This time last week I was running the 2019 Murcia Maraton. A great start of season marathon in southern Spain, and a welcome break from dreary British weather. I had originally intended for this to form my annual January benchmarking run, but it turned out to be a great weekend away, and a surprising race result.
The flights from London to the new Murcia International Airport cost less than twenty pounds return(!) and the airport was in pristine condition, having only opened ten days earlier. A short taxi ride later we were at our hotel in the centre of Murcia, and went in search of pizza to start our carb loading.
On Saturday morning we registered at a local sports hall. The setup reminded me of the 2018 Helsinki Marathon registration hall. What the registration lacked in terms of stalls and entertainment, it made up for with the quality of the goody bag. Not one but two technical t-shirts, arm warmers, socks, a key pouch, and I even blagged illuminated shoe laces!
A bit more carb loading later, we hopped on a coach to Cartagena, and spent the rest of the day there, before getting to sleep before midnight, with a picinic style breakfast in the hotel room fridge for the early start the next day. (Thanks NH Hotels!)
On the morning of the race, I wolved down my breakfast, had a couple of espressos and beetroot juice and headed to the start line. Ten minutes before the race and the starting pens were still empty – it was looking likely that the race would not start on time, which it didn’t. The air was cool but not cold enough to warrant a throwaway layer of clothing. My race belt was straining with the eight energy gels it was supporting, which I would consume every 25 minutes.
The elites set off, and my pen began its shuffle forward, into a jog, and then a run as we crossed the timing mats. I kept my heart rate at a comfortable rate under 80% maximum effort (about 160bpm). At this pace I was running comfortably and taking in the sights of Murcia. There were water stations dotted about the two lap course, occasionally with fluorescent blue electrolytes drinks.
The first hour flew by. In the second hour the course thinned further as runners found their pace and I started the second lap, free of the half marathon runners. I stopped for a pee (too much pre-race juice) and was caught up by one of two 3.30 pace groups. I held on to them for a while, letting them set the pace, then dropped them once more. I found myself running with the third female for quite a while (who had her own bicycle escort with a giant balloon advertising her position), and eventually overtook her too.
There were long sections with just be and a handful of runners. The final hour required a lot of focus – trying to keep the legs turning over quickly, but I had not run more than 12 miles in several months! (This was just meant to be a season opener, not an A race.) However, I could sense a possible PB marathon time, so I dug deep and willed my legs to keep turning, ignoring my quads starting to ache and my heart rate heading up to 95+% effort.
The final hundred metres turned east into the town square, with cheering crowds. A quick check over my shoulder that I wasn’t going to be overtaken, then a final surge to the finish line. Euphoria. Elation. A marathon course Personal Best!
I treated myself to getting the medal laser etched with my name and PB time, then went in search of tapas and coffee. Not a bad start to the year… now to focus my attention on the upcoming London Marathon!
Keep training hard