Barcelona Half Marathon – 16.2.20

Race Report by Alison Lowe

I first heard about this race from a flyer I picked up at the London Marathon expo When I saw it was only €28 and being somewhere I could persuade my husband we could go for a weekend away I booked it up ! This is one of biggest half marathons in Spain – it’s a flat and fast course and attracts about 23,000 runners.

Unfortunately, there are few flights in winter from Birmingham to Barcelona  – so we had to go down to Heathrow and take an early flight out on the Saturday morning. Once we got there we headed immediately to the Runners Fair to pick up my number – which was thankfully easy to get to via the airport bus. I had received numerous emails from them urging me to collect my number before the Saturday if I could so was expecting it to be rammed so was pleasantly surprised to find that the hall was not too busy. I picked up my number easily enough and then we picked up the race pack and t-shirt – a slight surprise that the ladies finisher t-shirt was white but the men’s was red – not seen that before.

One of the first things we noticed was that compared to home the weather was warm – about 16 degrees and very sunny which is warm enough to go without a coat – unless you are a local then a thick winter coat appeared to be needed!

With that all sorted we headed over to the hotel about half an hour away which I had chosen to be as near to the start as possible. My start pen was only 10 minutes walk away from the hotel which was perfect . The cut of time is advertised as 2hr 45mins (although loads did actually finish after that) and the slowest pacer was 2 hours. As my expected time was over 2 hours my pen was right at the back.

We spent a couple of hours then walking around – probably too much walking and didn’t have enough to drink – lessons learned for the next time I go away for a race.

Being so close to the start I didn’t need too get up too early – when I went to breakfast the dining area was already full of runners. When I left at 8am the temperature was just right at this point – I was not cold just wearing a tshirt. The road outside our hotel was now closed and there were loads of runners warming up along it – as I walked to my pen I could overhear so many different languages being spoken – they since mentioned that 45% of the runner were from overseas. In the start pen I found two other lady Brits to talk to – we chatted for over half an hour as despite the run starting bang on time at 8.45am it then took us 26 minutes to get to the actual start line. That was also confusing as we thought we had crossed the timing mats and were off – but just past them we stopped !  They held us to do a countdown and then we were off.

The route took us back past my hotel ( husband no where to be seen!) and then right onto the sea front road. I was worried that the coastal roads might be windy as there was a breeze but they are sufficiently set back that it was fine. From the start there was great support along the route and there were many samba bands or singers every few kilometers. The main roads of the city are wide and much of the route was on straight stretches of road so despite the large number of runners  it never felt congested. Having followed the Avinguda Parallel we then turned onto the Grand Via – this is a really wide road and it was great to run down the middle and admire the architecture along the way. The first water station was at the 5km point– this had both water and Powerade – there were then further water stations at 10km and 15km also with Powerade .

The route forms almost a figure of 8 from the start and after 7.5km we were back near the start at the Arc de Triomf where there was a huge amount of support.

I was pleased with my split times at 5km and 10km but didn’t think I could keep the pace going. By 10km I was feeling pretty warm – which then felt odd as the spectators were well wrapped up. At 13 km we then turned onto Diagonal – a wide Avenue that cuts across the city grid system . I knew this was a switchback – but that we had to run about 2km along before turning back. The Avenue has a central reservation so the runners on the other side were some way away but again it was an impressive sight with so many runners together. By now I was grateful for my marathon training last year as whilst it still seemed a way to go it didn’t feel as daunting as before I’d run over the half marathon distance. It did seem to take a while to reach the switch around point but I had seen the 15km water station from the other side so aimed for that The run back along the Diagonal then didn’t seem as long as the run up – and then as we made it to the coast road at the end we were at 16km – just a parkrun to go.  Most of the remainder of the run was along the coast road – at 18km there were 2 runners collapsed and out cold not far from each other – I always take that as a sign to not push the pace too hard – especially having no idea how EU healthcare arrangements with the UK now work !! We then turned right to head back to the finish – the road was a steady downhill and as we approached the 20km marker I could see the Sagrada Familia towers in the distance – a great view. I was flagging now and just before we turned into the finishing stretch I walked for a bit but the crowd shouted my name which encouraged me to pick my pace back up. One final left turn and we were back to where we lined up at the start and I was finally at the finish.

I was pleased to finish in 2.12.30 – I think my second fastest half marathon time.

The finish area was well organized and as well as the medal we got bottles of water and Powerade, fruit and a plastic poncho – which I think I’ll make more use of back home! We were also handed a small token  – I later found out that this race is part of a series of 5 half marathons around Spain – when you run them all you get a finishers medal and pop the tokens on that.

Overall this was a great event – it was well organized with perfect running conditions and a fantastic location.