It’s minus 2. Everything is frozen, dark and wet. 5am at Stansted airport and we’re delayed as they have to de-ice the wings. 3 hours later we’re in bright sunshine with blue skies and it’s 16 degrees. Welcome to Valencia.
The race is billed as flat and fast, with fantastic scenery of old town Valencia. The expo and race number collection is a trek out of town, but seeing your name on the board and seeing all the possible paraphernalia you could need to run a marathon makes up for that. I restricted myself to buying only one gel that I had forgotten to bring, and didn’t spend the entry cost of the race again on new kit for the next day.
What I’d missed when signing up was that this was a very fast race. 80% of runners were male and 15% (5,000 runners) would run sub 3 hours and 500 of those would be sub 2.30. My starting pen was the second slowest at estimated 3:50-4:00 hours. I had a feeling I was in the wrong marathon.
Two days of doing everything they say “don’t do” (trying new tapas out, walking 14,000 steps a day, visiting cathedrals) and it’s an early start. Somehow my husband persuades me that we don’t need to leave until 1 hour before the start, the toilet queues are immense even for a marathon and the bag drop is on the wrong side of the road. Before I know it, my pen has moved forward and I’m stuck behind the 4:15 pacer. Husband is now in a lot of trouble and does his best to push us forwards so at least we’re back in the sub 4 pen. The adrenaline is not making for marital harmony, especially when he says “can you just slow down a minute” (no, this is 4 months of training being lost for an extra 15 minutes in bed!!).
The wave rolls forward, and I’ve missed all the amazing singing that everyone else raves about later. I’m not entirely sure where the start line is, but I am running over the blue bridge and past the arts museum.
The pace feels easy, the sun is out but it’s not too hot. I spend the first 5k trying to bypass people, seeing Lisa Forrester on the way who’s on her first marathon but been injured in training. It’s slow, and my pacing band tells me I’m 60 seconds off pace at 5k. Better than too fast.
The kilometres speed by, and I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what the university department of ‘dref’ is as we meander past. (Sarah Power explains the next day it’s Catalan not Spanish, hence my confusion). The musical and fan support along the way is immense. The half way point is playing “it’s raining men”. Apt for the audience of 80% males.
The second half takes in the beautiful old quarter; including the Plaza de Ayuntamient. The GPS goes awry in the old close streets and I realise my pacing band has fallen off. Never mind. the crowd; the adrenaline, the alerts from the app telling me Karima has already
finished in an obscene time given her complete lack of training keep me going.
The final 800m feels much longer than 2 laps of the track and the stitch is kicking in. I see my family at 100m to go and make it over the line with a new PB of 3.40.57. The goody bag at the end is bizarrely a 3 pack of persimmon fruit, which I then see scattered all over the ground for the next several hours. The toilets are all disgusting and the bag drop is another 30 minute walk back from the start. But who cares. I’ve got a 7 minute PB and a 9 minute buffer for a London GFA. Just have to come back next year for a BQ.