Where: Barcelona, north east Spain
When: March, since 1978 (formerly Catalunya Marathon).
Size: Around 15,000 runners
Official race website here.
- Remember to train in kilometers as all the course signs and distances are in km and not miles
- Be prepared for a hilly first 10km
- Make sure you drink plenty of fluids on the way round and make use of the sprinklers!
- Prepare for a hot race – the stretch along the beach from around 20-23 miles is particularly exposed and challenging
- Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the sights of a great city!
Official race video…
The organisation and set up of the entire race is flawless – the registration and baggage drop process are both extremely slick, live athlete tracking is provided on the website, a results email is sent through on the day with a breakdown of time splits and best of all, all participants received a free race t-shirt!
The organisation also feels like it’s come from the whole city as everyone seems to really embrace the race and work hard to make it a memorable occasion for all runners.
Before the race, you sign up online and if you book early you can get a place for the very reasonable £50 which is a good price for such a popular European marathon.
In the lead up you get sent emails with all the information required and the website is also very helpful.
The actual race is brilliantly organised, from the Expo to the on-course support. There are frequent drinks stations (much needed in the heat) with water and Powerade, and food stops later on with gels, bananas and oranges etc. There is also plenty of water, fresh fruit and nuts at the finish line – along with an army of massage therapists providing free post-race massages.
What was the course like?
The first 10km is fairly hilly with some notable inclines, although it does flatten out for the majority before a cruel final incline over the last 2km.
The route is like a tourist tour of the city, littered with monuments and sights including the Nou Camp, Sagrada Familia, Magic Fountain, Colom, Arc de Triomphe and beach.
For a first time visitor to the city the route certainly provides a welcome distraction to the pain!
TIP – It is important to remember for those who are used to tracking their running in miles that European marathons predominantly use kilometre markers on the course.
How difficult is Barcelona Marathon?
Whilst the course is not the most challenging in terms of terrain, the heat certainly makes it a difficult day out. Temperatures can reach the mid-20s on the day which is a bit tasty for us Brits and others predominantly training through a bleak winter!
The stretch along the beach from around 20-23 miles is particularly exposed and challenging.
How’s the atmosphere?
There is a good atmosphere at the start line created by the announcers and some motivational music.
The race is also well supported throughout the majority of the route – particularly near the finish later on in the day. Whilst it does not compare to the levels of support at some of the larger city marathons like London or New York, there are plenty of bands en route and more than enough encouraging supporters.
What is there to do Apres Race?
The Expo is a pretty large affair with the usual range of exhibitors and freebies hosted right next to the start line by the Magic Fountains and Placa Espanya.
The complimentary pasta party within the Expo is actually pretty good – they certainly don’t scrimp on the portion size!
Barcelona is a fantastic city for tourists, and there are certainly worse ways to celebrate completing a marathon than with Estrella and tapas!
It is a race that we would certainly recommend to anybody looking for an overseas spring marathon.
My Race Diary
By Adam Bennett – top age group triathlete and runner
Marathon no.: 5
Having settled into my rhythm early on, I was comfortably hitting my target splits and went through the halfway mark around 1:29 – a pretty conservative split for a sub 3 attempt but I was feeling strong and confident that I could maintain the pace. What was slightly disconcerting was the erratic pacing of the 3 hour pacers who were all over the shop, and made me worry that the splits being recorded on my Garmin weren’t quite right! I later discovered that the other pacers were similarly erratic with their splits.
By the time we hit the beach around 21 miles the heat was starting to get to me – it was probably around 11am by this point and the temperature was creeping into the 20’s (nb. It felt about 30). I had to stop very briefly around this point to stretch out the excruciating cramps that had developed in my stomach. The last 4-5 miles truly were a death march – the combination of the heat, dehydration and general exhaustion meant the splits were hovering just over the 7 minute mile mark as opposed to just under it (Garmin link below), although I knew there was still the possibility that I could sneak just under the 3 hour mark.
It became about counting down to the finish and simply putting one foot in front of the other – around 1 mile from the finish I had the extremely demoralising experience….
TO READ MORE ABOUT ADAM’S RACE SEE HIS BLOG POST HERE.