POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE

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I take advantage of this short post to celebrate the sixth anniversary (3+3) of our website, which launched back on May 8, 2018.

We could divide its trajectory into two clearly differentiated halves. In its first 3 years I came to see it as an professional alternative. Looking at it in perspective, I realize now how delusional I was. Much more needed to be offered, it is true, and possibly a blog or website of this style is something that fell into disuse a long time ago, and more so as time has passed. Almost all of us lead a hectic life, always moving back and forth between different responsibilities. For the few moments of leisure available, we have an impossible amount of offer at our disposal. Digital platforms and social networks capture our attention with images and texts. It is difficult to compete with calm readings against short videos, TikTok style, or texts of 140 characters, which are the maximum length to which many people are able to pay attention.

The second part of this story, which spans from 2021, has placed the web as a burden at times, even economical to maintain the domain and its hosting. The lack of time, exasperating at times, has prevented me from creating content as frequently as I initially planned to. Too long silences, many times only interrupted by my marathon chronicles, always late. Difficult to maintain the balance between family and work obligations, continue running marathons and keep the page active, at least with a small thread of life inside it.

Even so we reach our sixth anniversary, with 271 published posts (in each language), including 74 career chronicles and 110 science divulgation ones. Enough content and hours spent, that, at least for now, we will try to continue one more season.

Moving forward…

1k+ (3+3)

MARATHON 129: MADRID (28/04/2024)

The Zurich Rock n’Roll Madrid Marathon is popularly known as Mapoma. Place of our marathon debut in 2000, and the 100th in 2021. We have attended so many times that I must check my diary to remember the editions in which I have participated.

Registered since the end of last year, its date was already fixed on my calendar for the last weekend of April. As on other occasions, with options of a half marathon and 10k in a tough course, one of the most demanding nationwide. With a number of participants for the longest distance a little over 10 thousand, it has remained with slight ups and downs for a few years.

The bib collection at the Madrid Fair is fast and fluid, with one of the most extensive runners fairs I have seen. Fitted into wave 6 of departures, I am scheduled to start at 9:25. This system of staggered starts every 5 minutes is a good idea that other marathons should adopt. It avoids the initial crowding, and possibly allows the number of runners to be higher. The same could be said for the efficient system of wardrobe trucks.

I start once again close to the 3h45m group… whom I keep slightly ahead. Already in the first stages of the race I am going a little over the pace. It is not something worrying because the first 3-4 kilometres following the Paseo de la Castellana until Plaza de Castilla are ascending. Despite this I am running parallel to the 1h50m group, which for many kilometres will be behind the 3h45m group, which should cross the race equator in 1h52m30s.

Inaccuracies of one or other aside, I feel the shoes heavy today. I am using a new version of my usual Adidas Solar Glide model, which has never given me problems, but today I already feel a blister on the instep of my right foot at 8k. It seems that I run inefficiently, and that considering that my personal running style is everything but elegant.

Thus, regulating my pace, I cross the half marathon in 1.54.56. Certainly, a little bit behind schedule, but still with room to finish under 4 hours. The day is not as warm as in Zaragoza, we soon arrive at the dreaded Casa de Campo area, with some of the hardest slopes of the race, a real test for the tired athletes.

Shortly before reaching the last section, I collide badly with the wall. Crossing kilometre 35 in 3h17m, I run with sore hips, and the right calf giving warnings of cramp. The following kilometres seem endless to me, eagerly searching for the distance markers while watching how the clock continues its inexorable path.

Finally, I cross the finish line with 4.07.54, exhausted. Today was not the most favourable day, but I suppose that with this distance, things cannot be taken for granted.

As I walk in search of the medal, the idea crosses my mind that, perhaps, I should rethink my relationship with the 42k.

For now, another marathon awaits me in a couple of weeks, in Blaye, France, which I will try to confront in the best possible conditions.

Come on!

MARATHON 128: ZARAGOZA (14/04/2024)

The Zaragoza marathon was one of those that I had already crossed off my list in 2022, thinking that I would mainly focus on completing those that I was missing. Once again, I was wrong, signing up as “revenge” after the shameful cancellation of Badajoz, just two days before its celebration.

