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Valencia marathon 1st December 2019

Here I am again in Valencia ... 10 years since my last visit and for far different reasons. Today it’s my first marathon and I always wanted it to be something special. Sure I can run a marathon anywhere in the UK most months of the year if I needed to, but that wouldn’t be special, that would more than likely be a bit mundane for me. I love running my half marathons in the UK and on a regular basis as they are a great way of staying fit and up to date with my training, I can just head off out the door and run a half marathon these days and still be quite consistent with my finish time. But a marathon is a different story ... it’s a huge commitment training wise, health wise and mindfully. Your mind has to be in it to run a marathon, that I have found out this year.
All year long I have trained for this very day, through the crazy heat of summer, through injuries , through the rain and cold, through Bouts of IBS and through tough times when my mind has been shot and wanting to give up running completely. But today I’m ready .. physically and mentally.

The day started at 6am ... once awake start the usual race day rituals .. tape up feet, Vaseline EVERYTHING that can possibly chafe during the run. make sure I have enough energy gels to sustain the race, drown myself in water to keep hydrated and take enough supplements to maintain my bodies needs.
Breakfast of porridge is down my neck, double bagged the old meat and veg to keep them safe on this long run ... nothing worse than chaffing down there when I still have miles to get through. Contact lenses in so I’m not pissing about with my glasses all day long. Sunglasses on head ready and no sooner than, it’s time to head off out the door.

Reception in the hotel is by now full of excited runners waiting for respective taxis to get them to the race start, as the crazy metro train system doesn’t start till 7:10 am out here in the rural areas in Valencia.. too late to safely get there with enough time to do what’s needed. The buzz in the hotel is infectious and I’m carried away with it all instantly.
In the taxi along the way I realise I haven’t put on my nipple guards or picked up my bloody headphones ... I’m gutted, I hate running without music but we can’t go back now so I’m left feeling a little deflated by the thought of 26 miles of silence, listening to my grunts and groans and breathing the whole way round.
The taxi pulls up outside the venue, it’s still quite dark but the place is buzzing.. people everywhere. The atmosphere in the air is incredible even now with an hour to go.
First call as in any race is the toilet queue ... loads of toilets put on here today so it’s not that bad a queue right now. This ones a weird one as all the excited and nervous people are all speaking in Spanish or some other foreign language so we kind of feel a bit left out, but myself and Julia who is with me and running today’s 10k met up with two people last night in the hotel ... incredibly called jeff and julie lol so we at least have someone to chat with and exchange tips and pleasantries as we queue up.
Jeff’s in the same pen as me for the start so we all stuck together until it was time for Julia to hit her selective pen for her start. Julie, Jeff’s mum isn’t running so she hangs around a while with us both then heads off to find her spot for the mornings race viewing. Myself and Jeff head off closer to our start pen to have a bit of a warm up, which for me today wasn’t much as I have had tight hamstrings and calf’s all week so I did the bear minimum before heading off to the toilets once again.
We headed off to our start pen, the atmosphere is tense .. theres an incredible aura around the place as we see the long line of runners behind huge fenced in pens along the road we are starting our journeys on today. It’s pretty crowded in the pens and the heat around us is slightly intense. By now the adrenaline in my body is at boiling point. The excitement and anticipation of what’s in front of me is immense. However for the first time in a while ... I’m not scared or phased by it all.
I can’t say I haven’t had doubts about today’s race because I have, especially with my bad feet and the tight muscles this last week. But I’ve put the work in this year .. all year, not just the suggested 16 week training plans which I could never follow even if I wanted to, A journey like this .. to ME is a personal one and every day life sometimes makes it impossible to follow such a plan.. I’ve always got by with my running on doing what feels right for myself and for my body and my abilities. I will never win prizes for my running I know that, so getting the best out of myself isn’t that important to me. I want to enjoy my running and not half kill myself in every race and today I also want it to be an experience.
Start time approached as we stood chatting with ourselves and psyching ourselves up, as the waves are started we get the heartbeat sounds over the loud speakers which is a great touch and really gets your heart racing with excitement. We start to urge forward and we can finally see the startline ahead of us until we finally get a few meters away where we bid each other good luck for the race and hit the start buttons on our watches.
We are off ... I cannot express the feeling I have right now.
I have worked and craved for this moment all year long and it’s so far everything I wanted and more. The crowd is amazing as we cross the line.. cheering and shouting and screaming from the crowds, it’s just fantastic for my first ever marathon in this beautiful setting as we head out over the bridge and into the 26 miles ahead of us.

