After the 1900 Olympic Games, Paris would be the first place to hold the Olympics twice. “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (or “Faster, Higher, Stronger”) became the motto for the Olympics for the first time, while Ireland would appear as independent country. The marathon distance was definitively established at 26 miles and 385 yards, as it had been run in the 1908 London Olympics.

Oskar Albinus Stenroos, known by its nickname of Albin, was born in Vehmaa, Finland, in 1889. He would be part of a golden Finnish generation, known as the “Flying Finn” that dominated the athletics during the 1920s, and included the marathon Olympic Champion Kolehmainen, who was the subject of his own entrance in our blog, and famous Paavo Nurmi, among others.

"Albin" Stenroos during the 1924 Olympic Marathon

Stenroos run his first marathon in 1909, although he decided to move to shorter distances, and would not return to run a marathon until 1924.  He won a bronze medal in the 10000 metres in the 1912 Olympics, and helped his country to win the silver medal in the cross-country event.  During the following years he would win a set of national cross country events in Finland, and set world records for the 20 and 30k distances. He didn’t compete in the 1920 Olympics, and feeling that qualification in the 5000 and 10000 metres for the 1924 Olympics would be too strong, he tried his luck and qualified for the marathon in the Olympic trial over a 40.2k distance in May 1924, a distance he hasn´t competed in the last 15 years.

On Sunday, July 13, 58 participants were in the start line for the Olympic marathon, that has been originally scheduled to start at 15, but delayed 2 hours because of the hot weather conditions, that the previous day have sent numerous participants in the cross-country event to hospital (and subsequently caused this event to be removed from further Olympics appearances).

The athlete from Greece Kranis took an early lead, followed at a short distance by the Canadian Cuthbert. By mile 9 the French athlete Verger came up front, while Stenroos started climbing positions from behind. Just before the midpoint he took the leadership, crossing the half marathon 30s ahead of his closest persecutor. His advantage increased as the miles passed, with no runner behind capable of closing the distance. Although the gold medal seemed sure for Stenroos, the fight for the other medal positions was hard.

Stenroos entered the stadium looking fresh, and ensured his victory in 2.41.22, with a gap of almost six minutes with the silver medallist, Italian Bertini. The athlete from the United States DeMar completed the podium positions one minute later. The warm weather took its toll, as only 30 runners were able to complete the course.

As for the winner Stenroos, his best result after the Olympics was finishing second in the Boston marathon of 1926. The following year he was unable to finish in Boston, and decided to close his running career.


“The Olympic Marathon”. DE Martin & RWH Gynn. Human Kinetics Publishers 2000.

Start of the 1924 Olympic Marathon (Stade de Colombes, July 13th 1924)


It is important to differentiate if a cardiac enlargement is pathological, or a physiological adaptation to sport practice. Cardiac magnetic resonance is useful to assess myocardial thickness, chamber volumes, tissue composition and anatomy. It allows the location of myocardial fibrosis, which is specific to certain cardiomyopathies, and therefore differentiate at some extent if we are in front of a pathologically enlarged heart. Nevertheless there is not a single diagnostic test to distinguish between an adaptive or pathological heart, and usually the first assessments involve a normal electrocardiography test.

There are also more differences in a hypertrophied heart besides the morphological ones. A pathologically hypertrophied heart tends to consume glucose as substrate, while a healthy heart upregulates the fatty acid oxidation instead. Aerobic exercise has been associated with changes in the substrate utilization and increased myocardial metabolic efficiency, improving the cardiac remodelling associated with chronic hypertension or myocardial infarction. In diabetes aerobic exercise enhances insulin sensitivity and normalises myocardial metabolism.

Among the worst pathologies linked to structural cardiac hypertrophy is the sudden cardiac death (SCD). It has been documented in all type of competitive sports, although generally more commonly in those physically demanding. Besides the sport type, sex and ethnicity are factors involved in the sudden death risk, as it is more likely to happen in male participants (male to female ratio 5:1) and individuals of Afro-Caribbean descent (black to white ratio 8:1).

Although the SCD is less common than other causes of death, its occurrence in sport events, sometimes affecting supposedly young healthy participants, carries a lot of media attention, raising questions on the necessity of pre-activity screening. In young athletes (less than 35 years old) inherited ventricular arrhythmias are the abnormalities behind the SCD, while for older athletes atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is dominant.

