Our amazingly helpful friend at SportsCity in Torrevieja – Javier Lopez – was able to arrange my entry for the local half marathon taking place the day after we arrived. A happy coincidence, although with some apprehension given my lack of proper training so far in 2017!
I collected my number & runners bag, t-shirt etc from the main shopping complex which luckily for us was only a 10 minute walk from our apartment on the edge of town. A quick study of the map to try & work out the direction the race went so Jo could find an optimum supporting position & it was back to the apartment for the usual pre half marathon pasta meal. A more relaxed evening given this was merely a quality test to start the trip.
Waking to a pre-7am alarm on the first day of the trip wasn’t part of the original plan but needs must, the mocha pot was straight on (always packed as a priority second only to kit!), bread & jam done & the usual race morning routine was in full swing – that was relief in itself given it was early November that I last raced!
We had a good idea where the race started & finished but with the one way system in town being confusing on a normal day we decided to walk the 2 miles to the seafront rather than risk getting caught up on road closures etc. And boy did we need that brisk walk as although warmer than England we certainly needed our gloves on just after 8am.
After a fair bit of toing & froing I was eventually able to work out the start, the side of the road the Half started from (there was also a 10K), the director we were running & the finish. Once that was established Jo went a little way down the course to find where it split off on the return & she was able to stay there to see us go past at approximately 1M, 3M, 7M & 9M. A decent warm up along the bits of the course I hadn’t been able to work out & it was time to strip off & get the racing flats on!
I was very much treating the race as a test of fitness & the start of a good training trip, rather than destroying myself & taking days to recover. After all I’d only ran further than this a handful of times this year, & certainly not at any sort of pace. After the obligatory Spanish delay of about 10 minutes we were on our way. A good crowd had turned out for the start – mainly family & friends it seemed – that made for a good ‘big race’ atmosphere as we looped along the main promenade. There were a few enthusiastic youngsters in the 10K who set off with lofty ambitions but by the first km marker I was in front on my own with just the lead car & a support bike for company despite consciously keeping my effort in check (I didn’t even know if I would be able to maintain tempo pace given fitness & most importantly my left glute/hamstring).
It was great to see & hear Jo cheering early on & although the support tailed off as we left town to La Mata by the time I turned back along the same road the roadside tables were full of people making their way down for breakfast (mainly full English listening to the cheers). Back past Jo & through town where the streets were now full of people supporting the race. I knew I was starting to open a reasonable gap & was holding my pace/effort levels well so was happy to be ticking the miles off in the middle part of the run feeling as though I could maintain it to the end without much trouble.
As we left town heading the opposite way to Playa Flamenca it was an exposed drag strip. I noticed the 10K turn-point & then the Half turn-point further in the distance. As I turned I noticed that there was still a runner following me, albeit some 400m behind. A double take & I clocked his number & the 10K lead bike just in front of him – they’d both missed the turn-point & would therefore finish someway down the 10K field! After that I continued to check through the field & could see I was well clear of the next group of 4 runners in the Half. It did give me chance to chase down some of the 10K runners as they approached their finish, causing some slight confusion amongst them but also given them a further surge of energy they otherwise wouldn’t have mustered – doing my bit for the running community!
Once past the finish it was now just me, but as the course was so flat my glute started to play up slightly & I was concerned as I past Jo again that I may have to stop to stretch it out. However focussing on a good full stride & concentrating on my technique it eased off & from the turn-point at the La Mata end I didn’t feel it again – a mighty relief!
I could now see my gap had grown substantially & as long as I continued running I’d be well clear of second. Still feeling strong though I was keen to maintain pace so other than cheering some of those runners I started to lap it was head down & continue to keep to the pace.
The crowds in town were now much bigger with people all over the road taking photos & wanting high-fives. One 60+ year old Spanish man who looked like he was on his way to church was particularly flamboyant in his support & as grateful as a 5 year old for his sweaty high-five! Perhaps he’s a cycling fan?
Although the lead car had a clock on it I had no idea what any of the splits meant in terms of overall time but I knew my mile splits had been consistent. All I had was the lead bike to focus on & try to chase down! Another hard slog to Flamenca but once at the turn-point I knew there were only a couple of km’s to go & cheered on by what was now a fairly boisterous crowd all along the route I picked the pace up slightly from the harbour into town. Jo had ran back & was able to record the finish as I crossed the line in a more than satisfactory 69:14! There was definitely a tear in her eye when she got to me soon after the finish & understandably so given the tough few months we’ve had.
We eventually cobbled together enough broken Spanish to establish the presentation would be around 1pm, so plenty of time for a warm down, some stretching & then a celebratory drink on the seafront as by now the sun was out & it was plenty warm enough to be sat out! The Spanish really make a big thing of these sort of events & there was a big stand, complete with podium & an endless array of trophies. Bizarrely there was a large trophy for the overall win & another for the first vet – my first much to Jo’s amusement.
What a great way to start the training holiday! A good value town centre race with full road closures, support from the local community, a quality race bag & t-shirt, medal & a fast flat course. Most importantly my glute & hamstring were both fine after some light stretching & with no muscle soreness I was positive I’d be training hard the next day!