First thoughts as we head down the ramp off the bridge turn negative ... I can’t do this without my music... I can already hear my erratic breathing as I try and get into my pace and get my chest opened up. This happens fast today, The adrenaline must be helping me out. I’m off to a great start with a steady pace. I like to head out faster than is advised .. I feel if I can get the first 13 miles done in my normal time then I can relax into the second half of the race and I have the chance at slowing down whenever I need to, this is my plan for today’s race anyway.
First thing that hits you today is the crowds, they are everywhere, even in the most remote parts of this first half of the race as we head down towards the marina area which is really quite industrialised down this part and rather boring. We do a few out and back sections down here which is great to see runners in both directions but also makes you think that, hey, I’ve got to run back this way too.
Somewhere in the first five miles there was the first water station which I really needed as the sun was now up and beating down on us.. barely any shade on this first half of the course so I was getting worried it was going to slow me down. I threw the first energy gel down my neck at this point as I like to have loads of water after a gel otherwise it makes me quite sick, sure the IBS is the cause of this but it’s not to bad today apart from a bit of cramps for a few minutes. Onwards and upwards. Next gel in at around 10miles or so and no bad effects from it this time..I’m still unsure they actually give me anything extra but I’m keeping up the pretence of it all and going for one every five miles today.
My pace is really steady up to the 10miles and I’m ahead of my usual time and into the final stages of the first half of the race. I hit the first half comfortably under two hours which I was pleased with as that was my target time.
The crowds are still with us and growing in size and loudness, it’s an incredible feeling running this marathon here in Valencia..
Somewhere along the way behind the science park I meet Julia whom has finished her 10k already and has walked to cheer me on and encourage me .. kick my arse really lol
I have a quick hug and she gives me words of encouragement as she is shocked I’m there so early and doing great. This was fantastic when you’re so far away from home and you get to see that first friendly face.. it’s priceless in such a long ass race
Around mile 15-16-17 it started getting a bit tougher and I had to refuel with a yes bar at some point and take on more gel and water. Water stations were handing out bottles which were great when shoved down my shorts to cool me down lol
Also handing out sports drinks which I took at every station that had it too. I’m going all out to stay hydrated and electrolytes stuffed into my body today... taking no chances.
At some point in the next mile my hamstrings started to tighten again and I thought I was going to lose it all so I started to change my tactics and ease back for a while. At mile twenty ahead of us on the road was the most fantastic thing I’ve seen in a race so far.. over our heads was an inflatable archway that said .. beat the wall .. a well know 20mile wall that most runners fear, but what a way to celebrate getting over that wall than by running through it. That was a nice touch and really made me smile. Although I am finding myself smiling a lot to myself today as I’m realising what I’m doing and where I’m running and that I am so lucky to be here doing this.
So we are now in the final six miles of the race. Most of this is now in and out of the town centre which is heaving with people. The noise of the supporters in incredible.. people everywhere shouting your name and other things in Spanish which seriously just made me smile as I couldn’t figure out what they were saying most of the time. Interspersed there was the odd English person who shouted at you when they saw the Union Jack on our bibs.. nice touch there.
At 20 miles in training I’ve been at around 03:30 but today I’m head of that.. at 03:30 I was above twenty two miles in but struggling a bit with the heat and sore muscles. Marshals today were also handing out free squirts of deep heat at points and I stopped to get squirted.. not sure it helped my legs but I helped my usual shoulder cramps so thank you to those people.
By now I’m jeffing more and more. I started by timing it as I do in training ..
1/4 mile walk 3/4mile run .. this helps me no end in training and today it’s helping me to maintain a steady pace going forward, but it’s getting hot again. At 24 miles I was just under the 4 hour mark I think so I knew I was heading for under the five hours that I wanted. I think that had I not had tight muscles and the bad feet today then I could have been finished by now, but this is my first marathon so I’m not killing myself. The crowds were full on now.. I felt sorry for them having to see my fat bouncing around so I put my vest back on.. I did well today, it stayed on until mile six at least then I couldn’t stand it any longer.
This last two miles is the important bit now.. if I’m going to finish this race them I really am going to have to kick my own arse again and again and again to the end. I’m walking more than I want to right now but by mile 25 I KNOW I’m can finish in under 04:30 ... NOT something I was expecting from today. My walking sections now have turned into speed walking as my hips are grinding away,my muscles are tight as I’ve ever known them but my head and my heart is in this still. My name is getting shouted at me at every other metre or so by’s amazing to hear strangers call your name and telling to keep going, to not give up.
