Due to circumstances, I returned to the Bilbao Night Marathon, which I had already run in 2017. Initially, I considered running the marathons in Lisbon and Palma de Mallorca in October, and I even had the option to debut in Ciudad Real and Tirana, both of which had races scheduled for the same date. In the end, for logistical convenience, I travelled to Bilbao on the morning of the race, just 4 hours before it. Enough time to pick up my race bib at the runner’s expo, take a short walk, and prepare to head to the start line.
The race will begin at 7:00 PM at the San Mamés stadium and finish at the Guggenheim Museum, making it an attractive marathon. Placed in the starting corral 4, I quickly remembered why I hadn’t repeated this race. Besides the marathon distance, there are options to run a half marathon (21k) and a “pirate” 10k race, all starting simultaneously. This would be the biggest flaw of the race, because there were over 5000 participants in the 10k race, while there were fewer than 1000 in the marathon!
With a temperature of around 18°C, I wait for the previous waves of runners to start. By the time I cross the starting line at the back of corral 4, the largest one, has been already 7 minutes, and I haven’t seen any pacers to follow.
Amid this massive crowd of runners, it is difficult to maintain a steady pace. I continuously have to evade other runners while trying to maintain the distances with the runners ahead and behind me to avoid potential collisions.
After the first 5 kilometres, I am already 2 minutes behind my scheduled time. Despite my efforts to pick up the pace, it remains challenging due to the number of runners and the numerous bottlenecks on an urban course with many sharp turns.
We must endure this running almost to the finish line of the 10k race before the course clears up. From that point, we can run more comfortably, but too far behind my target time.
I didn’t remember the course very well, and there with its many twists and turns along the riverbank. I reach the half marathon mark in 1 hour and 58 minutes, realising that I have limited margin to finish under 4 hours. Anyhow, I don’t seem to find the right pace. Possibly my biorhythm doesn´t respond well to this evening/nighttime schedule.
The second lap is quite lonely, but it allows me to gradually pass other runners. With limited spectator support, I appreciate the dedication of the volunteers who cheer us on and provide the necessary refreshments at the aid stations.
As I reach the 41-kilometer mark, I am caught by the 4h pace pacer, which is almost running alone. I overhear a runner reprimanding him for not pacing properly. I assume it is because he went too fast at the start to build a time cushion, a flaw I have noticed in several races. Personally, I think is more logical to maintain a consistent pace. However, it didn’t affect me.
Entering the final straight to the Guggenheim Museum the race is done. I cross the finish line with a net time of 4.01.30, finishing in 402nd place out of 682 who completed the race. For some reason, I always go over 4 hours in this marathon.
After catching my breath, I head back to the hotel, already thinking about marathon number 123, which should be in San Sebastián. This would be the first time in a calendar year that I ran marathons in the three capitals of the Basque Country, after having completed Vitoria in May.
Advice to organisers: please separate the 10k start by at least 15 minutes.