The visit to the Aragonese capital was going to be totally lightning. The alarm clock rang at 2:20 in the morning on that same Sunday. I had arranged to meet at 3:30 with Gorriti to pick me up and from then the “Abollao”. We had time to get to Zaragoza in about 4 hours, thanks to Quique who had collected our bib-numbers the day before.

Thus, we arrive in Zaragoza with enough time to park the car, and taking advantage of the good weather, walk to the starting area changed and ready for running. We meet Quique with our numbers, and all together head towards the Plaza del Pilar. Along with the distance of 42 kilometres, a 10k is also offered, with a slightly later departure.

Time to see many familiar faces and take some last photos before our departure at 8:30. Again with a large representation from Valladolid in the starting group.

Once we cross the starting line, we get to a very sharp curve that forces us to walk. I suppose this small inconvenience could be avoided if the exit took place on the back street facing the river, or by leaving the square at its other end.

The forecast of reaching 24-25⁰C in the final stages of the race calls for calm. I keep the 3h45m pacer in sight. After the first few kilometres behind me I hear a joke in the familiar voice of Quique, who comes to my level accompanied by a small group that also includes Johanna, Bassit and Óscar.

I stick with them for a few kilometres, knowing that they have a slightly faster pace than mine, around 5m20s per kilometre. Normal speed that I always try to maintain, aiming for the usual goal of 3h45m. Despite the marathon’s reputation for being flat, there are also some undulating areas.

Already letting them go, I crossed the half marathon at around an hour and 53 minutes, slightly above the established goal. Estimating a slower second part of the race, I try to take advantage of all the aid stations and take the gels that they provide us.

Fortunately, the route takes advantage of both the street and tree-lined areas to offer us long stretches of shade, which are appreciated and make the heat that we thought was going to punish us more bearable. The influx of public during the last kilometres gives the final push to gain pace towards the Plaza del Pilar.

I cross the finish line with a net time of 3.56.43 (official 3.57.32) and position 754 of 1111 finishers. In this incomparable setting, with perfect weather, and after having enjoyed excellent organization, I reach 128 marathons.

Just enough time to get back to the car, change clothes and, after a small snack, face the 4-hour return trip.

Next stop, Mapoma.

Book: LA CARRERA DEL SIGLO (Jose Luis Munuera & Kid Toussaint, 2024, 96 pages)

I accidentally found a reference to this comic online, and I thought that, for an athletics fan, and more specifically the marathon distance, it was something that couldn’t be missed.

Presented by the Astiberri publishing house in a careful hardcover edition, it focuses on telling us about the 1904 St Louis Olympics marathon, an episode that we already presented on our blog (https://www.onekmore.com/en/2018/06/28/marathon-olympic-champions-iii-st-louis-1904-thomas-hicks-1876-1952/ ), as part of our series on the Olympic marathon champions.

It must be considered that sport at that time did not have the same media following as it does today, especially in those first editions of the Olympic Games, which had only restarted in Athens a few years before, in 1896. All this context is presented to us in detail in the first pages, where we can see how it was decided to organize the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, to the detriment of Chicago, and make it coincide with the Universal Exhibition.

This celebration was seen by the organizing committee as an occasion to show the world the physical superiority of the United States, which had felt humiliated by the French in the previous Olympic event, in Paris 1900. And not only American superiority, but as we will see later, show the superiority of the white race over athletes from other ethnicities.

Focusing on the marathon, we are introduced to a small profile of those who will ultimately be the main protagonists of the event. We have the Cuban postman Félix “Andarín” Carvajal, the South Africans in continuous dispute Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, who went to St Louis to be “exhibited” as aborigines in an anthropological exhibition, the firting Frederick Lorz, or the one who ultimately would take his chance, Thomas Hicks. I only missed the Frenchman, although competing for the USA, Albert Corey.

In the following pages the comic shows us how the race goes. Without going into details that would ruin the reading, we witness how the marathon was conceived almost as an experiment, starting at the hottest time of the day, on the afternoon of August 30 with a temperature of 32°C, running through streets with traffic, and a unique liquid station to be able to study the effects of dehydration on the organism. All for the sake of spectacle. It seemed more a test of survival than an athletic demonstration, as evidenced by the fact that of 32 runners at the start, only 14 managed to cross the finish line.

