Valencia Marathon 2023
‘Welcome to the city of running’ – Valencia has a reputation for fast, flat running and having seen some incredible times posted last December, I swiftly signed up once registration opened for this year’s race.
Flew in on the Friday night. Saturday morning started with a shakeout run around the stunning Jardi del Turia – a park running through the Center of Valencia, that is reclaimed land from the river. Flanked on one side by the famous and picturesque Museu de les Ciències. Followed by coffee and croissant shaped carbs. The expo was at the less scenic conference centre, outside of Valencia. In and out as quick as possible and feet up/carb loading for the rest of the day. Sadly hadn’t booked on to the paella party, but that did look good!
Weirdly one of the things I love most about race day is the excitement and nervous energy that greets you when waking. Walked over to the start, which was nice as got to see the sunrise and steady stream of runners appearing out of the dawn gloom. Bag drop etc was super well organised and the start pen had plenty of space for a warmup. Handily the resident DJ kept dropping a 10second count down at random times well before the start, much to everyone’s confusion. That aside, race day music never fails in heightening that race day anticipation. The marathon started right next to the Museu de les Ciències, with runners crossing over a split bridge – probably the one and only ‘climb’ on the course! Otherwise scenery wise, the race was a bit of a blur.. Only consulting my strava after did I actually realise where in the city I’d run.
I started fairly close to the back of the 2:38-2:30 pen, not wanting to get carried away with unsustainable early pace. As this was a European race, the markers were in kilometres, which I really enjoyed, as they came and went much quicker than miles. Through the first 10km in 38:01 and legs were feeling great. My rough plan before had been to go out slightly slower than marathon pace for the first 10km and then pick it up if everything felt good. So I decided to split away from the group I’d been working with and settled in to a slightly quicker pace, slowly picking people off and enjoying the excellent crowd support. Second 10km ticked over in 37:15 and before I knew it, I was through half way in 1:19:26 – a decent buffer to play with for my goal of sub 2:40.
At this point I was still surrounded by runners, which greatly helped in sharing the pace and making the kilometres fly by. Plus with everyone’s bibs having their nationality on, it was good fun trying to guess and see what country the surrounding runners were from. Aside from there obviously being lots of Spaniards, Brits, French and Italians were out in force! I stuck to taking a gel every 30 mins, and so far this appeared to be working well, with no signs of low energy or stomach cramps. The next 10km went by in 37:18, so the pace was still looking good and legs were feeling strong. Kept waiting for the familiar and often inevitable fatigue/slowdown to set in, but so far nothing. Everything felt surprisingly good. With 10km to go, I calculated that a 39 min last 10km would get me in within my goal and mentally broke it down in to two chunks of 5km. 5km to go (only a park run) and a sub 20min would get me there. I can do this! The kilometres felt like they were getting longer, but I was passing people and the pace was increasing ever so slightly. Unfamiliar territory for me, having almost always slowed down (sometimes significantly) in the final parts of the marathon.
With 3km to go, the crowds were 3-4 people deep, and the sea of noise was really helping to push me on (Lots of cries of Vamos!) My name being on my bib paying dividends, as each time I heard name called out, it spurred me on a little more. 3km, became 2km, became 1km to go. 7mins to do the last km.. don’t throw it away now, you can do this! Turning left with about 500m to go, you are greeted with the famous blue finishing carpet. What a sight and something I’d been dreaming of for a while. At this point I knew my target time was well within reach, and was able to enjoy those final few meters. Job done, happy times and a shiny new pb. Official time 2:37:24 and finally a championship place secured after several times trying! Never felt better during a race, or after for that matter. Absolutely loved it! I was even able to enjoy a few beers and a paella after 🙂
At the pointy end, Sisay Lemma set ran an incredible race to set a new course record in 2:01:48, with the British Olympic hopefuls Mahamed Mahamed (so good they named him twice) and Phil Sesemann just missing out on the Olympic Qualifying time of 2:08:12 with times of 2:08:42 and 2:08:49 respectively. Hopefully UKA will see sense and take them to the Olympics anyway.
In the ladies, Worknesh Degefa came home in a very impressive 2:15:51!
Didn’t spot any other harriers, so not sure how anyone else got on if they did run?
If anyone gets the chance, I would thoroughly recommend Valencia both as a place and a race. Running wise, it couldn’t be any better. A super fast and flat course, amazing support and ideal running conditions with temperatures hovering around 10c throughout. To give you an idea of how quick the field is:
132nd place was good for sub2:20
561th for sub 2:30
1343th for sub 2:40
2787th for sub 2:50
5169th for sub 3:00
Plus lots of great sights and food to squeeze in around the race. I’ll definitely be back! Now for some December downtime.