the Durcal CXM 23km trail race I’d entered in Andalusia for the following week. I did however insist my hubby tackled the course.
Looking at his face on crossing the finish line, I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of ill-treatment to husbands and would be dually flogged in several countries.
Yes, Barcelona was followed with a week or so at our training retreat in Spain. A time to re-familiarize with the glorious trails and get in some hardcore hill work. Unfortunately, off road and downhill was seriously upsetting my right knee. I was resigned to increasing road running and taking the pace steadier, which meant pulling out of the trail race.
I was annoyed but also slightly relieved. We’d sort of got an inkling into what the race entailed when we stumbled into a local running shop seeking new off-road footwear. Chatting in broken Spanish/ English with the 20-year- old-something shop assistant (aka hot-shot runner) over running, shoes, and races he explained that he was running the CXM Sierra Durcal.
“Oh,” we said, “so are we!” Cue the puzzled expression and looks up and down at our physique. “Really?” he asked. We didn’t need the hint, we could see it in his expression. He was rating our chances and in his view neither of us was capable of the 1670m ascent over 23km.
Resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t (make that couldn’t) run the race, I showed up at the event in my old Hokas – fine for walking in but absolutely no way I can run in them – to resist any temptation to cross the line.
Hubby registered, signing a disclaimer form several pages long of which it was probably best we didn’t comprehend. Heading to the startline, he was wrapped up – Spain in March in the mountains is cold compared with Qatar – but all the other lithe and youthful runners were raring to go in singlets and shorts.
Hardcore La Sportivas and Salomons seemed to be the footwear of choice with a few gripping folded run poles and water bottles. Everyone’s name was announced as they entered the pen; luckily the organizer had realized I had got confused by ‘apellido’ and ‘nombre’ on entering and hubby’s name was called out the correct way around.
Countdown and the runners were off.
Stillness – there was just me, the timing team, and a group of local women frantically chopping onions and peppers in a mass paella production mode. I sat in the sunshine, watched the tumbleweed blow by and waited. Hubby predicted he’d cover the 23km in two and a half hours.
A couple of hours later, the women were still furiously chopping, and a few more spectators had gathered to await the return of the runners. We’d already welcomed home the youth racers and mini-trail runners tackling a shorter course.
The clock continued to tick showing that 1:45 hours had passed and still no runners had returned. Considering the spritely physique of many of them alarm bells were starting to ring in my head. This course was really tough…and I’d fondly cast my hubby off into the great unknown. What if he didn’t make it? I thought as I continued to wait.
Two hours and a murmur was heard from the timekeepers. The PA system was fired up and music blared, counting down the return of the first runner at 2:03 some two minutes ahead of the next as more runners dripped in. All crossed the line, huffed, wiped the sweat from their brow and headed straight to the beer – as is the Spanish tradition. They didn’t so much smile as look relieved. Several sported bruised and bloody knees, all look pretty shattered.
Two hours thirty-ish and the first women crossed the line, flanked by male support runners. The number of runners crossing the line gradually swelled. By three hours the final runner to feature in the prizes had finished and attention was turned entirely to the drinks on offer. Just me and one other spectator clapped the remaining runners dribbling over the line. There were still plenty of them, but as is the Spanish way, no one is interested if you’re not fast – a race is a race.
Three hours came and went, but still no sign of my beloved.
Eventually, I spotted him lolling toward the finish. He crossed the line to my lonely cheers before collapsing in a heap to the exclamation: “That was the toughest thing, I’ve ever done!”
I managed to ram a recovery shake into his hand, haul him to his feet, and drag him to the beer tent (as that seemed to be the procedure).
Luckily, I seemed to be forgiven for forcing him to run a vertical km in a 23km race and he even posed for some photos with the paella.
The last runner home made it back in 5:14.