Since my second or third full marathon, I started an unorthodox and not very recommended habit of running a solo full marathon ahead of a full race. This is as some sort of physical and physiological preparation for the big race, and since I am currently training for the London Marathon, which is on April 24th, the Seville marathon provided a good opportunity to do that training run with a few other people, just under 13,000 to be precise. I am glad to have run this race in sub-4 hours, and I will be donating 42 pounds to the Health Poverty Action Charity as part of my fundraising for them in London. I am donating a pound for every kilometer I cover in training for London, and I am very grateful to everyone who has been helping out so far, be it via training tips, coaching, words of encouragement, or donating on the fundraising page or sharing the link and spreading the word. If anyone reading this is interested in helping out, please visit www.virginmoneygiviging.com/OmarRuns.
Spain is blessed with a big sporting community, and it is a haven for runners and triathletes, with many exceptional amateur ones who make every race a unique experience. This is my race humble report; I hope it will be of benefit to anyone considering running it in coming years (Or for anyone wondering how my race went).
I signed up to the race about 5 weeks ahead of race day, the race this year had a cap of 13,000 registrations. This has been the most expensive race I have completed since moving to Madrid a few months ago, and even at 73 Euros, it’s still rather reasonably priced in comparison to other races back in my original adopted homeland (UAE) and around the Middle East. To give some perspective, the Dubai Marathon charged 120 USD (109 Euros) for the full marathon (!) and 75 USD (68 Euros) for the 10k. In Jordan, they were charging international runners 136 Euros at the Dead Sea Ultra Marathon (Distances of 10k, half marathon and a 50K). The fee was reduced to 90 Euros after I raised several complaints on their social media pages about how ridiculous it is to charge so much money for the race. The fees for the above mentioned races are insane, especially considering how mediocre and poorly organized both the Dubai and the Dead Sea races are, but this is a discussion for another day.
Going back to the Seville race, overall it was a straightforward experience in the lead-up to the race. The website is multilingual and had all the key information. They sent regular newsletters (which I never read to be frank), and had general tips for the stay in Seville and new press releases were put up regularly on the website.
I landed in Seville on Thursday evening, with the race on Sunday morning. Ventured around the city, which is a gorgeous one to be honest. I am considering going again later in the year for a proper photography trip. I went to the expo to pick up my race pack on Friday morning. It was not massive, but it covered all rhe basics that you’d expect at the expo of an international race. I’ll admit though that I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t that many English-speaking salesmen on the counters, even for some international brands, but it’s not a major issue. All the volunteers spoke good English and were very patient and helpful. The race expo was a bit out of town, and they had a pasta party on Saturday, but even the lady at the bib collection counter admitted that not many runners make it to that as the expo’s venue is far from the city center. I was one of those runners who opted against making the journey there on Saturday, opting instead to do my carbloading in the center instead.
I could not get much sleep on the night ahead of the race, which was rather annoying as I have not had much trouble getting sleep in the previous days. Nevertheless, I went out and tried to find a cab to head to the start line, but couldn’t find any. Luckily I bumped into a fellow runner, he happened to know about buses that went to the start line. It was a chilly morning, but not too cold, and I could tell from the weather of the previous days that we wouldn’t have cold conditions throughout the race, which proved to be a nuisance towards the end (More to come on that later).
After a twenty-minute journey, we got to the area where the race was due to start, unfortunately there were no signs whatsoever where the bag drop-off was, but we followed the masses anyway and got there with plenty of time to spare. The bag drop-off was at the Seville Olympic Stadium, which proved to be an amazing backdrop to the finish line. We made our way to the start line after a light jog as a warm-up, it was not overcrowded as there were many time groups. When I signed up, I was setting out to just finish the race in any time, especially considering that it is a training run for London after all. Things took a twist after a running buddy I met here in Madrid in late January, who is also my coach now pushed me to aim for a PB (My previous PB is 3:47 hours, which remains my PB since I couldn’t break it at the race). I set out with the plan of pushing for a PB as long as my body could handle it, and not to put too much strain on myself if I miss out on it.
