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Elizabeth Wood talks Zurich Barcelona Marathon 2018

Zurich Barcelona Marathon 2018

Vamoose Chica!

Having previously resisted any suggestions that I do a post event write up, for feeling like I might have nothing to say, I’ll just tell it like it happened and then reflect (oh, so very briefly) on lessons learnt.

My daughter and I go away together every year for a city break. We’d both been to Barcelona before but decided to add a marathon to the itinerary and this promised to be a flat course and reasonably cool in March.

Training, you know, that thing you are supposed to do so that you don’t hit the wall at 18 miles or so. Well, I did a few long runs basing them on time and not distance and went swimming instead.

On arrival we signed up for the Saturday’s fun run, a 4.5km jolly followed by a free breakfast and the best coffee. We started at the Magic Fountains and followed a route around the lovely Olympic Park. The directions were a tad confusing and rather brilliantly led the 1500 or so runners in front of me the wrong way, avoiding a huge flight of steps. This is what can happen if you are prancing and skipping nimbly along, chatting and not paying attention. Therefore I was, albeit momentarily, amongst 500 or so runners doing a lap of the Olympic Stadium to finish, before we were caught up by them. Smiles to self.

The big day and my alarm doesn’t go off.  Luckily H woke up and we had just enough time to get kit on and get to Pl. Espanya but not enough time to think “How about some sightseeing instead?” My first impression was astonishment at the number of loos. I have never suffered from pre-event tummy trouble. Every sphincter I have closes up at the prospect of competition. No peeing in a wetsuit for me or pre-race pooping. My body shuts down in protective defiance and I like to think it’s a ‘fight’ response rather than a ‘flight’ one.

We joined our group for the start in the 10,000 red labelled runners and off we went.

At this stage its worth mentioning, I am not a runner. I started running at 54 and have gone downhill ever since. So, what exactly am I doing?

I’ve had a memorable life, been places and done things that make me feel very fortunate and now I’m in an age group (60-64) when a degree of self-assurance removes the need to seek approval and therefore removes some pressure.  All I want to do, is have a go. I might fail, staggeringly but I just feel the need to have a go.  Once I’ve factored in the risk of injury, the maximum amount of prophylactic pain killers I can take and whether I have adequate medical insurance then we’re good to go!  Seriously though, as I do far more mental prep than physical, I had a good idea I’d be very lucky to come in under 6 hours.  Inadequate training, excess poundage, osteo-arthritis, blah blah blah, all taken into account I knew this was going to be a task even if I ended up having to walk the whole thing.

Actually, the first half was fine, though much warmer than I would have liked after Blighty’s Eastern blast. 20 degrees. Water and feeding stations placed every 2.5km also provided Powerade, fruit, gels, first aid, loos and Vaseline. At 18 miles we realised that the feeding stations were now depleted and that’s where my melted Snickers bar became my best friend. No, on second thoughts, that was the Vaseline. I was also very aware that the six hour cut off van was pushing the few remaining folk behind us and we endeavoured to stay out of its reach.

The Catelonians were fabulous and I was cheered up and surprised by the number of elderly Senyora who were shouting “Vamoose Chica” at me.

At 22 miles I was walking more, my right calf complaining bitterly and knowing at least four toenails were detatching themselves from my feet and then the van caught up with us last few runners. Behind this sweep up van was a large luxury coach carrying those who knew they were done for the day. The pressure to quit so the roads could reopen was intense and we heard the guy say to those behind, “It’s the coach or the pavement”. I was stunned to see everyone got on but us. I grabbed Hannah and we ran off onto the pavement ahead keeping our eyes averted from the van man. He got the message and left.

I apologised profusely to Hannah for slowing her down as she could easily have finished in sub 5 let alone sub 6.

I was definitely not getting on that coach. I’d follow that blue paint on the road and crawl bleeding over the line to empty stands and no medal rather than do that.

Navigating through pedestrians and road crossings slowed us but couldn’t deter us, not even the looks from those returning home and looking quizzically at their watches could humiliate us into stopping.

A message from a friend who had finished sub 3 arrived saying, “You’re so nearly there. Beer is waiting” and provided us with the last push. As we crossed the finish line, the stands were pretty much empty apart from volunteers. A very, very lovely man called Christian, who turned out to be the Race Director, walked to the Finish Line and gave us truly warm congratulations and proceeded to put medals around our necks and give us a kiss (both sides of course, this is Spain).  I don’t think everyone got that.  As if that wasn’t enough, he guided us into the now empty hospitality suite and told us to help ourselves to the posh nosh. The volunteers gave us paper carrier bags which we filled with goodies and took to the café, where our fizz was waiting, to be shared out with fellow Caistor Running Club participants.

Yes, we were last over the line but, hey ho, Hannah will go onto other Marathons and I will…probably not.

Quick feedback on the event itself for the more seasoned athlete.

Fabulous venue, a few very long out and backs which sap the soul.

If you like the idea of fancy dress this isn’t the one for you. I didn’t see anyone who was less likely to run a marathon than me.

I may have steely determination but training is better.

Thank you Steve Clark at OTCF for keeping me strong and my buddies in Caistor Running Club and Lincsquad who see past my bloody-mindedness and praise me anyway.

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