Back in San Sebastian for a third time, after last year experience and a distant participation in 2002. It is a race already in its 41st edition, that has become more popular with time, especially among foreign runners, that make for about 40% of the total number. Because of this popularity it is difficult to find affordable accommodation, as hotels take advantage and push prices higher than usual, even booking well in advance.
The race headquarters are located in the Anoeta Stadium area, a multicentre sports facility located in the outskirts of San Sebastian. The Anoeta cycle track allocates the runners expo and also the baggage check for the race. The race start is located in front of the football stadium, and the finish line inside the athletic track between the stadium and the velodrome. After a long queue to get my number I go to the hotel to leave the luggage.
Weather is good, and the city offers popular tapas in many bars and restaurants, and beautiful beaches such as the popular La Concha, but also Ondarreta and Zurriola. The evening is good to walk over the Urgull hill, which offers beautiful sights over the coastal area.
During the night it rains quite a lot, and the day starts cloudy with 10-11°C, as I walk towards the bus stop to catch one of the buses to the start line, and free for everyone until 1pm. Arriving early there is still time to take some pictures, delaying as much as possible the undressing as weather feels unpleasant.
We start at 9am, with 3000 runners going for the marathon, and an extra 2500 for the half marathon. There is also a 10k race, although they started 15 minutes earlier, and follow a different course. Learning from my previous marathon mistake, I let go the 3.30 pacing group from the start, aiming for a more realistic time, considering my fitness level and the long season behind.
The course is flat and roaming through the main areas of San Sebastian, with some sections along the coastline offering pleasant views, despite the wind. I cruise easily until we return back to Anoeta, where half marathon participants take a detour towards the finish line. I cross the half marathon point in a net time of 1.51.44, 3 minutes above my last two marathons, but with much more energy. Probably a combination of the slower pace and maybe also my breakfast change. I exchanged my usual chocolate milk drinks for a Maurten 320 energetic drink (more detailed review coming soon).
With some sections run in both senses, I keep about 150 metres ahead of the 3.45 pacing group. Around the 30k I get integrated into the pack, where an enthusiastic pacer controls the timing. Within the group I meet an old friend from high school. The talk and the nearby finish line make the kilometres go by. By the 38k, I start to fall slightly behind, although I manage to keep the group in sight.
We approach to Anoeta Stadium, with numerous public in the streets giving support. Entering the mini-stadium, the last 200 metres are run on the athletic track. I finish in a net time of 3.46.00, and in 1483 position out of 2347 finishers. This time I managed to keep my strength in the second half of the race. Happy with the time, although far from my best in San Sebastian, in 2002, where I managed to set a PB of 3.20.20 at the time.
With San Sebastian finished, I achieve my 2018 purpose of completing a Grand Slam, after running 12 marathons in a calendar year, for the second time, after doing it also in 2014.
Score: 5 (out of 5)
Pros: flat course; organization; free buses to/from the start/finish line.
Cons: hotel prices skyrocketing because of the high occupancy; for some unknown reason, I didn´t realise on Saturday that my t-shirt was missing in my running kit.