As we commented previously a proper diagnosis is a clinical challenge, as erroneous disapproval of physical activity may prevent a healthy individual from the benefits of sports practice. Echocardiography and cardiovascular magnetic resonance are some of the main non-invasive techniques used to diagnose cardiac disease. Nevertheless, these techniques results are limited, as many times they are used in resting conditions. The ideal would be to use them during stress tests, although motion artefacts could be difficult to interpretate. New systems are becoming available, able to work in exercise conditions, that are offering encouraging results in the diagnosis of pathological cardiac conditions.

The therapeutic effects of aerobic exercise could represent a low-cost intervention, with no side effects, to improve the survival rate in cardiac hypertrophies linked to conditions such as hypertension, myocardial infarction or diabetes: RUN GIVES LIFE.



Athlete’s heart and cardiovascular care of the athlete: scientific and clinical update.

Baggish AL, Wood MJ.

Circulation. 2011 Jun 14; 123(23):2723-35. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.981571.


Evidence for distinct effects of exercise in different cardiac hypertrophic disorders.

Johnson EJ, Dieter BP, Marsh SA.

Life Sci. 2015 Feb 15; 123:100-6. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2015.01.007.


Athlete’s Heart: Diagnostic Challenges and Future Perspectives.

De Innocentiis C, Ricci F, Khanji MY, Aung N, Tana C, Verrengia E, Petersen SE, Gallina S.

Sports Med. 2018 Nov; 48(11):2463-2477. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0985-2.

Heart structure
Exercise-adapted cardiac magnetic resonance system


Around the end of the XIX century we find the earliest studies on the heart and sports practice, when it was reported cardiac enlargement among Nordic skiers (Henschen) and university rowers (Darling), by physical examination. It was postulated that cardiac enlargement was a beneficial adaptation to the exercise, although this view was not accepted easily, and even today is sometimes contested. Some studies have tried to prove that the enlargements is a sign of overuse, and that prolonged sport participation could cause a premature cardiovascular collapse, even when there is no clear evidence to support the validity of this affirmation.

Already in the early XX century, studying the pulse rate and pattern among Boston marathon runners (White), it was firstly described bradycardia in long distance runners. Early chest radiographies confirmed the heart enlargement, while the development of the electrocardiography permitted to study the electrical properties of the heart.

Physical exercise demands oxygen from the body, in an amount directly related to the exercise intensity. During exercise the pulmonary system increases the oxygen uptake (VO2), while the cardiovascular system transport the oxygen in the blood to the muscles, in an amount called cardiac output which may increase 5-fold during maximal exercise. Cardiac output is quantified in litters per minute, and it is a product of the heart rate and the stroke volume.

A larger and stronger heart gives an increased stroke volume and lower heart rate at rest. During exercise the higher stroke volume will give a higher cardiac output, and a better ability for aerobic energy production. Heart rate may vary from 40 beats per minute at rest to nearly 200 during effort in a young athlete, and it is usually the key factor affecting cardiac output. Maximal heart rate doesn´t vary with training, although stroke volume increases with prolonged training, through cardiac chamber enlargement, that gives way to the so-called “athlete´s heart”, a beneficial remodelling involving heart enlargement and thicker ventricular walls.

In the 1970s the Morganroth´s hypothesis differentiated among strength training, characterised by concentric left ventricle hypertrophy (thicker wall), and endurance training, characterised by eccentric left ventricle hypertrophy (chamber enlargement). We could talk about specific cardiac remodelling depending on the sport, with disciplines like weightlifting, track and field events causing concentric hypertrophy, and others like long-distance running, cycling, rowing or swimming causing eccentric hypertrophy.

Morganroth´s theory is nowadays challenged, as it is extensively accepted that sports cause a balanced remodelling, independent of the discipline. This cardiac remodelling is similar in male and female athletes. Regarding ethnicity, black athletes tend to have thicker left ventricle walls than white athletes.

In the second part of our series about the athlete´s heart we will focus on the techniques used to study the differences between a healthy and pathological heart, and the importance of proper studies to prevent conditions such as the sudden cardiac death.

