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Beastly but Beautiful - Granada Half Marathon 2023 by Charles Tatham


I had looked for races here in the past but back then the only distance event I had heard of was the full marathon ending close to the summit of Pico de Veleta (an 11,000 ft peak in the Sierra Nevada). So I had given up on this idea! Somehow, I decided to have another look recently and with barely three weeks to go found and entered this event.



The only other runner I knew doing this event was a local Granadino who warned me of the tough hills on the course (he didn’t mention the heat... I suppose because Spaniards are used to such temperatures). This event started at 7.30pm in the evening which is unusually late in the day for a half marathon. After taking part in a free draw by standing on the sponsor’s podium (and winning some sleeves – what are those for?), I got my number, found some pins and dumped my bag at a rather chaotic start.



It was a boiling hot day for early May – perhaps the hottest since records began in Granada and when the gun fired it was still a scorching 27 degrees! I decided to start off slowly and conserve as much energy as possible. The first challenge was to avoid some crazy spectators trying to cross an avenue with us runners ten wide trying to avoid them in the nick of time. I soon started to think about water stations and at the first one after 5k, the tables seemed to have been cleaned out already until someone shouted ‘Mas Adelante!’. This was the one time I could not have skipped an early refreshment point!


After being through the lower town we turned towards the centre where the tall blocks of flats gave us some respite from the sun. With the Sierra Nevada in the background I got a sense of what I would face from the 10k mark.

The climb seemed to go on for ages and as it got steeper I thought – how much of this will I need to walk? So following someone ahead of me if I thought that if I could stay within 50 yards of her I would be okay with walking some of the hill. One hairpin bend left to go up and with our conquest of this hill we were rewarded with beautiful views of the sunset! Would I get to the finish before dark though?


From this point the race became more enjoyable passing the mirador de St Nicolas (some runners had even stopped to take pics!) and zigzagging through the narrow cobbled streets of the Albaicin.


After going through a Moorish arch and up a ramp the welcome downhill section started with us going past the Alhambra Palace hotel and swiftly down towards the Rio Darro. This part was soon over and guess what lay ahead – another beastly hill up into the woods by the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.


With cries of ‘Vamos’ from the crowd I thought didn't they have an odd sense of humour? A sign came up – 500m to the top, then 200m and 100m... But we hadn’t reached the high point until a while later! Once the final hill was done there was only 4k to go and I started passing quite a few people on the home run into the town centre. We had a welcome feeling of fresh cool air from the lit up fountains on ‘Reyes Catolicos’ packed with crowds. The race would finally end on the side of another river and in contrast to the blazing sun at the start the sky was now pitch black…


Finishing position 2347 out of about 3000 finishers with a time of 2.11 (over an hour behind the winner)



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