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Race Reports

Madrid Marathon Review - Rebecca Mudie

Mike Heron and I did the Madrid Marathon almost three weeks ago. It was a first marathon for both of us – training had gone well and we were looking forward to smashing 4 hours! Realistically that was probably a dream too far but it was a goal. 

The route had changed slightly from previous years, now starting slap bang in the middle of the city centre, a little north on the main drag that the Prado museum is on (it finishes about half a mile south, in front of the Prado). Weather was sunny but cool at the 9am start, the atmosphere was fab, everything was accessible (usual queue for toilets but only a couple hundred metres from start line and no bother at all). 

Madrid is part of the Rock n Roll series of races so we were sent on our way with Thunder by AC/DC blasting the streets. One of Mike’s faves apparently (who knew?!) so he was well pumped by this stage. 

Took around 10 mins to actually cross the start line, all the time the tunes going and the excitement building. The first 4 miles are very steadily uphill heading north. The half-marathon started at the same time so we running all together (Sarah Christie was running this). I found it difficult to move as quickly as I wanted to as there was lots of bunching up, trying to find a spot to edge into and then doing that all again. It was frustrating, but I guess it may be a feature of big city marathons like this? 

From 4 to around 11 miles you run back south through the city. Mainly flat or downhill with the odd incline. The crowds were good – enough to create and keep an atmosphere but not overwhelming at all. Around 11 miles the half-marathon keeps heading south to finish at the same place as the marathon, and we turned right to head west, and south. There was a great wave-off between the two distances which was lovely! The numbers thinned out and it became easier find a groove and settle in. 

The route passed through the main square Plaza del Sol, before going past the Royal Palace, still everything pretty much flat or downhill. Feeling good, chatting to people, but the heat was building…….. 

Around 16 miles we were running along a wide street before heading into the park the southwest of the city. This felt relentless, mainly due to the heat. The water stations were frequent throughout though (every three miles), offering Powerade and bananas every 5 or 6 as well. Sometimes difficult to get to as they were only on one side of the road but I managed to down lots I thought. 

The park was very tough. The heat hit, the wall hit – about 18 miles for me. There was no shade and then a couple of steep hills as 20 miles came around. Rude! 

The last 6 miles, and I know everyone says it, were really tough. Despite taking on what felt like tonnes of liquid – I don’t honestly think I could have had any more – I was really feeling it. Despite two or three whooshes of short downhill stints the last 4 miles was basically an incline. Uphill would probably be stretching it in the cold light of day, but it felt like it to me at the time! 

The crowds stayed upbeat all the way round and fellow runners shouting my name helped a lot. As I headed back into concrete I knew the finish line was not far away – there’s a Pall Mall style wide road finish that you can see 500m or so before you get there. Getting there felt like running in treacle but I did it! 4hrs 24mins – my 4 hour goal lives to fight another day!! 

I really enjoyed this race. Overall I felt I got a big city buzz without too many big city annoyances like taking ages to cross the start line, feeling hemmed in for too long, overwhelmed by noise that I know 

others have reported from London for example. Madrid is a pretty city, you get to see all the sights, and spend time in parkland as well as the centre. 

My husband said it was easy to get to too. He saw me at 6 miles, 20 miles (I was slightly delirious at this point, saying not much more that “it’s so hot” on repeat), and as I turned the corner to head to the finish (Madrid has a metro and with some planning it was easy to find a suitable spot for him to pop up and say hello). He joined me on the course running a bit too to keep me going so it was pretty relaxed access wise. 

There was a lack of music though, considering this was a feature of the race. I was expecting regular bands as 40 or so songs were advertised, presumably per km, but in reality there were only 6 or 7. I don’t recall feeling egged on by music too much so I don’t think I missed it due to delirium. The crowd, fellow runners and my husband though were definitely key! 

The bling was great, the Spanish pig-out afterwards was stunning, and the city has lots to keep you entertained in the days before and after. Make a holiday out of it – Toledo is only half an hour away on the train and other historic towns are nearby too. 

Despite my novice status, I would say the route is fairly tough for a city marathon. Mainly due to the incline at the end and the risk of the heat. It was 23 degrees and bright sun but it could easily have been 16 or so and overcast – as it was in the hours and days before and after. Given London’s heat this year, I wouldn’t let the risk of that put you off this race. Madrid is quite high up in altitude so won’t be as hot as you think this time of year – unless you are really unlucky, which you could be anywhere let’s face it! 

Probably not a PB course, but it’s well organised, small enough to be accessible but with city plusses if that’s what you’re after. Spain is cheap too so have a holiday as well – you’ll have earned it!

 

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