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12 Marathons in 2012 - The running continues
12 Marathons in 2012 - The running continues

Race Report 11: The Valencia Marathon

paulwadeptby paulwadeptNov 23rd 2012
I have a strange habit. When reading a book, if I am enjoying the it, being carried along by the characters or enthused by the journeys and experiences of the protagonists. If I am enthralled by what is happening as I flick from page to page or gently peel each page, peeking around the bent pages to find out what would happen next. What happens at this point is I stop. I don¬'t want it to end so I stop reading. I leave the pages unturned, the plot unfinished, the climax unreached. It is something I have done for years. I always do eventually return to the unspoilt pages and complete the literary journey.
This year of 12 marathons is at that point. When the end is in sight. But for once I do not want to put down the book telling the story of this year. I don¬'t want to leave the last few pages unturned. I want to make them special, a crescendo of human emotions, the climax of a spectacular experience, that moment when watching a film and you notice the blackness creeping down the screen and you wish for just a few more minutes of joy, one last line of dialogue. With so few races remaining this year Valencia was going to have to be something special. It started with that very thought in mind..
Race Report 11: The Valencia Marathon
This was the setting for the expo, start and finish of the race. The Science Centre. What a place to experience a marathon, a fantastic architectural monster deep within the historic city. The stage was set. Walking back to our apartment the night before the race filled me anticipation and excitement for the race. The heavy black clouds above our heads roared with thunder as gargantuan sparks of light bleached the inky black sky. The electric atmosphere making my blood fizz with anticipation. It didn¬'t make sleep easy that night.
Now this tale needed some characters.
9,000 other marathon runners joined me on the start line. On the opposite side of the road 6,000 more runners prepared themselves for the Valencia 10k amongst them my wife, Cate and her parents. For Cate it was the chance to exercise a few demons. Since I have known Cate she has been suffering with transient knee pain which has made impossible for her to compete or even to run regularly without her illiotibial band yanking on her knee causing intolerable pain. Completing this race as she did was a really great moment for Cate. I am truly proud of her for training for, and completing this race. Like when she completed the Hellaspont inter-continental swim she has once again proven she has the commitment and determination to complete any challenge in her path.