We also witness the use, which today would be scandalous, of various stratagems and tricks of some of the runners with the aim of achieving victory.

For those who do not know the result of the race, we will not reveal everything here.

An essential comic for lovers of sports history, Olympics, or simply the marathon, which cannot be missing from their library.

Score: 5/5

MARATHON 127: VALDEBEBAS (23/03/2024)

Valdebebas is one of those marathons that I end up returning to from time to time. It is true that 40 laps of an avenue with hard pavement and not the best views end up becoming repetitive, but it offers a feeling of camaraderie when running with many of the most “addicted” marathoners in the field.

This year the marathon coincides with the third day of a Quadrathlon, so for most runners this is just one step to completing their quartet of marathons for the week.

With a punctual start at 9:00 and pleasant weather, we began to run laps, quickly standing out those of us who come only for the marathon, and those for whom today is another day in their challenge.

To finish in 4 hours, I should run each of the laps in 6 minutes. However, from the beginning I am already going a few seconds above that time. From experience I know that it is a tough race, both in terms of the route and psychologically. In my two previous visits I have never managed to go under 4 hours. In addition, I have last Sunday’s marathon on my legs, having only done a training session during the week.

With the refreshment table at the end of each lap, I don’t have to carry gels or unnecessary load. This allows everyone to run at their own pace without having to worry about where or when the next drink station will be found.

Therefore, I start adding laps and kilometres, lapping some runners while I am also lapped by the fastest runners, like Teo and Lolo. In this race, more than in others, it is racing against yourself.

In the end I manage to cross lap 40 in a time of 4.23.52… and it is not my worst time on the course, where in 2019 I managed to finish in 4h41m. A fourth place out of 25 participants, but obviously with less fatigue in the legs than many of them.

It’s time to relax with the numerous food available, while waiting for the other participants to finish. With more than 3,100 marathons among all participants, the anecdotes and shared experiences are countless. There is always something to learn from such a group.

With the calendar more or less outlined for the following months, it is time to rest during Easter and return strongly afterwards.

See you soon.

MARATHON 126: ROME (17/03/2024)

Outside runners expo
Inside runners expo

After running Almagro at the end of January, the next marathon should have been Seville, for which I had train and accommodation, although because I left the registration too late, I ended up out. Later I was registered for Badajoz, until that same Thursday night they decided to cancel it, with the inconveniences that this caused, both in logistical and training. Thus, I arrived at the Rome marathon, my Christmas gift, with my training a little readjusted and the desire to run in one of my favourite cities, a few times visited, but whose marathon was still foreign to me.

The trip was going to be a bit of a whirlwind, arriving at noon on Saturday and with the return flight at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday. Having just arrived at the airport, I decide to head directly to the runner’s expo. I take a train that leaves me a couple of kilometres walking “via Google”, which ends up becoming a few more as I must go around to cross a large road and some train tracks. Already in the expo, I find a long queue to enter the venue. There, with the backpack, I lose about 1 hour until I get to the bib table, only to find that many of the available places are empty. Possibly the process could be much faster. With my bib I go to get the t-shirt, to find that they don’t have my size either and it’s only 2pm. I have to settle for an L. After a brief visit to the usual stands, I eat something outside and walk towards the nearest subway entrance to go to my accommodation.

With the official registration for the race there were options to choose a pack with 3 or 4 star accommodation in one of the marathon’s collaborating hotels, the Omnia. For once I had decided to opt for the 4-star package, whose accommodation was a little more expensive than the one I had previously booked, but which offered late check out until 4:00 p.m. and a marathon breakfast starting at 6:00 a.m. The hotel in question, the Donna Laura Palace. When checking in the receptionist refuses to accept these conditions. Immovable and with an ironic smile he tells me that check out is at 11:00 and breakfast starts at 7:00. This means that I will have to leave my things at the hotel and pick them up after the race, since only the small backpack that they gave us at the expo can be left in the race cloakroom.

Going to the race entrance
Bottleneck of the entrance to the runners area

After these small setbacks, I take advantage of the afternoon to tour the Vatican and the area of ​​the Imperial Forums and the Colosseum. A pizza will serve as dinner before retiring to rest.

