Pros: course and landscapes; organization; different distances offered.
Cons: confusing start.
This time around it took us long to sit down and write our report of what would become the last marathon of the calendar year. Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to fit everything we want.
The Gerês Extreme Marathon had been on the to-do list for a while, although other races or plans had prevented our participation. The race takes place in the Peneda-Gêres National Park, the only one in Portugal, and located in its northern edge. It is organised by the Carlos Sá Nature Events, a company specialized in events in natural areas.
With the marathon there are also races of 32k, half marathon, 14k and an extreme mile one day earlier. Distances for every level, and with an ecological approach: every runner has to carry a liquid container to prevent unnecessary waste.
Maybe the most complicated bit is arriving to the Peneda-Gêres area, and the race headquarters in the village of Gêres. 500 kilometres from Madrid and more than 400 from Lisbon, but much closer if coming from Porto or Galicia. The area offers plenty of things to see around and hiking routes.
On arrival on Saturday evening, among intense raining intervals, firstly we pick the runner kit at the local auditorium. After dinner in one of the many restaurants available in Gêres is time to rest. With accommodation in the village, there is no need to get up too early.
Morning appears cloudy, but with no rain and good running conditions. The club from Valladolid, formed by Pepe Turón, Enrique Benito and me, has a few minutes to spare before the start. Runners of the 32k depart at 8.50, and the marathoners at 9.00, with a bit of confusion as the 14k start is delayed for a bit, and its runners open a path for us to go.
Why is called “extreme” marathon? Looking to the altimetry it offers 1350m of D+ and 1350m of D-, mostly in roads. The course includes 3 ascensions, being especially hard the first one, which goes from 350 to almost 900 metres in over 7 kilometres.
With the marathon of San Sebastian from last week on the legs I take things easily. Not being a typical road marathon takes out the responsibility of pursuing a target finish time. During the long and steep first slope, I go easily. As I get closer to the summit, where is located the first drink station, front runners are already on their way down. During the downhill section I can recover a few places, while also having time to enjoy the views.
The next two uphill sections are also hard, but not as much as the first one. Energy decreases, despite eating bananas in the stations and my gels, but I can keep running even on the steeper sections. Knowing that the last 8 kilometres are downhill is an encouragement as I get to the last lookout point and drinking station. The worst is done. Legs suffer in the way down: the punishment of a faster pace and the continuous braking.
A short detour around the Gêres village that seems to be too long at this stage gets me to the finish line. Net time of 4.31.31, and position 136 out of 218 runners. With a long trip ahead, there is only time for a quick shower before heading back home.
This was marathon number 13 of 2019, to finish the season with the same number than in 2018.
We will be back with new marathons in 2020, when we will try to get to 100 and celebrate the 20th anniversary from our marathon debut. Thanks for reading.