Bilbao Night Marathon – Race Report

This year I have decided to run only one marathon, not only to give the old body a rest but also to get more speed in my legs, away from the constant high mileage training, as opposed to previous years when I ran three, four and sometimes even five marathons a year. We all know how priceless is the feeling of crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles, but this year, to celebrate my 25th marathon had to be something special. To start with, where to run? In the UK or abroad?…to be different have decided to sign up to a low key race, away from the big city marathons. For ages have been wanting to run a night marathon, so Bilbao was the perfect choice. Now the training…it would be difficult to top my previous PB of 2h54m in Berlin last year. After carefully reviewing my previous training plans, went for a high mileage one – Thanks Chris Minns for all the useful training tips! –  for the first time was doing 80-100 weekly mileage but wasn’t exactly falling apart as in previous years. This training focused not only on quality sessions (VO2 max, threshold, tempo and long runs) but also on recovery and easy runs. The first couple of weeks were hard work, as I had to logistically adapt  myself to this new way of training that implied hardly no rest days (recovery/easy runs instead) and running to and from work quite often! The 16 week training plan went really well with only three days off running ( yes, sometimes you need to listen to your body and not become a slave of the training plan!).
The race was on a Saturday so flew to Bilbao on Thursday to have enough time to rest and to avoid any journey aggravation. The city itself is quite pleasant with lots of surrounding hills. The course thankfully is flat consisting in two loops. As it was a 9pm start, made my way by nervously jogging to the start line at 8:15 pm which was not very far from my hotel. I was in the 2nd pen (predicted time from 2.30 to 3.00). The race strategy was to do negative splits, i.e., a faster 2nd half. To do that decided to turn off my garmin from the 2nd half onwards, run as fast as I could on feel, to avoid being hooked, distracted and panicking about average pace and splits, for which I did practise in quite a few sessions without a watch. Only 15 minutes to go…and my race was about to commence, stages as follows:
Start – “I’m having the jitters!” Was about to embark on another marathon journey. During a marathon anything can happen, so the distance ought to be respected, hence the training and the hard work, all culminating now…was thinking to myself “come one now, be confident, you did the training, time to execute!” And the gun was off.
5km – “Why am I doing this again?” Usually at this stage I feel a slight discomfort until my body finds the race rhythm and adrenaline from the start settles, so the first thought is to stop and leave it for another day!! Anyway, was going at a steady pace and trying my best not to go too fast with the excitement.

10k – 39 minutes, very steady. Feeling much better now, running with a group of 5 which I thought were running the full distance but ended up doing the half marathon.

15k – 59 min. Being overtaken by other runners, who were doing the half, so ” no worries let them go. Stick to your pace!”

Half way – “Don’t think, just run!”. Reached the half way point just inside 84 minutes.The 5 that ran with me the whole time took a right for the finish line, while I was literally left running on my own for the 2nd loop. Legs were still feeling fresh but unexpectedly went too fast as the plan was to do the first half in 85/86 minutes. Time to switch off the garmin, take an energy gel, put my head down and prepare the body to run as fast as I could. At this stage what was an immense sea of runners turned into a quite pack aiming to complete the full distance by entering the second loop. Crowds and marshals were really supportive and lots of young kids high fiving (so much for going to bed early, that’s Spain for you!)

35k – ” Please don’t talk to me, I’m in the zone!”. My garmin was off, annoyingly there were only kilometre markers every 3 km so running on feel was definitely on! Was joined by a couple of guys who kept on talking, checking their km splits and predicting their times. Was really going through a bad patch at km 33 just after having another gel. I just could hear them mumbling in spanish, until one of them asked what time I was aiming for? I answered, “hopefully a sub 3h!” He laughed at me and said they were  both going for a sub 2h.50, I thought ” really?!” I had no idea what pace I was doing. So when we got to 35k, one of them shouted 2h:19…as they kept on reminding themselves their splits…and I kept on thinking ” pls don’t talk to me now, I need to focus…!”

40k – “Seriously, are we there yet?” At this stage I had lost contact with the 2 runners, one dropped off and the other was 200 metres in front of me…the clock at 40k was showing 2h:41,I couldn’t believe it. ” this was surely a PB! Legs were pretty much gone. “Come on now, just 2 km to go”
Finish – When I reached the red carpet (yes there was one, in case you’re wondering!) I could see the clock showing 2h50min and something seconds. At this stage I could easily walk or crawl, as the PB was already in the bag! Still, kept my composure and put on a brave face (which was probably just grimacing!) so I could pose for the photo at the finish! It was a great feeling completing my 25th marathon and the PB was just a bonus!
Race positives:
  • Flat Course with a couple of slight inclines
  • Perfect weather conditions (16 degrees)
  • Great support from the crowds and race marshals

Race negatives:

  • Despite the predicted time pens, start line was chaotic, with a mix runners doing the full and half marathon
  • No consistent clocks or distance markers throughout the course

 Full Results

This entry was posted in Races & Reports. Bookmark the permalink.