The race started just after 9:00am with a very minor delay, I started the first few kilometers going at a steady and slower pace than my target pace, and as the race progressed, I gradually picked up the pace. I completed the first 10k in 54:17, with the half marathon in 1:52:26. My splits were going well up to the 30k mark (completed in 2:39:17, which gave me about 67 minutes to get a PB. As things usually tend to go in marathons for me, I started struggling from the 32k mark onwards, which is considered ‘the true halfway mark’ of a marathon. By that time, it was already 18 or so degrees, with no overcast or clouds offering protection from the harsh Mediterranean sun. I managed to jog the next three kilometers before embarking on the painful jog/walk combo for the remaining few kilometers. I should give the race organizers plenty of credit for the route. The race goes through the populated touristic areas in the last few kilometers of the race, when most runners are hitting the metaphorical wall. This offered plenty of encouragement, and the support on the streets was very commendable. Another great feature of the race was the bands along the course, who provided great entertainment to the runners and people lining-up the streets.
I managed to finish the race in under 4 hours, in 3:53:59 to be precise. As I mentioned earlier, the race finished on the athletics track at the Seville Olympic Stadium. There must have been at least a thousand people watching from the stands, which created a special atmosphere in the ground. There were plenty of medics and volunteers at the finish line to help runners, and there was no rush to move along. To be blunt, I was quite relieved it was all over and not too disappointed about missing out on a PB for the second full marathon in a row. I reckon it was a good ‘trial run’ for the big race in London.
I cannot say this enough times, but Seville is a beautiful city, with a stunning river, beautiful architecture and streets, and this race showcased the best that the city has to offer. I heard good things about the city and the race from my coach and from a fellow runner who is based in Qatar, but is well-acquainted with Spanish cities and races. A small note though, the course may be flat according to Spanish/European standards, but it is not entirely flat. In hindsight, it is the flattest course I’ve ran so far in Spain.
Unfortunately for the race, the organizers did not seem to put in as much effort in certain elements for runners post-race. The walk to the bag collection point was rather long, credit to the organizers though for providing stalls giving out fruits, water, re-hydration drinks and even chips and beers along the way for those who drink (i.e. the majority of the runners at the race). The medal was quite nice, but in all honesty I was happy to get ANY medal. Since moving to Spain, I’ve come to the realization that medals are not so common here, which is proven by the fact that this was my first medal here, despite the race being my 6th in this beautiful country!
Once I finally found the bag collection area I tried in vain to find the buses that go back to the pick-up point, after being sent to more than one location via the volunteers, I decided to walk until I found a cab. Sadly there were hardly any cabs in sight. After more than 90 minutes of walking and waiting at various spots, and more than 7,000 steps according to my Garmin’s step counter, I finally managed to find a cab. This is an area that I reckon the organizers could have had a quick fix for: Arranging for a taxis to wait at at the finish line, with the cabbies going back and forth. It was a frustrating experience to be honest, and on the way back to the hotel I saw several other stranded runners desperately trying to find cabs.
Going back to the race itself, it seemed to have live tracking, and my result was up online with most of the splits when I was back at the hotel. There were several photographers along the route, and it took a few days for all the pictures to be compiled online. There were so many of them! I think there were about 7 or 8 spots where there were photographers.
All in all, the race was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it for runners who are keen on running a race on a relatively straightforward course and do a bit of tourism. With the 13,000 runner cap, it did not feel overly crowded, not even in the first few kilometers, and for runners keen on getting a good time, it would be a good course as overtaking was rarely an issue. Overtaking other runners has proven to be rather tricky for me personally since moving here, as all the races I’ve been to had thousands of runners, with many segments of the races going through narrow roads and alleys.
Some travel tips would be to book in the city centre (I booked a bit further out, but it was a fifteen-minute walk from the main touristic areas). The city is picturesque with friendly people (beware of taxi drivers, as some tended to take longer routes to get a higher fare). Take the hop-on hop-off bus tour to save your legs. I am glad I did that! I give this race a rating of 4.5 out of 5.
Till the next race! Feel free to connect and/or follow me on social media for updates on my training and my fundraising:
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