Morganroth´s cardiac hypertrophy hypothesis (1975)
Current cardiac hypertrophy model (from "Evidence for distinct effects of exercise in different cardiac hypertrophic disorders", Life Sci. 2015)

SIS GO Isotonic Energy Gel (60 mL)

SIS GO Energy gels (front)
SIS GO Energy gels (back)


I have been using for a while these gels as my energy source during long competitions, especially in the marathon. It is composed mainly of a mixture of maltodextrin and water, plus some preservatives and gelling agents, and acesulfame as sweetener.

The nutritional information is:

Per 100mL: 144kcal / 0g fat / 36g carbohydrates (of which sugars 1g) / 0g proteins / 0.01g salt

Per gel (60mL): 87kcal / 0g fat / 22g carbohydrates (of which sugars 0.6g) / 0g proteins / 0.01g salt

In the instructions it is said that you can take up to 3 gels per hour, without the need to consume water with them. For me this is one of their main advantages, as during races I don’t have to worry about the next water station to take one, as it happens with other commercial brands.

I usually take 5 gels for a marathon, first one in the kilometre 12, and then one every 6 kilometres: 18, 24, 30 and 36. That is roughly one every 30-35 minutes from the first hour (for a marathon time between 3.30 and 4.00), a bit under the recommended dosage, but I find difficult to carry more gels with me. Each 60 millilitres gel provides 22 grams of carbohydrates. That would give about 40 grams per exercise hour. You can also try consuming them for shorter distances.

Depending of your needs, buying in bulk can save you some money, as prices may vary between 1 and 2€ per gel. There are packages from 6 to 30, and selection boxes with different flavours that can be a good choice to get a taste, although I usually go for the orange one, as I am not particularly fond of the other choices. There are also caffeinated versions, if you want to try that extra edge.

Score: 5 (out of 5)

Pros: no need of water; texture; package resistance (not the first time a gel broke in the pocket) and opening ease.

Cons: not really, besides my own distaste of some flavour combinations in gels (blackcurrant for example).


2018 Medal collection


The end of the year is always an appropriate time to think about our achievements and congratulate ourselves on everything we obtained, but also about to reflect on our failures and how to proceed better next year.

There are always reasons to be positive, if only because next year gives you a clear sheet to make your mark.

Achievements and some numbers: 

Learn how to set up a webpage and use WordPress.

13 marathons (23 total races) in 6 different countries (Spain 7; UK 2; Portugal, Switzerland, France and Italy 1).

2750 kilometres in training and competition, distributed in 191 days.

A marathon season best of 3.36.45 (Vías Verdes Plazaola).

Enjoy the night summer races.

Visit to Guatemala, my first Central America country.

Products support from Maurten and Satislent. THANK YOU!

Some disappointments:

Unable again to get a sub 3.30 marathon.

And by extension, again an unsatisfying time in my town half marathon.

Not enough time to update the blog as often as I would like.

Some objectives for next year:

Carry on running free of injuries.

Adding at least one new country in my running list.

Explore new marathons, especially the Vías Verdes circuit and the Melides-Tróia.

Get closer to the 100-marathons barrier.

Increase the number of followers of the site: without you there would be no reason for this blog.

And you: what is your plan for next year?

2018 Calendar (almost finished)

PISA MARATHON (16/12/18 – 73)

Piazza dei Miracoli

A marathon I hadn´t planned much in advance, as my initial intention of running 12 marathons in a year was already achieved. I had firstly heard about it to Santi Hitos (Spanish runner with more marathons on his legs, near 300) in the Plazaola Marathon, back in September, that had included it in his plans.

Checking logistics back in October, I found a cheap direct flight Madrid-Pisa, 35€ return, that I bought, and a cheap B&B just a couple hundred meters of the start/finish line, with free cancellation until a few days before the race, that I booked. With plenty of time I skipped registration, and let the time go by, to get a final decision later. If I decided not to go, I would only lose the flight.

After San Sebastian marathon, and feeling with motivation for an extra race, I decide to give it a go, and just register in the last days of November. I had some doubts about trying a 13th marathon, as I had already tried in 2014, in Tenerife, and was cancelled because of the bad weather. Time to overcome my superstitions, and an occasion to visit Pisa and make my debut on Italian soil.