With the start of the marathon in waves starting at 8:30, I am already leaving the hotel at 6:45, with enough time to get to the start/finish area by metro. Once outside the metro we still have to make a long detour around the entire Trajano Market to reach the entrance funnel to the cloakroom truck area. It is unacceptable that in a marathon of this size the entrance to this area is through a small corridor where no more than 2 runners can walk at a time. And things do not improve inside since the indications for the trucks are scarce and in some the volunteers are overwhelmed to collect the backpacks.

With the backpack delivered and more than half an hour until the start, no one can get closer to the front or see where the starting boxes are. There are pacers of 5h40m and also 3h15m. Completely lost the reference to where I am, and stuck, I have to stay there until, I don’t know if in the last wave or which one, I pass through the start.

It is around 8:50 and the morning promises to be hot and sunny. It is difficult for me to pick up the rhythm. I have to surpass many runners, on both sides of the road. And this will continue for many kilometres, with the difficulty that it implies, to avoid a fall and get to the aid stations. In them I find another of the organization’s failures, because even though there are quite a few, they are indicated with very little notice. Although I usually skip the first few, I even must stop to serve myself the isotonic from a bottle.

I end up reaching the halfway mark in 1.58.24. With this intermediate time, the second part should go very well to reach the finish line below 4 hours.

Finish area

No longer feeling the pressure of making a good time, I try to make the most of the points of interest along the route, from St. Peter’s Square to Piazza Navona, although there are also areas of much less interest. With a one-lap route, some areas are bland and with few visitors.

Discounting the kilometres, the heat is already noticeable, and in some areas also the cobblestones, although not as many as one might think. Heading towards the Colosseum, the race is almost over.

In the end I cross the finish line in 4.04.37 to conclude my 126th marathon. A race that should be on par with the city it runs through, but that’s Rome too: chaos everywhere.

Having completed one of the marathons that I had on my checklist, the next stop will be in 6 days, in Valdebebas, part of the first Quadratlon in Spanish territory.

Thank you for coming this far, and we’ll see you at the next outing.

MARATHON 125: ALMAGRO (21/01/2024)

Family marathon if you could say so, which has taken its place on the calendar, with an increasing number of participants and exquisite treatment for the runners. Every detail taken care of, from the runner’s bag to its post-race meal. A marathon organized by a marathoner (Miguel Ángel) for marathoners.

Having already run in 2019 and 2022, and with a free bib thanks to Quique, there was no reason to skip Almagro and its marathon. Furthermore, thanks to the “official” hotel El Retiro del Maestre we could check out until 15.00, which is always welcomed to take a no stress shower after a race.

We were traveling by car on Saturday, without much hurry, to visit some of the mills on the Don Quixote Route. Many times, one crosses La Mancha in a hurry towards other places, overlooking what this has to offer.

Arriving in Almagro in the afternoon, we took advantage of the good weather to take a walk through its quiet streets and pick up our runner’s bib number and bag at the Town Hall.

In the morning, with about 5⁰C, it is a short walk to the starting area, where runners are already gathering under the starting arch. And there are many familiar faces. A team of marathon runners who would like to have other more established marathons. A sign that things are being done well. And for those who do not dare to do the 42k, they can also be done in teams of 2.

After some group photos to mark the occasion in our memories (largely digital), we leave on time, to run and “adjustment” short lap, necessary to get the total distance right. The temperature is cool, although not as cold as other times.

After this first “adjustment” detour, we begin with the course itself. We will have enough time to get familiar. It takes 14 laps to complete the 42 kilometres.

Without pacers, it is a matter of adjusting the time of each lap. Already finishing the second I am dubbed for the first time. Running on feelings, without looking at the clock much, I align soon with Lola, still knowing that her endings are much stronger than mine. I continue with her until lap 6, close to the halfway point of the race. Sensations are not too good, as could be expected given the last weeks of training.

After lap 8, with people already waiting for me at the finish line, I speed up the pace. It’s a matter of continuing to complete laps and subtracting from those that remain.

With supplies available on each lap, I alternate the gels on the even laps, with the isotonic drink on the odd laps. In the end, the marathon, like so many other things in life, is a succession of routines, and many obsessions too.

