Although I have run a number of marathons in big cities, I have run very few ‘Big City Marathons’. My understanding of this phrase is a race with many thousands of runners, all doing the one distance (so not cluttered with half marathon, relay or 10k) confined to the city region so there can be good support all around the course.
Seville ticked all of these boxes. 13,000 were registered for the race and nearly 11,000 finished (809 recorded their run on Strava). The course was well contained within the city, so much so that there are more than 40 turns of at least 90º. Spectator support was great during the whole run and very enthusiastic in the city centre areas.
It started outside and finished inside Estadio Olímpico (The Olympic Stadium) which was opened in 1999 to support Seville’s unsuccessful bids for the 2004 and 2008 Games, but it did host the 7th Athletics World Championships in 1999, the Davis Cup final in 2004 and the 2003 UEFA Cup Final, where 80,000 Celtic fans behaved impeccably and famously drank the city dry.
I had a 30 minute walk to the start, the stadium actually isn’t very obvious but of course
there were huge numbers making their way across La Barqueta Bridge over Rio Guadalquivir, which we crossed again just over 2k from the end of the race. The start was at 9.00am and it was distinctly chilly as we waited. Despite the large numbers of runners the portaloo queues were negligible and even just 10 minutes before the start I had no problems slotting into my starting pen.
The sun was out for the whole race, but even as it climbed higher in the sky there was plenty of shade from tall buildings. Water and electrolyte stations, on both sides of the road but offset, were every 2.5k so no excuse for anyone to become dehydrated. The organisers state that the marathon is the flattest marathon course in Europe. My Strava record shows an elevation of 142m, just less than Podgorica with 146m; the Nova Sad Night Marathon was of course less, at 66m, but that was just trotting backward and forward along the Danube 6 times.
Under different circumstances I would have tried to make best use of the course to go for a PB; however with an upcoming schedule of my next 2 marathons in 28 days after this one I had to look at the bigger picture and ensure that I would be ok to complete these. So anything around 4;15 would be acceptable, even though I was starting in the sub 4 hour pen. I had forgotten one of the positives of big city marathons, that is even when taking it easy there are many locals running their first (and often last) marathon so it wasn’t unusual to be going past other runners, particularly during the last 10k, and let’s admit it, we all feel good when we pass others (particularly when they are much younger!)
I hadn’t done much research on the city, so didn’t know much about what there was to see. The stunning, Plaza de España, appeared out of nowhere at just after 35k. It was almost worth stopping to admire, but I resisted and came back the next day; I wasn’t the only one, many runners wearing the blue jacket that was provided, rather than a usual running top, were also revisiting.
The next 5k, until we crossed the Rio Guadalquivir, went past key tourist sites such as the cathedral, with the Giraldillo Statue which features on the medal, and The Metropol Parasol. These street were heavily lines with locals and tourists alike who provided noisy, much appreciated support. My wife who I hadn’t expected to see for a third time after 7k and 16k, was also present just before the bridge.
The whole race went as I had planned and I crossed the line, after half a circuit of the tired looking running track inside the stadium, in 4:06:08. The exit from the stadium, past tables of oranges, crisps and various liquids was easy enough, but after collecting my bag I had no idea how to get back into the city centre. I actually walked around the outside of the stadium twice before I decided to head towards the car park and ask the security. My Spanish is non-existent and so was his English but I knew I had to go past ‘Isla Magica’; he understood these words and his hand gestures sent me in the correct direction. Strava had managed to restart itself so when I reached the apartment is showed more than 6 hours and 48k since the race start!
Bonuses of running overseas marathon are turning a run into a holiday (there were many
Brits around, in their blue tops, until at least midweek), food and different beer. We stumbled across an amazing Tapas bar, Eslava, just over 100m from our apartment. After many innovative dishes and great gluten free knowledge, it will be very difficult to visit anywhere at home for Tapas; and the beer was cheaper than the water!