Report by Elaine Guinane
A trip to Barcelona seems to have become something of an annual tradition in Eagle AC, with groups travelling there over the last four or five years to take part in either the full marathon (March) or the Half marathon (Mid-February). The common factors of all these trips are Tim McCarthy and Damian Kenneally. Tim and Damian were part of a group that did the full marathon in 2015 and 2016, and went to the half marathon there last year. As the saying goes, three time is a trend, so it was no surprise that the lads started looking for willing victims to partake in the 2019 E-Dreams Mitja-Maraton (Half Marathon) on Sunday Feb. 10th. Many were quickly on board, and in total 13 of us ran, with several others coming along to support and enjoy a weekend away.
The cosmpolitan capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is colourful, eclectic, cultural and, perhaps best of all given the storm we left behind on the Friday we left Dublin, sunny. Inevitably with such a big group travelling, there were many variations on flight routes and travel arrangements. Those of us who chose to go to Dublin on the Friday and fly directly to Barcelona certainly drew the short straw, as Storm Eric hit and caused many hours of delay to all flights. This aside, we eventually all got there at various hours of the night and early morning, relieved that it was a Sunday race, giving us time to recover, acclimatise and soak in the surroundings on the Saturday.
Saturday morning was spent perusing the local markets, picking up our race numbers followed by a leisurely lunch. In the afternoon we broke into smaller groups and enjoyed the blue skies and sunshine on an afternoon of walking and sight-seeing. Our group enjoyed a scenic (if slightly nerve-wracking) trip on a cable car down across the city, while others went to the famous Gaudi House, Sagrada Familia and around the Gothic Quarter.
Race day and an early start. With an 8.45am start-time, there was not much hanging around and we assembled at the hotel where many of us were staying just before 8am and walked to the start area. Following a quick photo-stop at the Barcelona Arc de Triompf, built in 1888 as the Gateway to Modern Barcelona, it was off to the start line and into our respective starting waves.
With a field of over 16,000 runners, it was no surprise that the starting area was thronged, with long queues everywhere. Karen and I were starting in the second wave, and eventually made our way in to the correct area, by which time the front runners were already well underway. There was no panic, however, and in fact because we started in this wave I found I had quite a bit of space from the off, as anyone in that area would have been targeting a 1:30 – 1:40 half marathon, so not much hanging around!
At some point in one of the many long queues, I decided it was time to think about the race itself and some kind of strategy. I had not raced a half marathon in ages, and knew today was not really the day for harsh targets, given the travel delays, lengthy walks and sampling of the local cuisine in the previous 48 hours. I decided that a steady run was what I wanted, at a similar effort to the Dungarvan 10 mile the previous week, which I had run quite comfortably in 72:52. I figured I should be ok somewhere between 7.20 and 7.30 pace, and hopefully come in somewhere just under 1:40.
The race itself is very much city-based, starting near the Parc de Ciutadella, then passing the Columbus monument, and onwards to Placa Espanya. As promised, our support team of Danny Luxton, Martin O’ Leary, Dervil McCarthy and Javier Romero popped up at the 8km mark to provide water and a few cheers. The race continued through the streets of Barcelona, and we eventually reached a long out and back diagonal section on the appropriately named ‘Avenue Diagonal’! Our support team had said they would be at the 15km mark, but rumour has it certain members prioritised coffee over supporting duties, leaving Danny to sprint to the out-and-back section. He was rewarded for his efforts by first Karen and then me waving him away saying we didn’t need water.
The last section consisted of some lovely miles along the beachfront. It was here that the going got slightly tough for me, with temperatures rising and quite strong sun directly in front of us. It was also the point, however, that the crowds were increasing, giving much-needed cheers and support on those last few kms. Turning into the final stretch, I was delighted to see Colin O’ Herlihy and family cheering the Eagles home, and hearing the magic words ‘home straight now, Elaine’ was enough to pick up the pace and go for the finish line. I crossed the line in 1:37:21, job done and off to find the others.
We had some great performances in the race. Leading the Eagle gang home was Damian Kenneally, in a terrific time of 1:14:53, breaking the 75 min mark for the first time. Derek O Keeffe ran a steady marathon-paced run and came in comfortably in 1:23:06. Next up was Tom Fox in 1:25:02. Karen Bevan was our first lady home, with a new PB of 1:35:18. Karen was joined on the course for a while by Jonathan Kenneally who, while not an Eagle Member, was very much part of the gang for the weekend and came in around 1:34. Dermot Slyne, who has had an injury setback recently, kindly offered to pace Mairead Lonergan and Helen Cronin, helping Mairead to a PB of 1:41:36, with Helen next in 1:42:20. Derek Costello (1:46:06), Eddie Trindle (1:48:27), Ken Nyhan (1:49:02) and Tim McCarthy (1:49:51) all stuck to their plans of getting around nice and comfortably and all came in under 1:50. Completing the Eagle entourage was new member Jacqueline O’ Brien who completed her first half marathon in an excellent time of 2:10:20.
The early start (8.45am) meant the day stretched ahead of us, so it was off for lunch, race tales and everything else that one is obligated to do on a weekend away in Barcelona!
I would highly recommend this race. With a huge choice of hotels and accommodation, the pleasant temperatures, and the location and accessibility of the race itself, Barcelona was a perfect choice for a club trip. Thanks to Tim and Damian for co-ordinating a lot of this trip, including a superb hotel recommendation. Thanks to all my club mates and hangers on who all played a part in making it a great weekend away!
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