Ruling out improving my 3h42m here in 2022, I see that it will be a matter of aiming to lower the 4 hours threshold. Finally, I cross the finish line in 3.55.29, led by TK, in 67th position out of 110 participants.

I still have time to take a shower and come back to taste the migas, which I had never tried, and buy some local products to enjoy more calmly at home and help the local economy.

Marathon 125 completed, with the feeling of having done “half” of the homework. For some unfounded reason, it seems like my ultimate horizon could be one day reach the 250 marathons.

The next stop could have been Marrakech, Murcia or Seville, although at the time of writing these lines they have already been ruled out, predicting a blank marathon month of February, although busy with others, less pleasant tasks.

SPIRULINA ON HEALTH, ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AND RECOVERY

Microscopic view of spirulina (unstained)
Microscopic view of spirulina

Spirulina is a type of microscopic bacteria, often referred to as “blue-green microalgae.” It grows naturally in alkaline lakes or commercially produced in controlled ponds.

Widely used in medicine and the food industry is known for its high nutrient content, including 60-70% protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. It is claimed to be a rich source of vitamin B12, antioxidant carotenoids and minerals (iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium).

Thus, spirulina is used as a dietary supplement, with various health benefits reported, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-modulating properties.

A recent review studied the available bibliography. We will briefly explain its main findings and the potential benefits of its use in athletes.

Supplement tablets
Lyophilifized power

Effects of spirulina in health

  1. Antidiabetic: spirulina is suggested to help manage diabetes by improving blood lipid profiles, and parameters like blood glucose and insulin sensitivity.
  2. Antianaemic: spirulina, rich in iron, is proposed to be beneficial in treating anaemia, with studies showing increased haemoglobin and iron levels.
  3. Anticancer: spirulina is believed to have antioxidant and immune-modulating properties that may contribute to cancer prevention. Some studies showed the regression of precancerous lesions and inhibition of tumours.
  4. Antiviral: spirulina may inhibit the replication of various viruses, with studies suggesting a decrease of viral load in HIV cases.

Use of spirulina in athletes

  1. Supplementation. Athletes, especially with inadequate nutrition, may benefit from Spirulina due to its rich nutritional content. Studies suggest positive effects on body composition, aerobic fitness, strength, and power. Results varied depending on training status, with best results in untrained or moderately trained individuals. In highly trained athletes, results are less consistent.
  2. Effects on intense exercise. Intense exercise leads to exercise-induced muscle damage due to inflammation and oxidative stress. Spirulina’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are suggested to be beneficial. Supplementation can lower markers like lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), creatine kinase (CK), and interleukin 6 (IL-6) after exercise, benefits that would prevent and speed up recovery, although not all studies agreed on this point.
Main effects of spirulina on human body (adapted from Chaouachi et al. 2023)

Conclusions

  • Spirulina is shown as a natural supplement, with various health benefits due to its rich nutritional content. However, its effectiveness varies depending on health status and individual characteristics.
  • Regarding Spirulina´s use in athletes, it shows potential in improving body composition, aerobic fitness, strength, and power performance.
  • More studies should be needed, with larger groups and standard methodologies, due to the lack of consistent findings and limited research on elite athletes.

Bibliography

Chaouachi M, Vincent S, Groussard C. A Review of the Health-Promoting Properties of Spirulina with a Focus on athletes’ Performance and Recovery. J Diet Suppl. 2023 May 4:1-32.

doi: 10.1080/19390211.2023.2208663.

MARATHON 124: MALAGA (10/12/2023)

On a peninsular level, Málaga was one of the last marathons missing from my list. The long travel distance and the timing had always deterred me in previous seasons.

This year, I had planned the trip since February, with the train ticket purchased. However, in the end, because I literally left the registration for the last day, I almost missed it again. After trying to reschedule the return time on Sunday and confirming the availability of tickets, I cancelled my purchased trip only to find that the available seats on the earlier train were for disabled passengers. And the seat from the cancelled ticket was no longer available. Fortunately, by paying extra, I managed to resolve my own mess and confirm my trip to Málaga.

