The Barcelona Marathon sort of sprung out of nowhere for me.
I mean yes of course I knew it was coming and I was doing long runs in preparation. But mentally I wasn’t really thinking about the actual race. All I was thinking about was the holiday. When I’d originally planned to do the race I was going there on my own. I was single and feeling independent.
Then Kyle and I got together and things changed. I invited him to join me, I extended the trip by another day so we could have a bit longer to explore and enjoy ourselves. It was no longer a trip for me to run another marathon. It was a trip to spend time together, have fun and oh yeah run 26.2 miles too. So the night before it sort of hit me… a marathon is a long way to run.
On the morning I got up at 6.30am and got my stuff together, went to the loo, had my porridge and drank a tea. Kyle got himself ready shortly after. Bless my dad, he’d made Kyle a T-shirt to wear.
Apparently my dad is the main “coach” and Kyle is the assistant one. As my dad couldn’t be there it was a cute and quite humorous gesture. Kyle had a busy day ahead as well. His plan was to see me off at the start, then run to various points to see me, then meet me at the finish. All in all, we’d hopefully see each other seven times. Fingers crossed!
We walked to the start, handily only about 25 minutes from our AirBnb. We got there for 8am, just 30 minutes from the start.
I prefer to have less waiting round. We stood in a long portable loo queue and after about 20 minutes realised nope I wasn’t going to make it.
I legged it to my start pen, saw some nearby loos without a queue, dived in one, peed and then ran to my starting corral. I said goodbye to Kyle and headed in to the pen. Literally minutes to go – whew!
The start was pretty cool. They had Barcelona by Freddie Mercury playing and then a big blast of confetti and we were off!
The first couple of miles headed towards Camp Nou, the Barcelona FC stadium. It was a gentle incline but at this point I didn’t really notice it. I was feeling excited and fresh. My pace was faster than I’d initially thought I’d go but it felt effortless so I decided to go with it. Risky but ehhh I could reel it back a bit later on once the starting buzz had gone.I totally missed Camp Nou. To be fair I really didn’t have a clue what I was looking for. I knew it’d be around 2-3 miles but I didn’t see anything noteworthy. Ah well. The road was a bit dull but I entertained myself by planning to the minuscule detail what I’d do when finishing the race… walk back, shower, wash hair…etc. It sounds dull but it helped focus my mind on something very bland and easy.
If all went to plan I’d see Kyle at 5k. As I ran over the 5k chip mat I looked around to see if I could see him. He’s a tall guy so it wouldn’t be hard. As I got further I realised he wasn’t there. This depressed me a little to think we’d failed at the first hurdle. Maybe we’d been too ambitious with the number of times to see each other? We should have kept it simple. Ah damn.As I got to about 2.7 miles I spotted him. Hurrah! I was boosted along. The next time I was to see him would be 12.5k. Not long at all.
I realised I needed another wee and decided to wait until 10 miles – something that is becoming more of a habit for me during a marathon!It was becoming very warm and sunny so at every drinks station (every 2.5k ) I started grabbing a bottle of water and drinking some and then pouring a bit over my head. Anything to keep me cool. The drinks stations were a little hectic and the volunteers, as wonderful as they were, didn’t seem to be very prepared with handing out the bottles that quickly. It was a bit chaotic.
As I got closer to the next Kyle Point I started looking out for him in case he was earlier. It helped pass the time. This time though he was exactly where he said he’d be. I waved and he cheered me on. Again it was so lovely to see him.
As I continued on I could feel a slight discomfort in my foot. It had been randomly bothering me a few days before. Not in any serious way, but it had ached in a certain spot at various times and now while I was running I could feel it. I started to panic a little. I’d only gone about 7 or 8 miles…. I had so much further to go. My mind went into stress mode. I made the decision that if it got a lot worse I’d stop. I didn’t want to cause myself a real injury and then not be able to enjoy the rest of the holiday. What if it meant I couldn’t walk? Should I slow down? Should I stop and prod it? What actually was wrong with it?
