This morning, I left the apartment at 7:00 am to head to my race. One funny thing about Barcelona is that the city does not rise early. Even their marathon doesn’t begin until 8:30, which is quite different from the usual 7:00 am start or even the occasional 5:00 am start. (Remember that one, Jeanie?) I made my way to the Metro and followed hoards of people to the race start. The Metro was packed with men, all quite fierce looking, but I kept my calm.
At the start, I found where my wave (the 4 hour plus group) was to gather, and I found a quiet place to sit to drink my UCAN, a nutrition drink. I drank and watched the crowds warm up. I finally spotted some women, which gave me a little peace of mind that I wouldn’t be left totally behind. Around 8:00 am, I went into the gathering area for my group and waited. I was anxious. I focused on the unique names I saw on race bibs – Valeri, Dani, and Juli, all of whom were men, and Antonio, Pedro, and Juan Domingo, which struck me as sexy names. It helped that the folks in my wave were rowdy. They chanted and greeted one another most enthusiastically. One group sang happy birthday to their friend – a song I recognized only because of the tune. I liked that energy at the start.
Once the race started, my anxiety melted away, and I ran, paying close attention to my mile splits. I said in January that I hoped to hit a personal best – something better than 5:12. I didn’t quite get there. According to my watch, I raced a 5:19, but also according to my watch, I ran 26.76 miles. If my watch is right, then I came very close to a 5:12 marathon. But the race is what it was, and my official time, I expect, will be 5:19. I’m thrilled. When I raced in Austin exactly one month ago, I did a 5:43. That I cut off 24 minutes in one month thrills me to no end.
I noticed some real differences between our races at home and this one. First of all, I saw next to no signs. The one sign I saw said, “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.” I’ve seen that sign at nearly every race, and it struck me funny to see it here. Second, you don’t know a dirty port-a-potty until you’ve run this race. They were practically overflowing. In each one that I opened, I saw human excrement on surfaces not intended for human excrement. Third, they had water stops every 5K and at times, they had no water. Today was a cool day, so that wasn’t a big deal, but it was interesting to me to see that the volunteers at the waterless stops cheered for the runners, almost as if they didn’t notice they had no water to give and thought we might not notice as well. Fourth, the crowds really did thin out about half an hour ahead of me. There were a couple of long out and back segments where I could see that there were large crowds cheering for the people ahead of me, but by the time I made my way back on those segments, the crowds had evaporated. Without those out and backs, I would have thought there were no crowds at all.
The best part of the race was that Erin ran the last few miles with me, and helped me push towards my goal. It was great to see her friendly face out there. A few miles before she turned up, I met a woman named Stephanie from Chicago who was also running, and we ended up chatting a ways. Before meeting her, I ran in total silence and understood next to nothing being said around me. But once I heard her speak English, I immediately struck up a conversation with her. Running with Stephanie for a bit and then having Erin to talk to made a huge difference. I also appreciate that Erin pushed me when I asked her to. She ran ahead a ways, forcing me to keep up. I needed her.
Afterwards, I picked up my medal, which isn’t gorgeous, but it’s from Barcelona, so I love it, and we made our way back to the apartment. We got cleaned up and then went out with Joe for a wonderful lunch at Mosquito. I enjoyed my first beer here and filled my belly with all kinds of vegetarian goodness. I know the name Mosquito doesn’t sound appetizing, but it was wonderful. As the website for the place says, it was tapas exoticas! After Mosquito, I might have had a delicious double chocolate cupcake in celebration of the race.
Then we went home and rested the remainder of the day. I did some laundry and took a deep nap. This apartment is certainly starting to feel like home. It’s a cute neighborhood, no?
Now that the race is behind me, I get to relax and enjoy the remainder of my Spain adventure. I feel so lucky to be here. I could go home tomorrow, and the trip would have felt worthwhile. But I have five more days to explore this place. I feel spoiled!