The 25th of March 2012 was the day I ran my 3rd international road marathon. My choice was Barcelona this time. First of all, a reminder of my previous marathon results:
- Bucharest International Marathon, 2010: 3h58'14", 134/301
- Maratona di Roma (Rome), 2011: 3h31'26", 2199/16188
I registered to the marathon in November 2011 and paid 50 euro, instead of 70 euro which was the price for the registrations made the month before the event. Unfortunately, we didn't form a Ro Club Marathon group like the last year in Rome. Some of my club colleagues chose to run this spring in other European cities, like Paris, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Rome, Limassol or Cluj-Napoca. Paris would have been my preferred choice, too, if the race had not taken place on the Orthodox Easter Day, the 15th of April. So I chose Barcelona and I am very happy. It's a wonderful city and I've enjoyed it every single day of my stay. If you read the previous blog post, you know what I'm talking about.
The hardest part of the marathon was training for it. Maybe it's the first time I tell it, but that is my current feeling. I registered to the marathon with a proposed time between 3 hours and 3 hours and a half, because I knew this is my current running potential. I followed, like for the last marathon, a 3 hours-marathon training program of 7 weeks, which I adapted to my pace. I've started the program in the first week of February. If you lived in Bucharest in this period, you will certainly understand that my greatest training enemy was The Winter. The Winter, with a lot of snow, ice and temperatures of less than -10* C. I wasn't able to perform on track or asphalt my speed intervals, because there were only snow and ice. My only option left was the slow running training. Even if there had been fast running in the program, I would have run slowly. I cannot run fast in the snow if I have difficulties even to walk on it! I preferred to perform the speed intervals at home on my stepper, with some warm up exercises included. I remember the last year it was a cold winter as well, but not so much snow. I remember I ran almost everyday in the park or on the athletics stadium. This winter was worse. There were times I couldn't agree with myself if I hated running on snow and ice more than running at -15 degrees with a cold wind in my face. Well, the latter happened only once. It was a very cold Saturday morning in the Herastrau Park of Bucharest at 8:30 AM, the time of the traditional running group reunion. No one else showed up. It was just me, with my face covered by a Buff scarf and a warm cap. I had to run for almost 2 hours. I haven't repeated this experience. I think I waited for the temperature to return to -5 degrees or higher. The last run with snow in my face was on Thursday, the 15th of March. After that, the spring finally came. Unfortunately, there were only 10 days left. I continued my daily trainings, but I couldn't maintain a pace of 4:10-4:30 min/km within 2 hours of running. My conclusion was: bad training, bad expectations. I hoped I would at least make a new personal record. If possible, I would try to finish the marathon before 3 hours and a half, this means an average pace of less than 5 min/km.
The central place of the marathon was Plaça Espanya, near the Montjuïc hill and the Fira de Barcelona (fair). The first running event was the Breakfast Run on Saturday, the 24th. The start was planned from the 4 Ionic Columns of Montjuïc near the Marathon Exposition entrance in Fira de Montjuïc. The route covered the last 4 kilometres of the Marathon of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games. 20 years after that, I've found myself entering the Olympic stadium like an Olympic champion finishing the marathon. It was a wonderful experience, a non competitive race which made all its participants feel like the winners. I couldn't miss this moment and took some pictures and video recordings of it.
|Before the Breakfast Run|
|View of the 4 Ionic Columns|
|Montjuïc Olympic Stadium|
|Montjuïc Olympic Stadium|
This was actually my last training day for the marathon. After returning to the Expo, I took my marathon bag and visited the Expo stands. For the first time in my life, I made the pronation test for my feet at the Adidas stand. I had to run without shoes on a still band on the floor and my steps were analysed on the computer. I found out I have a small overpronation, which requires neutral running shoes. My Nike Dual Fusion ST2 are neutral and I can tell I never had any problems running with them. The Expo comprised 3 main divisions: Marathon, Trail Running and Triathlon. Most of the stands were promoting races from different countries in the world. I discovered a lot of races that I had never heard about before, but none of them made me decide where to run next time. Later we came back and waited for more than an hour to get some pasta with pesto or tomatoes at the Pasta Party. Did you know that waiting a lot for something to eat makes it more delicious? :)
Sunday morning, 8:20 AM. I met Cosmin, a Romanian man in Plaça Espanya, who was running his first marathon. He prepared himself for 4 to 4:30 hours. After 10 minutes I reached the red sector, reserved for me and the other runners who registered with a target time between 3 and 3:30 hours. I was the only one running with our club's official T-shirt for abroad races. I passed through the start gate at 1'30" after the start. I started my Garmin Forerunner 305 watch to track me and there we went. Time to run for 42 kilometres!
