On Sunday 17th February I took part in the Seville Marathon having signed up with my girlfriend Lorna and her brother Alex. Having struggled in the heat running the Boston Marathon in 2017 and London in 2018, Lorna and I thought Seville would be a great race as it boasts “the flattest route in Europe” and the weather is generally good. I was really looking forward to exploring the city and predicted it would be perfect timing as over the last few years I have felt in better shape in February as opposed to April.
In October, 17 weeks before race day, I wrote a rough training plan. It included going to the Run-Fast/The Running Works track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday nights, sessions around marathon pace on Thursdays and easy long runs on Sundays. I always find training easier when the temperature drops; I managed consistent weeks of training throughout October and November. Averaging around 130k per week I felt as though I was balancing speed work, tempo sessions and long runs well. Some of the marathon paced runs along the river and around Battersea Park on Thursday evenings felt tough two days after hard track sessions, but I figured it was the most specific training to replicate how my legs would feel nearing the end of the marathon. In the past I have been guilty of running either a lot quicker or slower than goal marathon pace.
To see how training was going I ran the Run Through Victoria Park Half in January at around marathon pace. Considering I had run two 20ks on consecutive days before the event I was glad I could hold goal pace. As the race neared Lorna, Alex and I ran long runs spending almost marathon time on feet. I was feeling confident that with a good taper and race nutrition strategy I would be able to achieve a sizeable PB. Learning from previous years I lowered my mileage considerably in the two weeks before the race and made sure to keep hydratedand eat well.
We travelled to Seville on the Friday to explore the city, pick up our race numbers and get into a routine ahead of race day.
On Saturday morning we did a 5k shake out run to stretch the legs and see the start/finish line. Staying in an apartment near Plaza Nueva (close to Seville Cathedral) it was only a couple of kilometers to the start on Paseo de las Delicias which is very close to Parque de Maria Luisa and Plaza de Espana. To save our legs for the rest of the day we took a bus tour, it helped us visualize the marathon route. From the bus Lorna spotted a pizza place so we jumped off to carb load at lunchtime. On Friday we found a restaurant serving chicken and chips so opted for that at dinnertime. We thought we would leave the amazing paella, tapas, ice cream and alcohol for after the race.
As the race started at 8:30am we set our alarms for 6 to eat breakfast and get to the start area in plenty of time. The last thing you want on race morning is to be rushing around and stressing over small things. I was feeling relaxed about the race. I knew I had trained well and was excited to see what I could achieve. I also couldn’t wait to see what Lorna and Alex could do. We dropped our bags and headed to our start pens. Having run sub 75 for half marathons I was in the sub 2:45 pen, I decided to start the race around 3:55 min/km pace (2:45 pace) and see if I could hold it. With the London Marathon lined up I figured I had nothing to lose and that it could be achievable having managed more marathon paced runs in training than in previous years. I settled into a good rhythm and ticked off the first few kilometers between 3:55 and 4 minutes.
I saw Lorna’s dad Bob and her brother Rob early on, it was great to have them supporting us around the course. Just before the 5km point we crossed the Puente de la Barqueta Bridge that provided great views of Puente del Alamillo Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava.
As Maurten gels provide 25g of carbohydrates, and they are smaller in size than SIS gels, I opted to use them throughout the race. Previously I felt as though I hadn’t taken on enough fuel so I planned to take one every 6 kilometers while sipping on water at every aid station. I ran through 10k in 39:49 feeling comfortable. I was enjoying the race; it was nice to be in a group running alongside the river on perfectly flat roads. Roughly every 5 kilometers there were bands playing which was good entertainment. The first half of the race included quite a few long straights. As we hadn’t turned many corners I was surprised to be clocking 400m or so more than when passing kilometer markers. I crossed the halfway point in 1:23:36, just slightly behind goal pace but I felt good and was hopeful that I could pick it up near the end.
Having consumed four gels by 25k unfortunately I was starting to feel a little sick/nauseous. I think because the Maurten gels are thicker and have a neutral (but sweet) flavor I was perhaps taking on too many carbs/glucose and fructose. My legs were tiring so I needed to keep taking on fuel but I didn’t really want to. In hindsight perhaps I should have taken some of the sports drink from the aid stations but I didn’t really feel like taking on anything. I should have practiced more with the Maurten gels in training, generally they are great but I think I need to experiment with the frequency and or drink mixes.
Just after running through Plaza de Espana at around 35k my left hamstring tightened forcing me to stop and stretch it quickly. I knew the last 7k would be tough but despite my goal time being out of reach I was still hopeful of running a PB. My 30-35k split was 20:42; I lost the best part of a minute stretching. I got back into a rhythm albeit at 4:30min/km pace.
It was frustrating to have to suffer through the last 7k but it was a great learning experience. The marathon is always hard to predict, as there are so many factors. After another quick stretch and a few kilometers of “shuffling” I crossed the line in 2:52:09.
A new PB by a couple of minutes but not as large as I would have liked.
Overall it was a great experience, it had been a while since I attempted a marathon PB and I learnt a lot while enjoying the training process. I now feel like I’ve built a good base to work on for the London Marathon and other races. I would definitely recommend the Seville Marathon; it is perfectly flat, the weather is often favorable and the support is superb. Lorna and Alex had terrific runs; Lorna ran 3:25 equaling her PB and Alex knocked 25 (yes 25) minutes off his PB running 3:11.
I’m glad to have got a marathon PB under my belt so early in the year and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in stall. I love this time of year when everyone is motivated and inspired building towards their goals/challenges.
Hope everyone’s training and racing is going well. See a lot of you out on the roads.