I heard those words around kilometer 11 crossing above Paseo de la Castellana, from a runner ahead, as it started to rain heavily in last Madrid´s Marathon: La Décima, in english, my Tenth. And it sweated, in deluge. My brother Javier often quotes me saying: “every marathon offers an opportunity for the epic“. For us never was it more true than this time.
It is not usual to run a marathon just two months after another one, in this case after Sevilla, but there were many reasons to do that. This time the account of the race comes with wave of emotions rather than the factual description of our participation.
Long had Javier and I waited for an opportunity to emulate the legendary finish of Rod Dixon at NYC Marathon in 1983, beating Geoff Smith in the rain to leave us one of the most emotional marathon moments ever:
And lord we had it! I had a taste of it in the Behobia 20km race in Basque Country in 2011 under heavy rain as well, but this Madrid´s Marathon has been the ultimate race experience.
Let start with some round numbers. This marathon was nothing less than my tenth, as was it for José as well, part of the J´s trio that started to run together in Paris 2012. For Javier, it was 15 years since he run his first, also in Madrid. In the days before the race I remembered the words of my friend, and co-runner in Chicago 2011, Lorenzo, as he was interviewed for ESPN Latinamerica at Chicago´s Runners Expo for what would be his tenth participation in the distance. In a state of emotion I had never seen in him (and I knew the guy for more than 10 years back then) he described how special each and every race is and the miracle that it is to finish one, no matter the time. His eyes were sparkling, he looked absent in emotion. How I understood him on that Sunday!
Moreover, as I had already mentioned in my previous post, this would probably be my last run in a long time in Retiro. I had never thought that running a marathon at home could be so intense. The vision of crossing the finish line at my running playground projected a powerful image in my mind. In addition to that, not only had we the presence of Luca, cheering us at some points along the race course as in some other marathons abroad, now my mother was there in two locations, which made it very special.
Madrid Marathon Course (RnR EDP Madrid Marathon)
Focusing on the race development, the three of us, José, Javier and myself, started the long light uphill of 6km along Paseo de la Castellana keeping a reasonable pace of around 5:25min/km. One hour or so into the race a light rain appear and, except for some moments, it would not leave us. There is where I heard “the city is sweating with us” . Moments before we had run along the streets where José had lived during his university years. That kind of emotions, remembering our experiences in the city, would be present constantly. In fact, the day before I had participated in my public speaking club´s national contest, crowning a year of personal development with our great team, and these emotions came out too.
Unfortunately, the activity of previous days and the rain threatened to take a toll on me and around km 13, and with the experience of NYC Marathon in my mind, I made halt in a gas station to get alleviation and prevent worse consecuences later on. Around 10 minutes the three of us were waiting in the queue. That is one reason why our official net times diverge in around 10min from my Garmin. We had sub-four pace at the end of the day.
After that we went on with very decent pace averaging 5min/km through the historical city center, enjoying the crowds. Javier and I exchanged comments on how great that was. Then the “solid climb” at the Half Marathon milestone in Ferraz street marked a new phase for me. I got another emotional boost when we saw my mom and family there but from then on I started to have difficulties to keep up with Javier and Jose´s pace. The scenery under the rain, though, had a dramatic beauty.
And we entered the Casa de Campo at km26, a challenging area of steep uphills in a park in the outskirts of Madrid, where we were under now heavy rain. I started to quickly lose around 15 to 20 seconds per km of pace, dangerously approaching even the 6min/km. But then… Look, I have been running with Javier and Jose in many participations, but never had I seen such a powerful display of comradeship and leadership. One line from Javi then:
“listen to me, no matter what, I came today to run and cross the finish line together”
is to me the best interpretation of the no-man-left-behind I have experienced so far. From then on our fight against the rain and the hard course turned really epic. Waves of water flowing down the roads, enormous paddles, Javier warning us about the Paseo de Pontones where he so suffered 15 years ago. And rain, rain and rain again.
Javier would be offering me his water and energy gel in the next kilometers, but I rather needed concentration on my pace to be able to keep running. And so we reached Atocha in km37, where we saw the family again and I rejoiced that only “one lap around Retiro” park was left before the finish line.
At 6min/km and even above I wasn´t having a good time, Javier and José gained some distance but in km40 (believe me when I say that crossing that milestone always feels special, 40km…) they waited for me. We were already in Principe de Vergara street, which is where Javi runs to Retiro to join me when he visits the city. From that moment on it was difficult to keep our emotions under control, the Retiro entrance approaching, my running playground, the beauty of the park under the rain, the three of us together and my farewell to the city, we even shouted how great and long time deserved race this had been! The pictures just tell it.
Our final time, more or less the same as we started and finished together, was finally 4:02:45. All things considered, we were happy with it.
After the race we cooled down and suffered the chilly wheather and rain. Javier and I had our fun with José complaining about the rain, while we had been so happy to have it. Still, we enjoyed a lot the moments after the race and traditional meal together.
Now it is difficult to foresee whether we will be able to run another 10 races in the next years, or to find ourselves 15 years from now crossing the 42km milestone. One thing is sure, it will be hard to have a better crowning for all the great moments I have been privileged to have with these gentlemen. It was an honour to run with you 🙂