Sunday, 17 February 2013


It isn't easy to find a good domestic half marathon early in the year, so when I noticed the Barcelona Half Marathon on February 17th, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Not only was it an escape from the lovely Scottish winter weather, but an opportunity to see how training had been going, and a chance to see some of the Barcelona marathon course.

Sightseeing - the Arc de Triomf

I felt that I'd been training consistently and making some good progress, but in a way, I was scared to race and put it to the test. If all went well, I felt that I was in shape to run a new PB, but if things went wrong on the day, then would I dent my confidence and feel that all the effort I had put in had been in vain? In a way, I was happier feeling that things were going well, without testing myself and putting a number on it.

An epic trip out there did take the pressure away from the race. Not only was I out on house visits dealing with catheters just a few hours before the flight, but it seemed a long walk from Barcelona airport to the train station and then an even longer walk underground when changing from train to metro. All of this led to a late evening meal and even later night, causing some amusement on Saturday by waking up a good while after the race would start on the following morning. 
Race morning was cooler and damper than expected, but nothing like the weather I'd become used to at home. There were almost 15,000 entrants in the race so start pens were colour-coded, and there was a 2-wave start to ease congestion. Luckily I had an Elite start so could warm up on the course and nip in near the front, but I still found in busy on the wide boulevard. The sheer number of runners shooting off meant that you had to take some of the early corners rather wide (unless you were as speedy as the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who went on to win in an amazing 60:04) adding slightly to the distance but also making it appear in your race splits as if you hadn't gone off too fast!

Heading down to the Arc de Triomf, I spotted Doug waving a saltire, but also another lady in front that I had been gradually running down. I had no idea where I was in the field, but hoped that it was in the top 10 at least. The lady spotted me and put in a burst to push away - we were on a slightly downhill stretch in front of large crowds, so it was tempting to go with her, but I knew I was running faster than I'd ever run in a half marathon and we hadn't even hit the 10k mark yet, so I managed to be sensible and hold back. 
I soon caught and passed her, and realised with a jolt that a cyclist bearing a "3rd Dona" label was now sticking near me. It also meant that a group of men were keeping pace on my shoulder. At about 15k you can see runners a couple of km ahead of you doubling back on the other side of the dual carriageway, so I spotted the cyclists and then the leading ladies making it look easy. An added bonus is that when I turned back on the far side, I couldn't see any girlie runners close behind, so I hoped to be able to keep my cyclist right to the finish. Now, I know that I have a very sweet tooth, and do love churros (a typically Spanish type of long doughnut) but the smell of them cooking in a van at the side of the course after racing for 17k did turn my stomach. 

Yippee - No 3!
Seeing the sea meant we were almost turning for home, but a sneaky hill at 18k was almost the end of me. I must have looked as if I was flagging at this point as my cyclist started to encourage me (well, I think he did but I cannot be sure due to my scanty knowledge of Spanish). My watch beeped for the 13th time, I turned the corner and spotted a gantry...........yippee.....I was going to make it, and in a faster time than I'd dared hope for.  Florence came back to haunt me, as there were actually several gantries to display sponsors' logos before the actual finish with the clock above it, but some of the men sprinting past me spurred me on to keep pushing and I was rewarded with a "3" card being hung around my neck and a shiny new PB. 

Podium interview

Enjoying the post-race buffet!

I felt like the BFG on the podium next to some amazing runners (Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia won in 67:33 while Josephine Chepkoech of Kenya was second in 68:53), and I'm not sure whether the interviewers got much sense from any of us, but I'm sure I got the most enjoyment out of the post-race buffet.

In speedy company

Dissecting the day later over sangria and seafood (mmmmmmm, I could move to Barcelona), it was great to reflect on the benefits of a sensible pacing technique (my race splits were pretty consistent and I moved steadily up the field over the course - except for a couple of men outsprinting me at the finish) and to reap the rewards from steady consistent training (I've lowered my half marathon PB from 78:08 to 77:02 this year).

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