The conditions couldn’t have been better for marathon number three. A cool and bright 10 degrees for the start, though a little late to the starting pens we managed to slink in at the front of the 4 hour mark as the 3:45’s headed off. A few minutes later and the claxon sounded, the elites were away and we, as usual, weren’t moving anywhere. It took 12 minutes from the start of the race to the point I crossed the start line and activated my garmin. There was a great turn out as we set off from the Placa Espanya, spirits were high and I was confident of a good race ahead of me.
The first 5km went passed fairly uneventfully. Concentration was kept on not going too fast in the beginning as we approached the New Camp. Which threw it’s own curve ball at us as kilometre 6 – 7, passing the home of Barcelona FC, gave us a nice little uphill gradient to sink our teeth into. At which point you could see those who had over zealously taken on board water relieving themselves of it. But we carried on. As we started to double back down into the city and towards the start, note this wasn’t an out and back but you do head back towards the start via a different route, I began to question my decision to avoid water stations until I felt the need. Previous marathons saw me take on something at every point I could but decided, this time, to go with my gut and avoid early traffic jams. This decision paid off as it wasn’t until 13km before I first took a drink.
As we turned onto face another uphill at 14km and the Padrera we were well into our stride. The crowds were out, the sun remained as did the decent temperature, occasionally taking cups of water and Powerade as we passed by. We were pretty much cruising to 18km which is where the first of two out and back sections occur. This one in particular held the half-way point. And is on a hill. Some customary knee pain began to come into play at this point but I paid it no attention and indeed it went away before too long. Given the impending half way point and the sight of thousands of runners passing you by on the other side of the road these two kilometres seemed to drag on a bit. Even the turn down until the half-way point was probably a bit dull on the senses. However at 1:56:51 we had crossed that half way point and now the run was really on.
As we continue to wrap our way round the city I found my shoulder, which I’m convinced is laden with RSI, began to give me problems. More so than any other part of my body I found this to be the biggest liability during training. Occasionally throughout the rest of the marathon I would be seen stretching on the move. The overall course of Barcelona Marathon I found to be quite good. Plenty straights and wide streets with enough turns, up’s and downs for negotiating to make it interesting. Not overly difficult but definitely enough to keep you thinking as you go. Round about 25km my friend had decided to drop back and lessen his pace. We had been side by side for the whole thing and have a proven tag team approach to the water stations. One of us picks up a water and the other an energy drink. But alas he couldn’t continue at the pace yet I felt strong enough to do so.
Kilometre 26 marks the courses’ second out and back which leads up to the Torre Agbar. Still feeling strong I continued on my 9 minute pace; somewhat fluctuating between 9 minute miles and 8:40 minute miles. Hitting 29km and things began to get tough. As expected. Determination didn’t falter but as I approached my training max, the sun was now at its peak and I knew the really tough bit was ahead. Also by this point I’m pretty sure I had picked up some sun burn. As we turned down towards Barcelona’s water front at 31km I realised I had been with a couple from Jersey from sometime. I hadn’t focused too much on passing people but this was the point where I realised to keep going forward I had to start pulling people in. We went back and forth for a while and I honestly can’t remember where we ended up but I’m pretty sure I lost them after 36km and the Arc de Triomf.
We were now very much back in Barcelona’s centre and I was delighted to see a downhill section through the Gothic Quarter. An area I had become quite fond of in my few days before the run. Passing the Gothic Cathedral at 38km I was sore but still in good spirits. Kilometre 39 brought us down onto the waterfront one last time before the last 2 and bit km’s which, I may add, are up hill! By this point I was tired. Legs were still ok, shoulder almost seized but mostly tired. I was trying to figure out if I was going to stay under four hours and dropped pace to 9 minute 30ish miles. Slightly disconcerting were the number of people walking away from the finish line with their medals. Begrudgingly I threw myself up that hill as best I could and as the ground levelled and the finish line could be heard I dug deep and pushed hard to muster whatever sort of “sprint” finish I could. My watch said 4:00:05. I was happy with that. Sad not to see a 3:5something but was confident 4:00:05 was well earned.
I immediately began so seize up after crossing the finish line. I then spent the next 20 or so minutes stretching however was brutally exposed to the sun so collected my medal and sought shade under a tree. It would be a full week before I knew my official time as it appeared the tracking system didn’t clock my start or my 5km. Originally showing a time of 3:31. I was tempted to take it. My official time for the Zurich Barcelona Marathon 2016 was 3:59:12. And I would do it again.