Thus, after a trouble-free journey, I arrive in Málaga on Saturday afternoon to find a mild autumn weather that we had forgotten in the Castilian interior for weeks.

After settling in at the hotel, I take the free tourist bus provided by the organizers for the runners to go to the race expo at the port area. This saves me a long walk, with the aim of keeping my legs fresh as for next day. Getting the bib and runner’s bag is fast, and I still have time to explore the town and its Christmas lights.

The marathon, starting at 9:00, also offers the option of a half marathon. With a record number of participants, including many from other countries, the weather is pleasant at the beginning, around 12°C, although expected to reach 20°C in the final stages of the race. Quite different from the conditions two weeks ago in San Sebastián.

As the race starts, I see the 3h45m pace group a few meters ahead. Things are going to unfold differently than they did in San Sebastián, and I can’t catch up with the group. Nevertheless, I continue at my own pace, although losing a few seconds with each kilometre, gradually falling further behind the 3h45m group.

With the race progressing, the course becomes less crowded. With a two-lap circuit, at the halfway point, which I cross in 1h53m, only the runners of the full marathon remain. I maintain hydration at the available stations, sometimes wishing for more availability of isotonic drinks. On the positive side, the aid stations are very long, and missing the first tables don’t matter much. This is something that other race organizers should consider.

Crossing the 3-hour mark, I am at kilometre 33, so entering below 3h45m doesn’t seem easy anymore. Indeed, that is the case, as I cross the finish line in 3:51:48, securing the 1902nd position out of 3552 finishers.

A well organised marathon with growth potential.

Adding one more notch on my belt, I conclude the marathon calendar for 2023, which included 11 marathons, three of them new: Clarete, Río Boedo, and Málaga.

Next year will hopefully bring more marathon adventures. For the time being some short races ahead in the calendar, to end the year in the best possible way: running.

MARATHON 123: SAN SEBASTIAN (26/11/2023)

Sixth time in Donosti-San Sebastián. Except for Madrid, with 7 participations, it’s the marathon where we have participated most times. Thhe marathon where in 2002 I achieved a PB of 3.20.20, even with a few pauses due to cramps. This time around it was also going to coincide with Txema’s 100th marathon. The perfect excuse to gather many regular “marathoniacs”.

Due to the timing and proximity, it is one of the most attractive options on the national scene. And despite falling just one week before the Valencia Marathon, which moved from its usual February date to the now customary early December date a few years ago.

With the possibility of closing the 2023 calendar in San Sebastián, we return to the city eager to run its streets. Since the start and finish were moved from the Anoeta stadium to the city centre, between the Kursaal and the City Hall, the race has, in my opinion, gained attractiveness. It was always more tiring to get to the stadium. Now, accommodation can easily be within a 10-minute walk from the starting area.

With a temperature of 5°C at the start at 9:00, cold seems will be present thorough the early stages of the race. However, that’s not the case, and soon after starting, I warm up, thanks to the complete absence of wind. Perfect weather to ensure a good race.

From the start, I am a bit ahead of the group that decides to accompany Txema on his 100th marathon. However, in a couple of kilometres, I stop hearing their talk as they are gradually falling behind. I am not going too fast either, and I join the group aiming for 3 hours and 45 minutes, which is quite numerous. To avoid the risks of falling and facilitate the collection at the aid stations, I move slightly ahead.

Kilometres pass, crossing the half marathon in 1:50:31 with good feelings. Perhaps a bit faster than other days. Now, it remains to be seen how I cope with the second half.

I maintain the usual gel cadence, taking one every 5-6 kilometres from the 12th kilometre onwards. Feeling good, I try to focus on the 3-hour barrier and assess how much distance I have left by then. With 34 kilometres it seems easy to improve last year’s 3:58.

Feeling good, I face the last kilometres gaining positions. Nevertheless, I am overtaken by the 3:45 pacer, although I am already heading towards Kursaal for the last time. It is the final stretch by the Zurriola beach area, and the hardest part is already done.

Finally, I cross the finish line in 3:45:31, in 1497th position out of 1982 runners, and satisfied with the result and how the second part of the race went.

Once again, we conclude another San Sebastian marathon, well-organized as usual and offering many more things besides running. Surely, we will try to return.