The night marathon was “the marathon of Bilbao”. We ran it a few years ago, and despite some criticism, we liked the experience, with its start in San Mamés. Perhaps it is a particular taste for night marathons…
A week later than the Castelló marathon, we signed up for the Bilbao-Bizkaia just the last night before closing registrations. It was a first edition, and worth a try. Like the previous week, we adjusted the arrival in Bilbao to late afternoon, and once again we found the expo about to close. With few stands and runners, picking up the bib-number and t-shirt was just a matter of minutes.
Following the usual routine, we went back to the hotel, not far from the start on the Puente de la Salve. With the marathon scheduled at 9.15, there is also a 10k at 8.30. With rain in the forecast, I meet David at 8.45. Better not to spend much time outdoors.
Upon arrival, we realize with dismay that the 10k race has not started yet. Without many explanations, it is 9.15 and there is still no one running. With luck that time endures, the minutes go by. Between whistles, and already thinking about a possible cancellation, at 9.40 someone from the organization takes the microphone. Due to the lack of volunteers at some crossings, and without sufficient security conditions, the start has not yet been possible, they explain. They confirm that despite everything, both races will star simultaneously at 10.00.
With everyone a little nervous about the situation, no separation or time slots, we finally start the race. The first kilometres we wander through Bilbao, overpassing some of the slower runners, before taking the right side of the estuary, and leaving the city. Always on the right side, we reach the Getxo beach area, where at kilometre 19.5 we turn around to Bilbao and the finish line, next to the Guggenheim Museum.
This time with more modest ambitions than the previous week, I maintain behind the 3h45m group. Generally, I try to be outside groups, especially if they are numerous, to make my life easier at the aid stations and avoid the risk of falling.
Once Bilbao is left behind, we enter an industrial area with few distractions. I cross the 10k in 53.27. Arriving at Getxo and its turnaround point, the views improve a bit. With the half marathon in 1.53.09, more than 4 minutes slower than in Castelló, I feel with more energy than last week. It seems that the worst is over.
Arriving in Bilbao we face one of the most confusing areas, the last 10-11 kilometres, largely corresponding to the section between Avenida de las Universidades and Paseo Campo Volantín. An almost straight line that we must run in one direction, then in the opposite, and go back again to face the finish line. In this section, there are runners on 3 adjacent roads, without much clarification about which one to follow. Hence the consequent risk of shortening (or lengthening) the race by several kilometres and being disqualified (as will happen to some runners).
Even so, by asking, and with some doubts, I manage to stay on the right path. Thanks to having reserved energy in the first half, I manage to maintain a lively pace and overtake quite a few runners in this last section. However, I can’t catch up with the 3h45m group, which I come across on numerous laps, and which has fewer members.
With the Guggenheim in front, it’s a matter of following the walk along the estuary for one last time. I cross the finish line in a net time of 3.49.17, having completed the second half of the race just a couple of minutes slower than the first, a personal milestone given the last experiences.
Thus, I complete the 50th marathon in Spain, for a total of 106.
A marathon that has much to improve to establish itself on the national scene, and above all to convince all of us who went to Bilbao to come back for a hypothetical second edition.
PS: Thanks to Jaime Nina for the photos in the finish line.