The 700 metre mark is now ahead of me, I can see the place I need to be.. I’m at last on that slope downhill but I’m fading fast. Julia is at that very spot, waiting for me .. to give me that final kick up the arse she promised me.. I had to stop and hug her at that point .. she was what I needed to see.. sure it cost me seconds but I didn’t care at that point.. I’m at the crucial point of the race that I’ve dreamed of. This section is a bit of a downhill one for about 50 metres. As Julia joined me on the course for a short time, she was done.. she couldn’t keep up with me and I wasn’t even trying at all. She shouted at me to go and and do it as she left the section of the course I was on to finish. The crowds and the view ahead were magical, I’m choked at what’s ahead of me and I’m almost done .. another short section I had to walk for about 50 years again before I was ready to go and crack this. I shouted at the top of my lungs .. let’s crack this big bastard !!! As I picked up my feet for the last time into a short right turned onto the much awaited blue boarding of the races crescendo towards the finish line. A tight left turn and I’m on the home straight, no idea how long was left but there was NO WAY I was stopping now. Eerily the place was heaving with people and supporting everyone, they were all shouting and screaming but yet it was almost silent to me. We spoke about this last night and Jeff said the same as me. It must have just been that our heads were on that finish line and nothing else.
The blue boards of the end were magical.. such a soft and responsive surface it really was like running on air, surrounded by water on either side and stunning views of the amazing architecture of the buildings around us.
I have clear air ahead of me and on my right hand side towards the end, I can see three photographers at various points ... lthat was my queue. My time to shine and end on a high.
I picked up my now aching limbs as I widened my stride for a final sprint.. it felt like about 100 meters and never ending but I hit the gas button like never before .. the 04:30 mark on my watch was looming and there was no way I was going over it.
Passing a few stupid runners down that lane felt fantastic ... ffs you’re almost at the end and you want to almost stop dead while other runners are behind you... I almost knocked one guy sideways as I had to dodge out of his way with about 10meters to go.
This was it, I was at that point I had worked hard for, dreamed about for the last 12months ... this was my moment of glory and I had gone all out for this bit as my feet hit that timing board and I could finally relax and savour in the moment I had just created for myself.
At that moment in time you are alone in that space yet surrounded by strangers .. you don’t see them because you can’t take in that precise moment what you have just achieved. It really is the most amazing feeling I have felt so far in my life. Every last ounce of my being was in my head now. I’m struggling to hold back the tears as I’m also struggling to get my breath back without throwing up everywhere.
This is the moment I have become a runner ... in my head. All of the other races I have done didn’t count.. this is my induction to finally becoming a runner.. this is by far the proudest moment of my life and the tears start to flow as the enormity of what I’ve achieved in those last two seconds of the race hits me full on. My eyes are streaming with tears yet I have the biggest smile on my face.. I bet I looked a right twat but I didn’t care... this Is lmy moment and no one is ever gonna take this away from me now.
So, it’s over as I finally compose myself and begrudgingly leave the finish area.. I want to stay here and savour it forever but I can’t... there’s still lots of runners behind me that need that space I’m taking up, to do the same as I’m doing .. to realise what they’ve just achieved for themselves too.
It’s not pretty right now what little movement I have in my legs, battling to get me out of the way and down to get my medal which seems a hell of a long way away, but ultimately is much better than most races where you’re no sooner over the line when some twat gets in your face and puts a meddle round your neck while people are rushing in behind you and almost knocking into you. This one is different and so well organised. Medals and goodie bag picked up.. breathing back to normal, pain ... excruciating lol now where’s the free beer ?
Well this is the biggest let down of the day as I can see where the beer is but can’t see how to get to it.. no signage telling you where to go as it’s all fenced off for competitors rightly so. So I walk around aimlessly and am shuffled out of the area by marshals without having the chance to get my beer.
Met up with julia and tried to get back in to get a beer but they wouldn’t allow us back in so we gave up and came away without.
I really needed that drink too. ... bastards !!

So that was it, all over as we headed back to the metro station and off to Burger King for some much needed protein and a beer .. yes.. a beer in Burger King ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Valencia .. you were amazing and I’m so glad you took away my marathon virginity today and turned me into a runner at last. I will never forget what you have done for me today and by the looks of it. ... I will be back again next year ๐Ÿ˜

Thank you to Julia for making this journey with me this weekend and getting me through the bad times this year, you’re a real star xx
And thanks to jeff, the welsh guy who I started the race with and finished the day off in the bar with last night.

This is what life is all about .. the memories can never be taken away from you, love life and live it to the full.


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