Barcelona Half Marathon

Our very own Paul Holborow did the Barcelona half on Sunday, here’s how he got on…

Basking in the sun with a new piece of silverware

So I’d already booked a family holiday to Barcelona, mainly to watch some footy to be honest and it wasn’t until the day before we were due to leave that I just happened to google ‘Barcelona Marathon 2021’ just to see you if anything was on, as you do (or I do anyway!) Bingo!  Up popped a half on the Sunday when we were going to be there. I clicked on ‘Register’ to see if entries were still open which they were for one more day! Needless to say I entered there and then, rebooked a few hotel stays and it was on. 

I love running when I’m on holiday. It’s my time and when I can’t raise the troops before mid morning at the best of times, I really have no problem getting up early and getting out to explore and maybe grab a cheeky coffee and croissant for my my efforts on the way back to the hotel. So in the days before the race I’d done just a few shortish runs just to keep the legs ticking over, no more and no less. I even managed a 30km leisurely bike ride and took the last 2 days before the race off.

Arriving back in Barcelona the day before the race I checked in to the Expo, a very understated affair and collected my bib, shirt and chip. 

Understated expo

After a bit of a sleepless night it was race day. An early 8:30 start was fine with me, and a short walk from my hotel to my corral and the nerves began to kick in. I looked back up the start area and saw thousands of runners and realised that despite the low key Expo this is actually a big race. Faster runners at the front went through their motions, meanwhile I went through mine!! Each wave got their own send off which was brilliant. An excited man with the mic geed us all up and with some loud music and flame throwers we were off.

Excited faces on the start line

My aim was sub 1:45 which is 5 minutes per km , or 8 minute miles in old money. It’s also easy on the mental maths to work out my progress during the race. My plan was to keep to a steady 5:10 minutes per km for the first few kms to relax and conserve some energy whilst still keeping in touch with the target. If I was feeling ok I’d carry on and get to 10& 15km and then if the wheels hadn’t fallen off try and go for it from there.

Barcelona is a great European city and the course took in some of the sights – its harbour, ornate buildings, art galleries, cathedral and Catalan identity ever present. Sure it’s a bit dirty and at night a bit seedy but it’s streets are wide and in October it’s still sunny and warm by day. 

After 5km I was feeling ok and came in just under 25 minutes. Then 10km came round and I was just under 50minutes and feeling good, confident and began to think it was on. I tried to stay calm and somehow managed to get in with a slightly faster group and started to do some 4:30’s and 4:45’s and still felt good. It was warm but much of the course was in shade and flat so the heat  didn’t bother me at all, conditions were perfect really. The slight downhills helped keep up the pace and 15km came and went quite quickly as my pace had increased.  I had been taking on water at every 5km water station and at 15 took one of the gels handed out. It was unfamiliar and I was wary but took a few sips with some water and was ok.

At 18km there was an incline as we headed back towards the harbour area towards the finish. I began to tire as I decided not to have much more of the gel, probably in hindsight a mistake. I gratefully accepted more slight downhills and was relieved to see the finish. I didn’t have much left to be honest but as I worked out I would still finish well under 1:45 I knew it was job done. 

Over the finish in 1:43:29 and I was very pleased with the time and for once my race panned out as planned.

At the finish area, as I sat chatting to a Spanish runner, he just happened to mention the full marathon is in 3 weeks time as it had been moved to early November. He said he thought entries were still open. All I had to do was Google it check. And yes, entries are still open if you’re interested…