It didn’t start well. My alarm woke us up at 5:30. Shame my bloomin’ Blackberry too-bloody-smart-phone had taken it upon itself to add another hour in addition to the one I added last night. Great to be woken up at 4:30 and spend 10 mins trying to convince yourself that it really has gone wrong!
Back to bed. Next thing it’s 6am. Then 6:30. Oh hell, I need to leave at 7:00! Panic. Fuss. Flapping. Kit on. Out of the hotel by 7:05 and onto the Metro. I’ve missed the necessary toilet stop and I’m worried about that.
We arrive at Placa d’Espanya to find some 15,000 other people milling around. In the rush and extreme tiredness I’ve even forgotten to have breakfast. This is going from bad to worse!
I pee in a bush because somehow 20 toilets just can’t stretch to accommodating 15,000 runners full of too much water. I wonder why?
I head into the pens. I don’t much care which one by this point. I am now hungry, exceedingly tired, incredibly grumpy and very very annoyed with myself!
Turns out that the yellow sign matching the yellow number I’m wearing wasn’t an appropriate match. All of the pens have yellow signs on, but with different times marked. I end up one pen back from where I should be (probably a good thing) and sit tight somewhere in the middle of the pack, surrounded by red numbered participants.
The 10 minutes to go announcement comes over the tannoy. Then 5 minutes. Then some cheering, lots of spanish that I don’t understand, probably introducing the elites at the front. Next thing the quiet introduction to ‘Barcelona’ by Freddie Mercury, the moving first crescendo and ‘Barcelona’ rings out and up go the fountains and confetti. A truly amazing moment at the start of a marathon and the best one I’ve experienced without a doubt!
This is going to be a tough one, I know it is. My mind says I’m mad to even start and I truly don’t expect to finish. This might be the end of the 12 marathons idea for some time.
The gun fires, just over a minute later I cross the line. About 300m in I hear “Go Blackwater” (I’m wearing my Blackwater Valley Runners club shirt) from a guy with ‘Pim no 1′ emblazoned on his shirt. Turns out he’s a british bloke to whom I replied “And a very good morning to you, how are you doing?” He told me he’d done Blackpool just a fortnight ago so was a bit knackered and so I bid him farewell and wished him luck for the miles ahead. He soon disappeared at one hell of a rate… He was clearly in the right group for his target time!
The first three miles are all climbing, then followed by quite a big downhill stretch which gets fairly steep in places!
5k came and went, at nearly 6k finally the promise of the first water stop comes into view. Who decided to put it on a corner? As we turned left everyone saw the water stop ahead of them and instead of turning left went directly across the road to the tables. I collided with another runner, as did many others. Very poor planning dear race organisers!
At this point I grab a bottle of water and all but drain it. It’s bloody hot! I wasn’t at all prepared for how warm it would be, it is a complete change from the cool british weather of recent weeks and I’m sweating heavily.
The ankle pops at 6 miles. Only a little pop but plenty enough for me to be concerned…for the next 20! This is what happened at 8 miles in Gloucester so it doesn’t bode well and I resolve to take it very easy for a good while longer.
As the miles pass I notice there are very few female runners. Very many Spanish runners and some strong crowds out in support, cheering loudly! The run has a fantastic atmosphere even though I haven’t found my usual person to chat with today.
A clown with a running cap passes me. I’m content to be passed for once, even by a clown! I’m not risking injuring the ankle again and another three weeks off!
I spot a guy with Vibram five fingers not looking too happy at about 12 miles! Much as I’d love to try them, I can’t see running 26 miles without any cushioning being good for you, despite the biomechanics arguments.
I started with 7 gels which is a lot of weight and overkill for the event, but I didn’t once feel like I was running on empty and wanted to see how my stomach goes with a large amount of gels in a single event. It is possible to take so many, I did it but would not advise it! Feeling a bit queasy after the fifth wasn’t a great moment. I think I can be confident that 5 is plenty now.
Lack of a toilet stop this morning is still bugging me. I stop when I see a vacant portaloo but the body is insistent. 2 mins wasted but I feel psychologically better if nothing else.
I didn’t speak to, or even see another British runner for the rest of the race. I can’t see why this should be an unpopular event with Brits. The weather is superb and Barcelona is a wonderful place to escape to. Get over there next year!
The one sight I do manage to notice is the Sagrada Familia. It’s big enough! Aside from that I don’t really remember noticing any of the other landmarks, I was too busy concentrating on keeping the ankle upright and pain free.
A half in 1h53. Not bad when you’re out for under 4 hours I think to myself. Very happy with that but still cautious of the ankle. Having not managed more than 16 miles for over two months and having spent most of that injured, I have reason to be careful.
I still feel good at 16. The ankle is holding up. I’m cautious but fighting the urge to press on and make up some ground. I do some calculations and figure I might be able to make a quicker time if I can keep the pace steady. Aiming for 3h45m seems like a good plan, but at 17 miles I guess that I could do 3h40m if I really try.
I’ve managed to keep my heart rate low. I’m running well and truly in my comfort zone (around 150bpm) and feeling better for doing so. At 19 miles however the heart rate has suddenly bumped up to 167. I hit 170 bpm by 22 miles. The body is telling me it’s tiring. This is where I really push though. I know it’s an uphill finish and I have no idea how I will fare with a climb at mile 25 onwards so I figure it’s probably a good idea to try and make up a little ground now and then just dig in for the hill.
The finish (of the HALF MARATHON last January) is at the Arc de Triomf which I recognise and enjoy the cheers of the crowds lining the street as I run through. Today I have another 4 miles to go though!
Best of all, my fastest three miles were 24, 25 and 26! (All of which are not flat!) Taking it easy for the first half paid off, both mentally and physically with the ankle worries and I’m glad I managed to get to Barcelona and have such a wonderful marathon experience.
Post race injury rundown
Chafed inner thighs due to the wrong shorts!
Two very achey legs
10 sore toes and the soles of my feet are very sore (too little training mileage!)
I did it!
I shall be proudly wearing my garish purple and yellow Barcelona 2012 shirt at the club run on Wednesday. Be prepared, it truly is a sight to behold!
3 weeks until my return to Brighton for the third (and my third) Brighton marathon. I’m surprised to be saying it, but I’m genuinely looking forward to it now!