Early flight on Saturday, means an even earlier bus to the airport. I get up at 2.30am, walk to the bus station and take the bus to Madrid. Already in the airport, a long wait of 3h before the flight to Pisa. During the flight, and by pure chance, I sit on the adjacent seat to Pepe Turón, experienced marathon runner from my hometown, that is going to run Pisa for a 5th time. The flight seems shorter than the 2 hours it is, as we talk about races, next year calendar and running experiences.

Tower inside
Cathedral view from Tower
Tower outside

Pisa airport is located very close to the town centre, and after arriving I decide to walk towards my accommodation. With a sunny, although cold day, is a good chance of enjoying Pisa´s old quarter, arriving to the Piazza dei Miracoli, which allocates some of the most beautiful buildings in Pisa, besides its world renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa. I check in the ticket office for the tower, as I had read online that was better to buy the tickets online in advance (with a 10€ surcharge!) because of the queues, but there is none, and decide to buy an entrance (18€) for later, so I have time to get to my B&B, leave luggage and have a quick lunch. Ascending the tower probably is a must in Pisa, although it is also possible to visit for free the nearby Cathedral and some money. The running expo is the next stop. It is in a sports centre, a bit far from the tourist places. It is not very big, and I pick my number and runner bag easily.

Running Expo
Running number

The morning appears cloudy and cold on race day. Temperature is going to oscillate between 1 and 5°C, with rain expected from 3pm. A very short walk gets me to the race start, at 9am, with 1800 runners registered for the marathon, and around that number for the other distances (officially half marathon, 14, 7 and 3K). There is no separation among runners, neither by time nor race. The square allocating us is quite small, although we leave it rapidly, to stroll around streets and follow the Arno riverside as we head outside Pisa.

Running between the 3.30 and 3.45 groups, the course get us to the seaside and the half marathon, with occasional front winds, following pine groves in a peaceful setting. We run parallel to the sea for 5 miles, although we only get brief glimpses, until reaching mile 18, when we start heading back to Pisa, following local roads, not always closed to the traffic on both directions. With the cold and wind, I run conservative, being surpassed by the 3.45 group with 2 miles to go. I know that the finish line is near, although we are still following side roads, and the Tower and Cathedral become visible only entering the Piazza.

Finish area view from the Tower

Net time of 3.45.14, in position 839 out of 1714 finishers. Satisfying time considering the cold weather, I use the evening to stroll around, despite the heavy rain, and enjoy the Christmas setting.

With Pisa I finish my marathon running for 2018, where I have achieved 13 marathons for the first time. Italy becomes my country number 10, and first December marathon in my career.

Score: 3.25 (out of 5)

Pros: Pisa easily accessible by flight; airport at walking distance; central location for start/finish area, just on the side of the central square; affordable prices for food/travel/accommodation.

Cons: higher registration price for foreign runners; need of medical certificate (as with French races); lack of organization in the start; no much running in Pisa as such; sections with traffic in opposite direction, especially when returning to Pisa.

Magritte themed medal
Tuttomondo wall by Keith Haring
Cathedral interior


Faraday discovered in the XIX century that when an electrical current pass through a wire it generates a magnetic field. If a second wire is located nearby, an electrical current is generated.

In 1982 it was produced the first magnetic stimulator capable of nerve stimulation, and by 1985 it was firstly used to stimulate the human motor cortex in the brain, developing the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Using a coil with a rapidly changing magnetic field over the scalp, a series of weak electrical currents can excite the neural tissue. In 2008 the FDA (Food and Drugs Association) approved the TMS technique as a therapeutic approach for major depressive disorder.

A different cranial stimulation approach to the TMS is the transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), which uses a constant, low direct current delivered via electrodes on the head. Devices only need of two electrodes and an energy supply. Anodal stimulation is positive stimulation, while cathodal stimulation is negative. Unlike the TMS technique, TDCS has not been approved by the FDA, although it is approved in Europe to treat major depression.

Therefore, increases or decreases of neuronal activity can be achieved using the TMS or TDCS techniques. Neurons connecting to muscles have their location in the motor cortex, where pulses can be applied selectively at different locations, to act on specific muscle groups.