I got to 10 miles and spotted some loos. Despite there being two people in the queue I decided to wait and use the time to have a fiddle with my foot. An ideal opportunity. Everything felt OK – no sharp pains, no throbbing. I realised that after the two people went into their respective loos that one of the loos had been free the entire time without any of realising. Urgh! So I jumped in and then got going again. My foot felt a lot better. Weird.
Then we ran up the Road of Doom. It was basically a long, straight, shadeless road that went out and back. I suddenly had vivid memories of the Dubai Marathon… Time to put some music on and zone out! I could at least watch the faster runners coming back the other way which was interesting.The road seemed to drag on forever and then finally we turned and headed back. At least it was almost entirely flat. Eventually after a lifetime of boredom, I got to the halfway mark.I realised my watch was completely out from the km markers. The only mile markers were the ones for every 5 miles. So I now had to just go by the km markers. I don’t train in km. I’m not familiar with km. Yes I understand them but they are not my friends. I felt cheated with my watch. My head hurt with trying to do the maths of how far I’d gone, how far I had to go and how long till I’d see Kyle again.
At 22km Kyle was there again. He had a gel for me (like I’d asked him) but I decided it was too early so I quickly said “next time”. He clapped me on and I continued.It was so annoying not knowing the miles. Normally I’d take my gel around 18 miles and now I didn’t know when that would be. Maths became tough going. One mile was 0.6km and 5k was 3.1 miles but what was 18 miles?? My brain wouldn’t work. 42km in a marathon and I wasn’t sure where I was. The sun was very strong now. I was feeling hot. I started counting down the rough time it would be before I could stop and the holiday could carry on without anymore running.
At 28 km I saw Kyle again. I was keen to not miss him as I wanted the gel. I didn’t feel like I needed it especially but I needed something to break the monotony. Luckily I was able to gab it. I told him I felt hot and carried on. I waited until the next water station near 30km before cracking into it (easy maths that ensured I was definitely over 18 miles).
I realise I become super particular during a marathon. The gel was a strawberry and banana flavoured GU. It was overwhelmingly banana and I’m not a big banana flavour fan. I think I thought it was vanilla and strawberry so it was quite an experienceFive more kilometres until I would see Kyle again. And genuinely those km took forever. The sun was relentless. My legs felt OK but I was tired and hot. We were running along the seafront now with no shade.
Finally 35km and there was Kyle. Honestly it helped so much having these Kyle Points. They kept me going. I was literally counting down to seeing him at the finish. I confused myself into thinking only 5k left… nooo that’s 40km Anna! I’d worked out my watch was around 0.8 miles out. I could still see my pace which was faster now. I wanted to get to the finish quicker. We ran through the Arc de Triomphe which was cool.
The final mile, then the final kilometre was never-ending. I was pushing hard to finish now. There was an incline and I was clinging on. I spotted, randomly, someone from my club and I ran up next to him and said hello – though I didn’t recognise him. He was friendly and then zoomed off. I hung onto his coat tails to the finish where there were lots of crowds cheering us in. There were lots of inflatable arches to run through which if I’m honest kind of frustrated me as they felt like fake finishes. WHEN WAS IT ENDING?
I finished in 3:31:45, which was about 10 minutes faster than I’d originally planned. It was actually a really tough marathon.
I felt shattered. Like fully drained. I found Kyle and we sat next to the Magic Fountain, with the slight spray of the water, and just took a moment. I was just glad for it to be over.
I’ve run 18 marathons now and they’re still not easy. Sometimes they feel effortless, sometimes that final 5k just flies by… and then sometimes the conditions are tough and it feels like the hardest thing in the world. This was one of those marathons.
But despite it feeling very hard, having Kyle at the various points cheering me on and knowing I had an amazing few days after of fun kept me going. It was just about getting through those hours and kilometres. I like that I still marathon distance a challenge and that I can never take it for granted. It would be dry boring it’s easy after all 😉
Have you ever been to Barcelona?
What’s the hottest race you’ve done?