Race Report on the 2016 Barcelona Marathon…By Glenn Kenneally
When the email came around from Tim McCarthy back in October for the opportunity to do a marathon in Barcelona, I jumped at it. I’ve always wanted to do one in a European city, and as it turns out, I couldn’t have picked a better group to travel with. It was the perfect combination of supporting each other and taking the mickey at the same time. This was to be my 5th marathon but unfortunately it was the one I was least prepared for. On the very day I booked my flight and race entry, I picked up an injury at the track in my right abductor. Seven physio visits later and a lot of missed weeks of training, I tentatively started back training the week of the Dungarvan 10m race after yet another 2 weeks rest. My previous PB was 3.17 in Cork last year and before the injury I had planned on targeting 3.10, but at this stage, having no threshold or speed work done, I had resigned myself to just going to enjoy Barcelona and forgetting about any chance of a PB. The last 5 weeks consisted of slow runs and marathon pace runs, just to nurse myself to the start line. On arrival in Dublin airport, it was clear to see that the guys were taking the Carb loading seriously, albeit in liquid form. We arrived at our apartments in Barcelona, and arranged to meet for the following mornings ‘Breakfast Run’.
Breakfast Run: Alan Foley’s ‘Blue Steel’ pose became legendary in Barcelona
The breakfast run consisted of a 4km run, the day before the marathon, along the final stages of the Olympic marathon route and finishing in the Olympic stadium. There was a great atmosphere at the start area with a crowd of approximately 2,000 runners and a band beating drums. This excitement seemed to get the better of us and we soon found ourselves running a lot faster than planned. The 2nd mile was a 7.30 pace uphill mile which was faster than most of us had planned for the marathon itself. Nobody seemed to want to ease off this pace and we stayed together all the way to the stadium. With about 300m to go on the track, Tim decided to make a break for it followed by Damian and the rest of us in hot pursuit. I went past Tim with about 150m to go with Damian a further 20m ahead. I said to Tim that I was going for it, and set about trying to close the gap on Damian. I knew the only chance I had was if he didn’t realise I was coming up behind him so I kept willing him ‘don’t turn around, don’t turn around’. He must have been picturing himself standing on the Olympic podium with the gold medal around him, because he started to slow down and when he finally did turn around, it worked to my advantage as I was just going past him with only about 20 metres to go. This allowed me to gain the few metres on him I needed and with the two of us dipping on the finish line, I held on for the win- barely. Although we were all a little more tired than we planned to be, I would definitely recommend this run to anyone doing the marathon in the future. It definitely added to what was already turning out to be a great weekend and with Barca to watch later that afternoon at the Nou Camp it was only going to get better.
Nou Camp: The day before the marathon
On the morning of the marathon I woke around 4am even though I hadn’t planned to get up until 5.45. Having not raced in months, I really had no idea what kind of shape I was in. A few weeks earlier I had run 15 miles at 7.45 pace on a training run and I felt sure I could maintain this pace for the 26.2. It was a little cool on the morning of the race but the sun was shining, so the conditions were perfect. We all met up for the pre-race photo and with the ‘good lucks’ exchanged, we all set off for our respective starting zones. Because I had originally planned to target a time of 3.10, I found myself feeling a bit like an imposter, beside Damian in the sub 3.15 section. We found it amusing to see guys trying to do a warm up by running in really small circles. Just after 8.30 we were off to the sound of Queens ‘Barcelona’ and the sprinkling of confetti.
0 – 5 Miles: 7.50, 7.50, 7.59, 7.35, 7.52
I knew that a lot of the drags came in the first 5 miles of this course so I planned on going out fairly easy on miles 2, 3 & 5 and making back a little time on the easier mile 4. There was much talk leading up to the race about following the blue racing line around the course and for the first few miles I certainly tried. I found however, that at times this blue line was trying to play tricks on us. It rarely took the tightest line around bends and sometimes it disappeared altogether, only to magically appear on another part of the road. As the race went on I decided the blue line was no longer my friend and I gave up on it altogether.
6 – 10 Miles: 7.19, 7.33, 7.33, 7.47, 8.50
On mile 6 a Kamikaze old couple decided it was a good idea to cross the road in the hope that they wouldn’t get bundled over by the thousands of runners. I was able to check my stride just in time to avoid the collision, though I don’t think the runner behind me was quite so appreciative. Mile 10 obviously stands out as the slowest mile, because it was at this point that the bladder demon won the argument going on in my head and I had to stop for some relief. His winning argument was ‘why should I run in discomfort when I’m not chasing a PB anyway?’
11 – 15 Miles: 7.00, 7.42, 7.50, 7.20, 7.30
I knew that mile 11 would be a nett downhill mile so I thought I would try to make up some of the lost time and hence the 7 minute mile. My left Achilles had also started to trouble me a bit at this stage and it stayed sore for the rest of the race but thankfully didn’t get bad enough for me to have to stop. It’s just another old injury that likes to let me know that it’s still there from time to time. During this stage of the race was the first of the two out and back sections. I thought this would be a difficult section, but because I was distracted looking across the road for other club members it seemed to go by rather quickly. The only other runner I managed to see was Damian who was going really well at this point.
16 – 20 Miles: 7.44, 7.47, 7.38, 7.32, 7.38
After miles 16 and 17, I knew that a sub 3.20 was beyond me, but I wanted to finish strongly so I focused on keeping the miles in the 7.30’s which I managed for all, but the hillier mile 23. Another wave to Damian on the 2nd out and back section and we were on the home straight. The support from the crowd along the entire route was incredible and the bands playing, really added to the carnival atmosphere.
21 – 26.5 Miles: 7.36, 7.35, 7.49, 7.21, 7.27, 7.29, 7.01
This was the strongest I had ever felt, coming to the end of a marathon which made me think I had under estimated my target time, but I don’t think I could have improved upon it by 7 minutes in order to get the PB. On the long uphill finish, a runner went past me with a green vest with IRL on the back. I figured I would stick close to my compatriot and use him to pull me up the hill. He duly obliged weaving in and out of the runners who had started to struggle in this finishing section. I later found out he was a Watergrasshill runner in disguise. With about half a mile to go, I had to say goodbye to my new found friend and I decided it was time to push on to the finish, so I picked my pace up to about 7 minute/mile for the last half mile, high fiving the crowd as I went and finishing with a time of 3.23.39 and my first negative split marathon.
Race Post Mortem
Only ever having ran the Cork and Dublin marathons, I don’t have much to compare this marathon to, but I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The route, the crowd, the organisation and the atmosphere, made it a fantastic experience. A swollen Achilles tendon and a blister on my small toe, big enough to water the garden are the only negative effects. Everyone from the club did really well with Damian Kenneally finishing in 3.13, Michael Forde in 3.16, Martin O’Leary in 3.30, Amy Newman in 3.40, Karen Bevan in 3.53, Derek Costello in 3.54, Alan Foley in 3.57, Tim McCarthy in 3.58, John Dunleavy in 4.06 and Jacek Jabiewicz in 4.11. With six PB’s from the 11 runners it was a definite success and even though Tim’s sub 4 was not a PB, it was a great performance on very little training due to injury. We all owe a huge thank you to Tim for flawlessly organising a fantastic weekend, which was of course rounded off by some celebratory beers.
On arrival back in Dublin airport, we were greeted by Mundy playing in the baggage hall and several Aer Lingus staff trying to rope us into some dodgy looking dancing for their social media website. As we weren’t in the best physical condition for dancing, we can only be thankful that our exposure on the final video was very brief.