Pros: flat and varied course; support from volunteers; finish line in the middle of the bull ring.
Cons: lonely last 2 laps for the marathon runners, it could help if it would start earlier.
Coming to this marathon was a last minute decision, but a discount voucher from the organisation got me in Pamplona on Saturday morning. A city famous because of its bull run and not far from my hometown, but where I had never been previously. A marathon was the ideal excuse to pay it a visit.
After my train arrives and I leave the luggage, a short walk gets me to the bullring, focal point of the race. It allocates the start and finish line, and also luggage storage and running expo. Besides the marathon, there are also a relay marathon, half marathon and 10k race. All of them start at 20.00 and use the same course, with the marathon runners doing 4 laps, the half marathon 2, and the 10k runners only 1.
Until lunch I stroll around visiting the old quarter and park area surrounding the external walls. With the race later in the evening I decide to get back to my hotel and get some rest. After managing to get some sleep I start preparing myself and walk back to the start. Runners gather in an adjacent park, and only get allowed to enter the bullring just for the start, as it is not very big. With a late registration I start in the last box, number 3, where I meet Pepe Turón, who was also in last week´s marathon and is close to his 100th marathon.
With around 22°C I cross the start in less than a minute, heading immediately outside the bullring where an enthusiastic crowd supports our initial effort. The course is flat and always inside town. Although it has some zig-zag sections, it never gets boring, intercalating park sections with others following the most central streets.
During these first stages runners are multitude, and it takes me a while to see the 3.45 group. Surprisingly I feel quite recovered from last Sunday´s effort. I took an easy week, with only one running session and another in the swimming pool. Although tempted to go faster, usually my early efforts make for a hard second half.
With the half marathon done (in 1.51), course empties as only the marathoners are left, and we are not that many. Night comes, with some dark areas, especially when crossing the parks. At some point the 3.45 small group breaks away, and shortly afterwards runners in the lead start overlapping me. I keep to my own pace while temperature is slowly going down.
Pushing to keep the pace in the last lap I get to the finish line in 3.56.21, and 87 out of 156 finishers. A good experience in a well organised race, and also a nice weekend trip. Probably not the last time I will do it. But next in the calendar is Almagro and its night marathon, in two-week’s time, which will make for the 10th marathon of the year.
Thanks for getting here and see you soon.