“The thirst you feel in your throat and lungs will be gone minutes after the race is over. The pain in your legs within days, but the glory of your finish will last forever.” — Unknown
11 Marathons to date!!! Toronto, Mississauga (3 times), Los Angeles, Chicago, Berlin, London, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Madrid …….. Fastest 3:39 in Berlin, slowest 4:13 in Madrid….
Let’s get this straight!! I couldn’t have done this amazing Madrid marathon without the help of Keenan and Jennifer at Simcoe Place Health clinic in Toronto. I struggled to finish the ATB 30k race in Hamilton on March 30th and didn’t think there was any way I could tackle the very difficult Madrid marathon course on April 23rd. But then Keenan and Jennifer went to work to fix the issues in my right foot and oh boy, what a race I had in Madrid!!!
Up until the end of January, I was feeling in great shape to tackle a very fast marathon but then my right leg/foot started to be uncooperative so I eased up on training but carried on with doing the Chilly half marathon March 1st and the ATB 30k on March 30th. When Keenan told me I could still run Madrid with some physio, I didn’t really believe him but carried on with a reduced training schedule.
My wife, Carrol and I flew in to Madrid on the red eye on the evening of Wednesday April 19th. I immediately got dressed and went to our Madrid office to spend the afternoon with our Country Manager, Fernando and staff there. He had planned out an entire itinerary for me and my wife in Madrid with places to visit and things to do. Proud to say, that despite having to run a marathon and spend time at the office, we checked off everything on the list including a great Spanish dinner at my favourite restaurant, Ten Con Ten, with Fernando. We did a late night Flamenco show when I should have been sleeping!! And then there was that great lunch at Restaurant Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world, opened in 1725 and kept in its original state. The ancient wine cellar tour deep in the basement of the restaurant was amazing. And did I say I drank too much wine.
… Note to wife: When your husband has a marathon to run, let him have some sleep and keep him off the wine!!!
And then, what else was there to do the day before the marathon – go to the Expo, shop, go back to Old Town, shop, then over to the rooftop Tapas bar at Dear Hotel Madrid for some more wine – definitely not the way to prepare but had to make the most of the limited time in Madrid.
Carrol and I had discovered a fantastic breakfast café (Harina) near our hotel and a short walk to the start line of the marathon. We went there every morning for the most awesome Spanish coffee, croissant and omelette. So on marathon morning, it only made sense that she would accompany me to the start and then stay on at the café while I went to the start line. The race finish line was right nearby in the stunning Retiro Park so she was going to join me there after.
Following the advice of Carrol, I wore a Canadian outfit for the race (bought at the Berlin Expo when I ran the Berlin marathon :). That was the best thing I could have done! Through the entire race, I was being encouraged by both athletes and the crowd …. “Come on Canada”, “Let’s go Canada”, “CANADA, CANADA, CANADA”, “Canada you are amazing”, “You can do this Canada”, “Keep going Canada”, “Let’s kick some ass Canada”, “I love Canada” , etc etc. I loved the attention 🙂 My wife IS ALWAYS RIGHT as if it was up to me, I would have worn plain black and got no attention and that would have not have been any fun!
The Madrid marathon starts with an 8k uphill climb and ends with a 9k climb. The downhill portions in between never made up for the difficult start and finish. Taking into account the uphill course and the Madrid hot sun, this was going to be a challenge. Realistically, I was hoping to finish in about 4:30 but didn’t rule out a 5 hour finish. I then proceeded to smash my best expectations by finishing in 4:13 and felt GREAT throughout this difficult race. Think it’s the best I’ve ever felt from start to finish of a race, even though my time was 11 minutes slower than my previous slowest time.
I knew when I woke up that Sunday morning that I would have a great race. I felt great right off the bat. The sun was shining brightly and the forecast was for warm temperatures around 26 degrees. At the start line, with over 35,000 people assembled to run the marathon, half marathon and 10k, I felt amazing. People were singing (Oh aaay, oh aaay, oh aaay, oh aaay???) and dancing and just in a great mood. Love the Spanish people!! They announced that there were participants from 80 countries. I took pictures, uploaded to Facebook, chatted with other runners, and then we were off!
The race started promptly at 9:05am as scheduled and we were off to some great music. My tendency is to cramp up whenever I start running on an uphill but that never happened this time even though we started with an 8k climb. Boy, was I pumped by this time!! I paced myself really well early on and this really worked. I knew the last 9k uphill to finish would be brutal so wanted to be ready for that.
The route was spectacular along wide boulevard style roads, passing all major landmarks and parts of Old Town. In the first half, the water stops were every 5k and I found that difficult to manage with the warm temperatures. However, the crowd support was fantastic and other athletes were encouraging each other. Running through Place Mayor was spine tingling with the crowd forming a path through the Square for us to run through. About half way through (I did the first half in 1:55) we were able to run through Casa Del Campo urban park for a few kms with shady trees so that felt great. Had to keep pouring ice water on my head and down my body the whole time to keep cool.
The 4 hour pacer passed me at some point in the 2nd half, I tried to keep up and could have but slowed down to save myself for the last 9k. I was feeling great though. Ran and chatted for a while with a guy from France, a girl from the USA and then a guy from Israel. With 10k to go, it became a gruelling uphill battle before a slight downhill in last 500m or so. I held on, with very short walk breaks. I was peeling off the kms one by one and pinching myself that I was checking off another European marathon off my list. Carrol saw me and took pictures at the 38k mark but the crowd was too large so I never saw her
With 1 km to go, I had such a surge of energy and galloped all the way, feeling nothing but elation. The last 500 metres, then 200 metres and then the sprint to the finish in glorious sunshine in gorgeous Retiro Park (which is blessed with a huge lake in the middle) was absolutely out of this world. I can’t wait until the next one.
After the race, I met up with Carrol, we sat around the park for a while before exiting the park on the wrong side and had to walk 3 kms back to the hotel (instead of 1km if we exited correctly). We gave up trying to flag a taxi down as everyone was doing the same thing! Then it was on to celebrate with a bottle of champagne at a fantastic outdoor Tapas bar (a meal that lasted about 4 hours as we couldn’t stop drinking Champagne 🙂 while watching the Real Madrid versus Barcelona soccer game with the screaming Madrid fans. This is where the aches in my feet gave way to a huge smile on my face and utter satisfaction.
We had to leave the next day for London as I had to be in the office there all week. Carrol flew home on the Tuesday from London while I stayed on.
More marathons on the list so can’t wait until the next one!!! Love the experience!!
Marathons on the list still … Tokyo, New York, Boston, Reykjavik (Iceland), Amsterdam, Paris, Prague, Rome, Athens, Melbourne (maybe this October), Great Wall (China) and London again ….