Start from Plaça Catalunya, then straight on the streets Tarragona, Berlin, Paris and so on. I had a good pace, around 4:30 min/km. I was feeling good. The temperature was around 12 degrees with a clear sky, perfect for the marathon. We ran mostly in the shadow of the buildings, so the sun didn't bother us very much when the temperature increased and the sun shined happy above our heads. After the 5th km, we descended and I gained speed. I didn't have to move my hands, I could relax my muscles and let my feet run without effort. We surrounded the famous stadium of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou! After the stadium we encountered the first of the 52 animation groups on the route. All the groups were fantastic! Most of them used drums and gave me more motivation to keep the running pace. I remember that in Bucharest there were 1 or 2 animation points, but our city and marathon organizer still has to learn a lot from the experienced ones. It's not only the route and the overall organization, but the supporters on the street as well should take part of the event. I don't remember being left alone on the route in Barcelona. Maybe in the first kilometres there were few supporters, but after Camp Nou the city was all supporting us. 19507 marathoners had Barcelona at their feet that day, with more than 30000 supporters. Wonderful!
Everything went as planned for 19 km. On the way I met some famous architectural constructions, like Casa Batllo', La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia. I didn't remember the route very well and at some point I was asking myself if I ran besides the famous church and didn't notice it, being too concentrated to look around me. Fortunately, after 5 minutes I passed by and my first word was: WOW!! (if you read the previous article, you know that already) When reaching the point where I saw runners coming from the opposite side of the road, I experienced my first decline of motivation and strength and ran slower. When getting closer to the half marathon point I motivated myself to get at least a good time at halfway. According to the official results, my time was 1h38'32". Almost 3 minutes worse than my personal record in this distance. There was still hope for a personal record on the marathon so I remained motivated. The next 10 kilometres passed fine, I was capable to run at a constant pace until we entered the Avinguda Diagonal street and I saw again runners on the opposite side of the road. I think that seeing runners with an advantage of more than 2 kilometres over me demoralizes me. However, the public were too good to be let down by me and I managed to run until I reached the refreshing point at the km 30. I walked to be able to eat and drink water and energy drink, to eat an energy gel and to take a little break from running. It was hard for me, I was hitting the Wall. I had a huge desire to stop and energize myself. But I continued to run at a medium pace and finally reached the seaside.
Around the 35th kilometre the gels and energy drinks made their effect and I was like reborn, being able to run again with a pace under 5 min/km. According to my watch, there was still time for a personal record, but only if I hurried. No more walks, no more slow pace. It's only 7 kilometres. Experts say that the real marathon begins at this point. Well, they usually refer to the elite runners who aim to win the race and compete against each other. The runners beside me were not my competitors, we were not opponents. My real opponents were my body, my mind and, of course, the time. I passed through the triumphal arch (Arc de Triomf) and on the next street, Ronda St. Pere (km 37), my girlfriend surprised me by seeing her there. She called me and I noticed her immediately. She was holding in one hand the Romanian flag I had given her before the marathon, because I knew it would help me recognize her rapidly when passing by. You can see the photo of me below. I don't look very tired after 37 km, what do you think? She went to the underground to reach Plaça Espanya before me and catch me at the end of the race. I had to continue running, but I reached the city centre and all the roads were pleasant to see and pass by. First Plaça Catalunya, then Les Ramblas and Colóm, the column of Cristoforo Colombo.
After the column I was at the 40th kilometre. Just 2 km left and the marathon will be over. I had only 12 minutes left to the 3h30' target, according to my Garmin watch. The watch stopped at some point for 20 seconds because the GPS lost the satellite, so I wasn't sure the calculation was precise. Anyway, a pace of 5 min/km would have been sufficient. The last kilometres of the marathon are different from all the others. If you are highly motivated, you stop feeling the pain in your legs and the overall fatigue in your body. You run with your heart, your mind, your soul. The desire of finishing as soon as possible kept me in my pace until I crossed the finish line. When seeing Plaça Espanya again, there was one more little fear I had.. please, don't make us surround the column of the square, too!! I couldn't see if the marathoners went to the left immediately or if they made a tour of the big roundabout as well. I arrived and turned left!! Evrika!!! There were only 100 metres left. Everybody was happy. The official clock showed 3h31', but I knew I had a 1'30" delay at the start. I crossed the finish line happy and relieved!!
|Before the start|
|At km 37|
|The last 50 metres!!|
As you can see from the results, my real time was 3h29'50", just 10 seconds before 3h30'! After all, I registered with a target between 3 and 3 and 1/2 hours, so I met the proposed target! My overall position is 4073 of the 19507 marathoners who took the start, so I rank in the first 25%. I found out from the marathon site that we were 30 marathoners from Romania. That is a huge number in my opinion, because I knew only about Cosmin before leaving for Barcelona. I ranked second in the results list of the 30 Romanians. Every finisher received a medal and some final refreshments.
The marathon was overall very good organized. I liked mostly the Breakfast Run, the Marathon Exposition, the route, the supporters and the animation points. Of course, the beautiful city and the sunny day completed the whole picture.
You can see my route and statistics of my marathon extracted from the Garmin watch at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/163382379.
Read more about my days in Barcelona: http://themihh.blogspot.com/2012/04/few-days-in-barcelona.html.