This weekend saw me jetting off to Barcelona to cheer like mad for Jess and Cri, who were running in the marathon. Once again, I am brimming with love for this city and dreaming of living somewhere with a promenade and a beach (preferably not Hastings.) I am also in awe of my sister and her husband who both ran fantastically in the sweltering heat – it definitely wasn’t a race for the faint-hearted!
My love affair with Barcelona began last year when Jess and I visited the city together for the first time. We immediately fell for the sandy beaches, charismatic Old Town, beautiful parks, galleries and quirky tapas bars. On returning to London, it came as no surprise when Jess immediately signed up for the marathon, signing her husband up too after convincing him that it would be a great thing to do together. I didn’t need any persuasion to come along as a supporter so followed suit and booked my tickets too.
We stayed in the same Bed and Breakfast, El Balcon del Born, that we had stayed in the previous year. Buried in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, it was perfect for ambling around the city and we saw no reason to stay anywhere else this time. It’s a great place with a lovely atmosphere and we would definitely recommend it if you were planning a visit to Barcelona.
On Saturday morning whilst the marathoners had their final lie in, I put on my running kit and headed for the beach. On our previous visit Jess and I had left our running kits at home as she was recovering from Edinburgh marathon. As soon as we saw the promenade along the beach and the swarm of runners we both regretted it and made a mental note to bring our running gear on our next trip. Even though I was only there for the weekend I was keen not to miss out on my first beach run, so made myself get out of bed and don my running shoes. The stunning views of the sea and the warm sunshine definitely made the early start worth while. I can also safely say that Clapham Common at 6am won’t hold quite the same appeal from now on.
Later that morning we all had breakfast together, devouring the bread basket, before Jess and Cri headed to the Marathon Expo. I decided to visit the Picasso museum and wander around the Old Town by myself to soak up the atmosphere. I love ambling around cities, people watching and sitting in cafes so it was great to do this with the sun on my skin. That afternoon, we headed up to to the famous Park Guell to get a good view of the city and to see some Gaudi architecture. It’s a stunning park and was the perfect place to have an ice lolly in the sunshine. Jess and Cri were feeling pretty tired by this point and were worried about their legs aching the next day, so we headed back for a delicious pasta dinner (spectators need to carb load too!) and headed to bed.
Sunday was the big day and we all got up quite early as the race started at 8.30am. I went to the start line with Jess and Cri, but having quite a lot of time to kill I decided to jog to the first viewing point. This wasn’t quite as straight forward as it appeared on the map and unsurprisingly I managed to run 5 miles in the wrong direction. I got completely lost and found myself in a mild panic before thrusting my map manically in a Spanish lady’s face to try and ask for directions. After a vague point in the right direction I found the course at the 7.5km point, sweating and out of breath, just as the elite athletes whizzed past. I was relieved to know that I hadn’t missed them and was excited to spot Cri in his bright orange shirt, shortly followed by Jess, both of whom were still smiling at this point. I loved seeing them run past and embarrassed them both somewhat with my crazy-lady screaming!
After my first successful viewing, I then hopped onto the Metro so that I could catch them at the 14km point. However, the distance between Jess and Cri had increased by this stage, meaning that I only managed to spot Jess. To stop this happening again, I decided to skip my next viewing point and headed straight to the 28km mark. It was surprisingly fun chasing them around the city, wondering if I would make it on time. The Metro was easy to use and I managed it without any mishaps, which I was quite pleased about considering that navigation is not a strength of mine. The 28km point was really busy with spectators giving great support. However, with all the people I was worried that I might miss them both running past. Luckily, I spotted Cri who was still going strong and then saw Jessie. I decided to run with Jess for a little while so that I could chat to her about the race and give her some support.
Now, at this point I was feeling pretty exhausted from my running adventure in the morning and the burning sun, so when Jess asked me if I would run the rest of the way to pace her I was feeling a little dubious. However, now was not the time to be lazy so I joined the other marathon runners to do the last 14km of the race. I know this was a bit cheeky and against the rules, but there was plenty of space on the course so I don’t think it did any harm, and I was really pleased to be able to run part of the route with Jess. As we ran along the sea front the sun became very intense and even I was struggling, despite the fact I had only just started running. At around 23 miles we dropped the pace a little as Jess was starting to feel a little faint. We later realised she had hit a mini-wall, or as I have named it, a ‘Wallette’. Not quite bad enough to end the race but enough to make you feel pretty awful. I was quite worried about her but knew she had to finish so kept chatting and tried to keep her going. I wasn’t quite cheeky enough to cross the finish line, so at about 41km I snuck off to the side to get an ice cream and let Jess finish the race by herself. With so many people there, it took us a while to find each other at the end but as our mother’s daughters we had decided on a meeting point in the morning, which we all remembered to actually go to.
They both did such a good job, Cri finishing his very first marathon in 3.32 (I know!) and Jess setting a great new PB of 4.07. I loved spectating and managed to feel the marathon high without actually running it – perfect! However, part of me wishes I had trained up for the whole thing myself as I really enjoyed the part I ran with Jess. Realistically I know that I haven’t had time this year, but the whole event reminded me of how much I love races. It has got my mind whirling about a possible spring marathon in 2015. Although I love Barcelona, it was a little too hot for marathon running so any suggestions for spring marathons would be most welcome!
Huge well done to Jess and Cri – what a good excuse for a holiday!