Having learnt valuable lessons from Marriott’s Way Trail Marathon the week before, I’d decided not be my usual unprepared self and left no stone unturned for Seville. On the Wednesday was massage time thanks to Beacon Tri sponsors “Replay Sports Clinic”, who understood the situation of torn quad muscles post-cramp, and didn’t go too deep on the muscles!
I flew out on Thursday, allowing time to acclimatise to the rays, check out the course and explore the city! After a couple of short runs to coax the legs back into gear, they felt surprisingly ok but by no means perfect. The atmosphere of the city was buzzing, especially as the race doubled as the Spanish National Championships. I went to the expo on the Friday to pick up my race kit and bumped into (eventual Spanish champion) Javi Guerra. After carbing up on delicious tapas during a city tour, with friend of a friend Andres, I hit the hay ready for Sunday!
Conditions were cool and still, pretty ideal for running (In hindsight, a vest still would have been better than a t-shirt). I got to the ‘Estadio Olimpico’ along with 15,000 other runners, who’d managed to nab all the loo roll unfortunately. (N.B. I held it in.)
At 8.30am, the gun sounded and we were off! I settled into a nice, comfortable rhythm just ahead of the 2hr 45min pacer. Going through 10km in 38.24, it felt really manageable. About 12 miles in I took my foot off the gas a bit after feeling the oh-so-familiar feeling of early cramp. I went through halfway in 1.22.12, a half marathon PB by 43 seconds. The quad cramp properly took hold by 15 miles. Shortly after, the 2.45 group went past and from there on in I knew it was damage-limitation time.
Put simply, the next 11 miles were agony. At first, I slowed from 6.15/mile pace to 6.40/mile. At around the 20-mile mark, the hamstrings, calfs and glutes also started to go and I slowed down to about 7.00/mile. Luckily, this time I didn’t hit the wall/bonk. I had a gel every 5km (EIGHT gels), along with some solid food and sugary drinks.
Every step for those last 18 kilometres sent a shooting sensation of pain through the legs, each one screaming to stop and walk. Having learnt the lesson from the week before, I knew as soon as you stop to walk… it’s game over! The huge crowd was out in force from mile 1 to mile 26… the extra motivation from them was infectious. At 15 miles, I honestly didn’t think I could run another kilometre. After counting down the remaining 18 kilometres one by one with the help of the crowd, the stadium was almost in sight.
The feeling of running under the tunnel of the Estadio Olimpico and onto the athletics track was simply euphoric. Suddenly there was no pain, just disbelief. Running down the home straight and crossing the finish line is a moment I’ll never forget. To be honest, with my body in pieces, there was nothing left but emotion. The euphoria and atmosphere were overwhelming! It had been a real test of will-power.
I finished in 2.52.08, and was delighted to finish top in my age category, “promising young talent” by over little over 2 minutes. It was then time for some Estrella and there was even a prize ceremony with Rosa Mota (to this day the only person to hold the Olympic, World and European marathon titles simultaneously!) which was a real honour. That trophy is definitely going on the mantlepiece!
Although the race didn’t go to plan, I’m over the moon and can return to chilly Norfolk proud. It’s easy to question whether running Marriott’s Way Trail Marathon a week before was a bad idea, maybe the legs would have held out. Maybe so!
Or, whether I should I have stuck with/behind the 2.45 group. In all honesty, I don’t think this would have helped. The pace for those first 12 miles (about 6.10/mile) was comfortable, on fresh legs a sub 2.45 is hopefully possible. Never know, might even come back to Seville next year for some unfinished business (and more Estrella!)