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A runner´s paradise
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A runner´s paradise
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A runner´s paradise
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A runner´s paradise
Updated March 2015
March, 2014: It’s a surreal sight at 7.30am on the metro. The L3 train thunders along the tracks and all-night partygoers and Lycra-clad runners converge in the same carriage like two colliding weather systems: the atmosphere is electric. The train reaches Plaça d’Espanya, the starting point for the 35th Barcelona Marathon. The runners get off the train, leaving the horde of partygoers cheering them on.
This year over 17,000 runners have signed up for the gruelling 43-kilometre Barcelona marathon that takes place on March 15th. At least 7,000 of these are foreigners, mostly marathon tourists, but also some serious elite runners with a reserved spot on the starting line. Of the remaining 10,000 from Spain, a large majority are from Barcelona.
Runners are an increasingly common part of the cityscape and the sport’s growing popularity is hardly surprising. In a climate of economic uncertainty, running is the perfect sport. There’s no need to book a court or buy special equipment, just grab a pair of trainers and set off out of the door. The only time constraints are your own and the city is yours to explore and discover. Barcelona itself is an authentic runner’s theme park, with mountain parks, coastal pathways, wide city streets and cobbled alleyways.
If you’re not sure where the best runs are, an excellent starting point is Barcelona Corre. Published in 2012, this book by Pere Bosch and Nuria Blanco is a detailed guide to running in the city. It takes in every corner of Barcelona, with 23 routes categorised by district, theme and goals. The Ajuntament has recently followed up with a free smart phone application by the same name. Here you’ll find the routes and maps, and information on upcoming races.
Astrid Gwiggner is an Austrian national who has been living in Barcelona for the last seven years. She is a member of the website ‘Meetup’ (www.meetup.com), where people with similar interests meet to organise activities. She is currently a member of the ‘Casual Runners’ group which arranges runs on a regular basis.
“Between the running group and going out on my own I run up to 25 kilometres a week, mainly along the Carretera de les Aigües, which is my favourite route to run in Barcelona.”
La Carretera de les Aigües is a 20-kilometre trail that rings the Collserola mountain range, giving spectacular views over the city. It’s a very popular running spot and each kilometre is marked, for those who like to track their progress. In the warmer months it provides a welcome respite from the humidity of the city.
Running with the Meetup group is also a sociable experience. “I am constantly meeting new people, all who have their own stories to tell. There can also be some competition between the runners so it makes it more challenging”, says Astrid.
When she looks for a change from urban running, Astrid moves out of Barcelona and runs cross-country. “I find that constantly running on asphalt can be bad for my knees, so I like to vary my routes and take advantage of the city’s green areas”. Astrid also seeks solace in running alone, “If you’re stressed about life, it’s a great way to exorcise the demons.”
With the sport’s growing popularity, shops have begun to spring up all over the city, offering everything a runner could possibly wish for. And, although a decent pair of trainers is all you really need, new breakthrough technology is now at the runner’s disposal. Foot ID is a tool that measures the runner’s footprint so that bespoke shoes can be made to fit their style of running. Asics (Avinguda Diagonal, 543) provides this service for €19. Bikila (Passeig de Pujades, 7) caters for runners of every level and has its own running group. Prorunners World (Passeig Garcia Faria, 31) goes a step further and combines footwear with professional guidance, contacts and organised runs around town.
The web-based organisation Challenge BCN10k, (www.10k.cat) is an association sponsored by the Ajuntament de Barcelona and the Catalan Athletics Federation. It publishes an annual calendar of organised 10K runs and collects statistics on single and group-affiliated participants, creating a league of runners by category. The association works in conjunction with Championchip (www.championchip.cat). When runners use a chip (xip groc) issued by the site their statistics are updated automatically in an online database.
With such great infrastructure and plenty of long warm days ahead, now is a great time to hit the streets. If you’re a beginner, hook up with a group to keep you motivated. And once you’ve got the motivation, all you need is a pair of running shoes.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BARCELONA MARATHON
- The Barcelona Marathon was founded by Ramón Oliu, a Catalan chemist who had gone to live and work in the US. He took up running there in his forties and when he came back to Catalunya in 1976 and found that there was no marathon in Barcelona, he decided to organise one himself.
- The first two Barcelona Marathons, in 1978 and 1979, were actually held in Palafrugell on the Costa Brava. There were 185 participants of whom 138 completed the course.
- In the 1980 Barcelona Marathon, three percent of runners who completed the course were women. By 2014 this had risen to 16 percent, still a long way behind New York (39 percent in 2013) and London (37 percent in 2013).
- For many years the time limit was five hours, but this was increased to six hours in 2006.
- The current record was set in 2010 at two hours, seven minutes and 30 seconds by Kenyan Jackson Kipkoech Kotut.
- The fastest marathon ever run by a competitor dressed as a fruit was recorded at the 2011 Barcelona Marathon. The runner was Patrick Wightman from the United Kingdom, dressed as a banana.
THE BIG FOUR
Of the many organised runs across Barcelona, there are four big ones, where participation runs into the thousands.
La Cursa del Corte Inglés
When: April 12th, 2015
Registration: El Corte Inglés stores
Starting point: Passeig de Gràcia with Gran Via
The perfect run for first-timers, La Cursa del Corte Inglés dates back to 1979 and is the most family-oriented run Barcelona has to offer (66,000 people took part in the run in 2013). At just over 10 kilometres, the route includes the Olympic installations of Montjuïc with a lap of the Olympic stadium. Every year El Corte Inglés donates the money raised to a chosen charity. The run is extremely popular and can get very crowded at certain points. Try to arrive early and get a good position on the starting line behind the professional runners’ boxes.
Cursa dels Bombers.
(The firefighters’ race)
When: April 13th, 2015
Cost: €18/€16 for Championchip holders
Starting point: Arc de Triomf
The Cursa dels Bombers 10K was originally organised to protest against the working conditions of the city’s firefighters. These days it’s sponsored by Nike but you’ll still spot firefighters running the course in full equipment. Probably the best run in which to achieve a personal best, it has a limit of 26,000 participants, which means it doesn’t get too crowded, but you do need to sign up early. Perfect for amateur and professional runners alike, the run takes on the larger boulevards of Barcelona which allow for free movement. There’s a carnival-like spirit with a band or DJ on every corner to help the runners along. Give them a shout of encouragement as they pass by.
La Cursa de la Mercé
When: September, 2015
Starting point: Av. de la Reina Maria Cristina
Organised by the Ajuntament to tie in with Barcelona’s La Mercé festival, 2014 saw 17,000 runners participate in this 10K. With 35 years of history (the same number of years as the marathon) La Mercé Is the first run after the summer holidays and one of the city’s biggest events.
La Cursa dels Nassos.
(The Nose Race)
When: December 31st, 2015
Cost: €14/€10 for Championchip holders
This run, also organised by the Ajuntament, is a charity Christmas event, and all proceeds are donated to Caritas and Oxfam. La Cursa dels Nassos takes place on the roads running along the beachfront. The race usually involves runners dressing up in costume to suit the holiday spirit, arguably the best way to get 10 kilometres under your belt before you party the year away.