A motor evoked potential (or MEP), is an electrical potential recorded in a muscle after stimulation (of a certain intensity over a threshold) in the motor cortex. The size of the MEP response depends on the stimulus intensity and the excitability of cortical neurons and motoneurons. In a voluntary contraction neurons become more excitable, and the MEP size is larger than in resting conditions. In patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, or depression, the MEP size is smaller than in control subjects, and their neurons may need a higher input to get activated. This would translate as an increased effort and fatigue sensation.

Muscle control is as important in sports as training and motivation. Approaches such as meditation, visualization, acupuncture and music are used by many athletes trying to maximize speed, power or effort duration. Transcranial stimulation could prove to be as useful as any of these techniques.

Twenty minutes of TDCS over the left temporal cortex (T3) in trained cyclists found improvements in peak power, and reduced heart rate and effort perception at submaximal workloads. In other study, also with cyclists, anodal stimulation on the motor cortex (M1), with the other electrode located in the contralateral shoulder, proved also useful in reducing the effort perception.

As fatigue not only affects muscular endurance, but also decision making, response time and skill, transcranial stimulation could also be used to enhance motor learning and performance. For example elite athletes improved cognitive performance and mood when receiving a current of 2 milliamps on the prefrontal cortex.

In the search of improving athletic capabilities beyond physiological limitations, a technological breakthrough as transcranial stimulation could surpass these performance barriers. Effort perception, endurance, fatigue and motor learning could be regulated to enhance performance. Its supplemental use will expand among athletes, as equipment becomes more accessible, raising new challenges for regulation among sports organisms.



Transcranial magnetic stimulation and human muscle fatigue.

Taylor JL, Gandevia SC.

Muscle Nerve. 2001 Jan; 24(1):18-29.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

O’Shea J, Walsh V.

Curr Biol. 2007 Mar 20; 17(6): R196-9.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation in sport science: a commentary.

Goodall S, Howatson G, Romer L, Ross E.

Eur J Sport Sci. 2014; 14 Suppl 1: S332-40.


Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and Sports Performance.

Edwards DJ, Cortes M, Wortman-Jutt S, Putrino D, Bikson M, Thickbroom G, Pascual-Leone A.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 May 10; 11:243.

TMS stimulation system
TDCS commercially available device

I AM BOLT (2016, 102min, Benjamin and Gabe Turner)

“I’m now a legend. I’m also the greatest athlete to live”. Usain Bolt, after the 2012 Olympics

It is a biographical documentary about Usain Bolt´s life, from his first victories in the Junior World Championships of 2002, in Jamaica, when he was just 15 years old, to the Olympics of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

We meet him in October 2015, back to training after winning the World Championship in Beijing in summer. His main objective of next season will be revalidating for a third time his gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4×100 metres in the Olympic Games of Rio, in summer. It would be an achievement never done before, that would situate him, if he wasn’t yet, among the best athletes of all times.

Bolt trains hard under his coach Glenn Mills, a patient man that has known how to take the best from him over the years. Bolt behaves sometimes as a child, loves partying and driving quads, but he is also a much focused person regarding his training procedures. In his own words, he hates training, but loves competition. He explains that will retire after the Olympics, and carry on a normal life. We meet also his manager, and best friend since childhood, NJ, who anticipates any of his needs. In many occasions is Bolt himself who records his daily routines, as he feels bored, or wants to share something.

Bolt´s parents also come into scene. He comes from a humble family, and tell us that he was a playful and good kid. Some other sport personalities tell us their experiences watching Bolt victories, and about his magnetic sympathy. We revive his main victories in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, his world records, and also his shocking disqualification because of a false start in the World Championships of 2011.

Every race we watch is an occasion to enjoy his energy, powerful stride, and sometimes overwhelming superiority. He was told when he was a young guy that he was too high to be fast, and his scoliosis wouldn´t make him any better. He overcame all these comments with discipline and effort. We know of the respect from some of his rivals, friends and training colleagues, such as Maurice Greene, Michael Johnson or Asafa Powell among others.

He gets injured in the ankle, and although it didn´t look serious at first, it complicates. He seeks attention from an expert German doctor, who recovers him, secretly, in order to maintain his adversaries at bay. The recovery process means losing valuable weeks in training time, therefore increasing the effort in the remaining months, once recovered, to get ready for the now closer Olympics.