Lined up outside the science centre a barrage of fireworks set the runners on their way. For me the penultimate chapter in my 2012 story had begun, by the end of the day I would only have one race left this year, one more chance to reach the holy grail of marathon running. The sub 3 hour marathon. But wait. There is a problem, the 10k runners are away but the marathon runners are being waved back. The timing mat at the start of the race didn¬'t work so we were all going to have to start again. It is the first time I have ever experienced or even heard of a false start at a marathon! 5 minutes later we were ready to go again. Like most big city marathons it took a few minutes to cross the start line, a problem I was planning on using to my advantage later in proceedings. A cramped start to a race is normal and although frustrating at times it doesn¬'t tend to cause any real problems. However, in Valencia the problem was a little more pronounced than normal. The first few miles of the race were crammed with runners who had started far too far up the field. The first few miles of Valencian road were crammed with slow runners blocking the road. With entire running clubs of 9 minute milers straddling the entire road and showing no regard for faster runners approaching from behind. I have no issue with groups of runners competing together; in fact I found the Spanish camaraderie a touching detail. I also have no issue with people who run at 9 minute mile pace, just don¬'t start at the front of a race if you know you are going to hold up runners behind you. The first 5 miles of the race were plagued with pockets of resistance. I tried to stick to the blue race line as much as possible but having to constantly dodge around those more velocity challenged runners ensured it would be impossible.
10km into the race and I¬'m a couple of minutes behind schedule. I have to remind myself that there is still 32km ahead, not to panic, 2 minutes is nothing, I can claw this back despite the best efforts of what seems to be the entire population of Spain in my way. According to the personalised feedback I was in 6596th position at 10km. That shows how crowded things were at the start. I would not be that far back for long.
One word goes through my mind a great deal during races. Consolidate. After settling into the race it was now time to consolidate. I have to make the most of the easy part of the race, when my legs are fresh and my muscles are still filled with glycogen to power me around the streets of Valencia. Now is the time to consolidate, to put myself in the best position for later in the race.
The streets of Valencia covered over the course so far have are been uninspiring, covering mainly business parks and industrial estates. After the half marathon mark, which was crossed in 1 hour 34 and 8 seconds the streets improve somewhat and start to fill the air with the character of Valencia. This buoys me somewhat as I begin my game plan. I am four minutes behind schedule but the plan in my head can pull it all back and more. I can do this. I can reach the holy grail of marathon running. I can almost reach the sacred cup; my arms outstretched reaching, stretching like when you were at school and you knew the answer to a question, you reach and stretch so high and far that you let out a little squeak.
The plan was simple. Reach half way in a respectable time. Running at around 7:00 per mile for the first half. The course of the Valencia Marathon is quite flat, with a crossover in the course just inside the second half of the race meaning a downhill second half. This would allow me to enter the second phase of my plan. Miles 13-21 were going to be faster, harder. To consolidate, to get me to the final phase with the best chance of grasping the golden cup. 6:25-7:00 is the pace now. This is always the part of a race that I enjoy the most, the field has thinned, the crowds are gathering and my legs are striding over at race pace. At this point I can smile, get excited about the prospect of finishing the race successfully. By 15km I am up to 1280th out of 9,000 and 1139th by 25km. The field is falling away in front of me. The plan is going well.
There is however a problem. I don¬'t quite believe it when I see it and it is a bittersweet moment. It¬'s a tunnel, a road tunnel dropping down beneath the streets I have crossed miles back. The tunnel has speakers in it blasting out music, music loud enough to raise the hairs on my neck, loud enough to dig deep down into my very being and boil my emotions to the surface. Right now I could laugh, or cry or scream with delight. But tunnels also mean hills, dropping down beneath the street was to add another element to the race. The three tunnels mean three hills, this could damage my race pace, my race pace falls and my finishing time increases, my target falls away, the dream fades. Running back into the Valencian sun from the underpass which was missed from the gradient map it¬'s now or never. I put my foot down and make sure my pace is where it should be. An elderly Spaniard steps out in front of me, with a grimace I manage to step aside without pushing him to the floor. Things are starting to hurt now. It¬'s not going to stop me. There is one thing I know could get me there, across the line in a time to fulfil my dreams.
Like many big city marathons Valencia utilised pacemakers, experienced runners in it for someone else, not for their own glory, as they line up at the start of the race they already know what time they will finish. If I can catch the 3:00 man I know I will have reached my goal. He crossed the start line a good 2 minutes before me. If I catch him I don¬'t even have to pass him, his 2 minute head start will guarantee my elusive time. But as hard as I look I can¬'t find him. Not yet.
The hills and the heat have taken their toll. My concentration has lapsed too long, my legs refuse to propel me faster than 6:45 per mile. I know that <3 hours is now out of reach. I can still hit 3:04 if I keep my concentration.
The final few miles are hard and hot. The Valencian sun beats down onto my shoulders, the course retraces its steps through the port area and back towards the city centre. The streets are empty. The pockets of support are wonderful and raucous, with groups of children dressed as cows and bands playing their hearts out. The final few streets are long and painful, not muscular pain, emotional. Everything is hard work but it is difficult to put my finger on why. My pace is falling away. Not enough to stop me finishing respectfully but enough to restrict my time, my chances of fulfilling my dreams.
I see my watch strike 3 hours. In Chester I was exactly a mile away from the finish line when I hit 3 hours. In Valencia I was 0.8 miles away. Or so I thought. The final stage of the race seemed to go on forever, with a cruel lap of the science centre building towards the wonderful finish line the finale felt drawn out. Like the first Lord of the Rings film with every turn it felt like the story should end. The science centre is thronged with people, but it is too far. My watch tells me I have gone past 26.2 miles. I finally enter the science centre. Having walked around it many a time in the two days before the race I know I still have about half a mile to go before I cross the floating finish line of marathon number 11. This has broken me. I have given up on a personal best, instead I am to merely keep my stride and enjoy this climax. The Spanish crowd cheer me home. With every single ¬"Go Baul¬" I have to look to see if it is Juan Benitez calling my name. Each step brings me closer to the finish line. No glory this time, but enjoyment. The finish line is spectacular, a blue carpeted runway crossing 100 metres of water. A fantastic experience. Bouncing down the finishing straight with a smile across my face. Knowing my wife had run down the same stretch hours before. Enjoyment, pride in myself and pride in my wife filled my being as I made my way down the finishing runway. My emotions had to go somewhere. I normally finish with a sprint finish. Valencia didn¬'t finish with an all out sprint but instead, for some unknown reason I finished Valencia airplaning, arms outstretched as I passed 20 more runners in the last 100 metres.
Race Report 11: The Valencia Marathon
Crossing the line in 827th position (219th in category) in an official time of 3 hours, 8 minutes and 57 seconds I am happy and sad. I am happy because I have enjoyed a great event, a festival of running set in a great city. A wonderful building to cherish before, during and after the race. I am happy that I have taken part, experienced it, and my wife has experienced it too. But I am sad. I wanted to break three hours, I wanted the thunderous finish, to cross that finish line with the electricity that filled the atmosphere the night before. It was not to be. I had to make do with visit to the city¬'s cathedral to look at the holy grail. I still haven¬'t grasped it. But it is in sight.
Only Pisa left in 2012. My original goal of running 12 marathons in 2012 is still very much on. One step from success.
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Race Report 11: The Valencia Marathon
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Nov 23rd 2012 13:24
I cannot believe hat you have now run 11 marathons! Such an accomplishment and always such a good story to tell!
paulwadeptby blog author: paulwadept, Nov 25th 2012 20:02
Thanks Sarah,

I just hope that the final chapter isn't an anticlimax!
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