Friday, 6 March 2009


I'm relieved to tell you that the Barcelona Marathon went well. My official finishing time was 3 hours 57, which is a full 55 minutes better than my previous best time in a competitive marathon. It just shows the difference that proper preparation can make. I stuck rigidly to my plan to run just inside 9 minute miles and it worked well. I was running as quickly at the end of the race as I was at the start (although it was a little easier to maintain at the start!). Inevitably, there will be some things for which you just didn't plan: for example, in Barca the total distance, from start to finish was over 27 miles! While my wrist-top GPS was telling me that I'd already finished, the distance markers confirmed that I still had another 1.3 kilometres to grind out.

As with all of the major marathons, the route had a blue line painted on the road, which is the most direct route and should measure exactly 26.2 miles. It allows the runners, especially the elite athletes, to run as efficiently as possible, and have the best chance of getting a personal best. World records were never going to be a likelihood in Barca because it's quite a hilly route. Now, while I wasn't able to hug the blue line for the whole of the route (there's always congestion around the line because most runners are trying to follow it), there's no way my meanderings accounted for an extra 1.3 kilometres. Fortunately, I'd been sufficiently inside 9 minute miles to allow for the extra distance. I'd have been a shade upset if I'd missed out on getting under 4 hours because somebody in Barcelona can't use a ruler!

On the positive side, it hopefully bodes well for the remaining four marathons. On a flatter course, which measures the correct distance, I may be able to shave a little off my time from Barca (no guarantees, you understand). There were other grounds for cautious optimism on Sunday: my aching piriformis was fine and my legs were in good shape. On the evening before I flew to Spain, my physio did a great job in getting me ready to run. It was such a marked improvement from a few days earlier, when I'd been hobbling around the house, muttering like Victor Meldrew.

My Mum couldn't stop crying after the race. The last time I'd made her eyes water was November 1972.

The atmosphere in Barca was fantastic and the sights that the course takes you past are spectacular: Gaudi's La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia, the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla and the Pla├ža de Catalunya. Also, the enthusiastic support was a big plus. The crowd shouting “venga!” or “vamos!” keeps you pushing, when you might otherwise want to back off the pace.

During the race, I carried my mobile phone for my support team to let me know where they were on the course, so we could look out for each other. This created some unexpected issues of its own. For example, at 15 miles, I took a call from a call centre in India asking if I was satisfied with my mobile phone service. Perhaps understandably, I had bigger fish to fry. More constructively, I received several texts offering support, which really helped when I had to dig deep at around 23 miles. I'd really like to thank everyone who phoned me or sent emails, texts, Facebook messages to send their good wishes and support over the weekend. I was particularly grateful to TEAM fivemarathons' Amanda, whose message the night before the race reminded me to be confident and trust my training, just when my dodgy piriformis and aching legs were causing me to doubt myself.

Enjoying the Barcelona skyline on the day after the race.

Three days after the race and I'm more or less back to normal. Until Tuesday evening my legs felt like they belonged to someone else. It was like being a Dalek: everything was alright until I was faced with a flight of stairs. Training re-commences next week, when I turn my attention to London. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy Barca for a little longer.

This week’s training schedule:

Monday, 9 March 2009

15 minutes easy

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

2 miles easy, then 3 miles brisk, then 1 mile jog

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

10 mins warm up, then 10 x 40 secs fast uphill, jogging back down, 10 mins warm down

Thursday, 12 March 2009

6 miles easy

Friday, 13 March 2009


Saturday, 14 March 2009

20 mins easy

Sunday, 15 March 2009

18 miles training run (easy, 3 hours)

Barcelona, 1 March 2009
London, 26 April 2009
San Francisco, 26 July 2009
Berlin, 20 September 2009
New York, 1 November 2009

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NYC Marathon, 2004

NYC Marathon, 2004
NYC Marathon, 2004