His main rival in Rio will be supposedly the North American Justin Gatlin. He has been running very fast, although the doping shadow is behind him. His cleanliness is in doubt after two bans for doping, the second one from 2006 to 2010 for using testosterone. His good performances could be due to long lasting effects of the prohibited drugs in his organism. Bolt doesn´t say much about this issue, but Gatlin confront him, as Bolt was selected by the Jamaican Olympic Committee directly, as he slightly relapsed from his injury during the trials.

And finally, the Olympics arrive, and Bolt revalidates his 100 and 200 metres, plus the 4×100 metres relay, although he lost this last one because of a doping offense of one of his teammates. Gatlin bravado and fitness level were not enough to alter Bolt´s determination.

Score: 4.5 (out of 5)

Pros: an intimate look in the daily life of a sporting legend; enjoyable and fun to watch.

Cons: more commentaries from other colleagues, instead of some of the sport personalities; maybe a view beyond training and competition.

Extras: Bolt would still compete in the World Championships of 2017 in London with less success, retiring afterwards. Luckily, I saw Bolt personally in Leicester Square, London, in 2012 at the time of the Olympics, while he was going to the film premiere of The Expendables 2.

------------------Usain Bolt - Golden Gala - Rome, 2011-------------------- By Steven Zwerink - My hero: Usain Bolt, CC BY-SA 2.0
Usain Bolt -The Expendables 2 premiere - London, 2012


Tatu Kolehmainen (right) and Lossman (left) after the marathon

The 1916 Olympic Games, that were supposed to take place in Berlin, were cancelled because of the World War I. After the war hiatus, and with Hungary, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire banned from competition, as they were blamed of causing the war, the 1920 Olympics took place in Antwerp, Belgium, where the Olympic Flag and the Olympic Oath did their first appearances.

Hannes Kolehmainen was born in Kuopio, Finland, and was one of four long distance running brothers. He completed his first marathon when he was 17, and run a few more until he was 19, when he focused in shorter distances in the track. In the 1912 Olympic Games he won 3 gold medals, in the 5000m, 10000m and the 12k cross-country race (that would be later discontinued), plus a silver one, in the cross-country team event. His brother Tatu competed in the marathon, and although an early leader, he was unable to finish the race.

After the 1912 Games, Hannes moved to the United States, where he worked as a bricklayer, and started competing again in longer distances. In 1920 he won the marathon trial event in the United States, although he had to compete for Finland instead of his adoptive country, as he had already represented them in the 1912 Olympics.

In the Antwerp marathon, the course was determined to be 42.75k, although it was later estimated to be only about 40k. The marathon started with cool weather and about 50 participants. The South African athlete Gitsham, silver in the 1912 Olympics, which has been training several weeks in the course, and Belgian Bross were the early leaders. At around the midway point Hannes moved to the forefront, running with Gitsham for around 10 miles, until he withdrew because of a leg injury.

It was not going to be an easy victory for Hannes, as the Estonian athlete Jüri Lossmann was slowly closing the distance between them. Finally, Hannes won for a narrow margin, in a time of 2.32.35, which became the world record (although over a wrong course distance). Lossmann crossed the finish line only 13 seconds behind the winner, with Italian Valerio Arri completing the medal positions. Hannes´ brother, Tatu finished in 10th position.

After the Antwerp’s Games Hannes moved back to Finland and broke a few world records in distances ranging from 20 to 30k, although he didn´t run any more marathons. In 1924 he missed the marathon qualifiers for the Olympic Games of Paris, although he convinced the Finnish selection committee of his fitness doing a 17 miles solo test. Therefore, he started the 1924 Olympic marathon, but couldn´t finish the race. A tireless athlete, he also tried to qualify for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, but already 39 years old was unsuccessful, and retired afterwards closing a remarkable running career.

Installed in Finland, he did many jobs, and was again in the limelight when he was chosen to light the Olympic Flame in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, after taking the flame from another legendary Finnish runner, Paavo Nurmi.



Tatu Kolehmainen (1920)
Tatu Kolehmainen (1960) with some of his trophies


Sunset from Urgull hill
Cycle track and running expo
Anoeta sports centre

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.

Maurten in the finish area
Finish line
Pintxos/ Tapas