This past Sunday I took part in my first international race in Barcelona. I thought it would be worthwhile sharing my experience of the marathon and the days surrounding it. In short it was the most fun I have had at a marathon so far. I’ve outlined my times and expectations directly below. I’m no elite runner and have just started taking it more seriously over the past year but I imagine there are many others like me looking for more info on the race.
I came into this race just over one month after my last marathon in Belfast. What ever way cancellations had work they ended up landing a month out from each other which wasn’t ideal but I thought I would give both a try anyway.
In Belfast I managed to get a PB of 3:57 and ended up coming out with a foot injury. This meant for 3.5 weeks I was unable to run at all. I honestly didn’t think I would make the Barcelona marathon. About a week or so out my foot started to feel a little better meaning I got about 4 runs in before arriving in Barcelona. It definitely was not fully healed and 4 runs was less than ideal prep.
I was running this race with 3 other friends and we had decided to raise money for Macmillan Cancer fund in memory of my Granda. I knew no matter what I wanted to run the race even if that meant walking a lot (Or most of it).
To my surprise race day went surprisingly good. My friends were aiming for a Sub 4 marathon so I thought I would start of with them then tail off if fatigue or any pain kicked in.
I got out on the track and felt pretty good. I did have some minor pain in my foot but nothing that a couple of Ibuprofen couldn’t fix. Long story short coming in to the last 10k I knew I was on for a PB if I pushed myself. Me and a friend battled it out for the last 10k with him pulling away from me in the last 500m. I ended up finishing with a PB of 3:55. I was delighted with the result as I had planned to go out for an enjoyable slow paced run at most. I guess the atmosphere of Barcelona pushed me.
|Expected Race Time||Actual Race Time|
As I was going into this race without any real strategy I actually ran the second half of the race faster than the first. As you can see below the fastest 5k of the race was my last 5k. Looking at this I probably could have paced myself better and had a bit more speed at the start of the race. I felt really good throughout this whole race compared to my last two where I desperately wanted to stop during it.
I feel like the flat track contributed a lot to a successful run. Another thing that I changed compared to my last race was my nutrition strategy. In this race I took on board 5 gels vs the 3 I had previously. This really helped to keep the energy in my legs throughout the race.
Pre Race Info
The route in Barcelona was fast. The track was fairly flat the whole way with only two small hills throughout the race. The track has lots of long straights without many turns also making it a faster route.
As you can see from the route above you pass many beautiful landmarks during the race. The race starts at the Placa Espanya with amazing atmosphere and finishes in the same place. Some other notable attractions during the race are the Camp Nou, Sagrada Familia and Torre Mapfre. Depending on how you feel during the race you may or may not notice these stunning attractions.
Every 2.5k throughout the race after the first 5k has water, Powerade and toilets. Later into the race there will also be bananas and gels to help you get through the race as well as first aid stations.
Is The Barcelona Marathon Fast & Flat?
While the Barcelona Marathon track is not as flat as Berlin or London it is a great track to set a PB. While there a few long sections with slight inclines there are not many major hills. During the race I remember 2 significant gradient hills in the second half of the race however they were no more than 50m long. Other than that the Barcelona marathon is a great track to attempt for a PB.
How To Sign Up For The Barcelona Marathon
The sign up process for the Barcelona Marathon is extremely easy. You can sign up on the Barcelona Marathon website. Signing up takes no longer than 10 minutes. Just enter your information and pay your fee.
The 2022 Marathon is set to cost 65 Euro however the more entrants there are the higher the price will get. For the 2021 Marathon I paid 78 Euro.
Once you have signed up you will receive updates about the marathon right up until race day. They are really good at providing you with lots of information before arriving in Barcelona.
Arriving In Barcelona
The marathon was on a Sunday and I arrived into Barcelona on the Friday night. I was flying from the UK so with only one hour time difference there was no issue with Jet Lag. Having two nights before the race was good to ensure I got at least one nights good sleep. Normally when I arrive in a new city it takes a night to adjust and get a full nights proper sleep.
The airport is around 20 minutes from the city centre and there is lots of options for transport. You can get a bus, taxi or the metro. We opted for a taxi to take us directly to our hotel which was a 10 minute walk to the start line. The taxi cost around 36 Euro.
When travelling around the city I would highly recommend using the “free now” app. This is the main taxi app in the city.
What Hotel Should I Stay In For The Barcelona Marathon?
We stayed in the H10 Itaca Hotel which was approximately a 10 minute walk from the start line. Being close to the line is ideal to avoid any traffic issues the morning of the marathon. There is nothing worse than stressing about making it to the line on time. Staying here gave us plenty of time to get up, get breakfast and get a morning poop in before heading to the line.
The H10 Itaca was a great hotel to stay in and there was plenty of other runners in the hotel. On the morning of the race the restaurant was filled with great foods for runners such as porridge, rice cakes and bananas as well as some much needed coffee. There is also plenty of shops around where you can get water, sports drinks and food.
After the race the Hotel provided complimentary waters, bananas and energy drinks. Outside there is also a plunge pool which I opted to use as an ice bath. It was extremely cold due to the 2021 race being held in November. I’m a regular in ice baths but tried only lasted a couple of minutes in the pool before having to retreat.
The room in the hotel was pretty small but it was extremely clean and the staff were great. I have absolutely no complaints and would 100% go back there if I was to compete in the Barcelona Marathon again.
What Is Pack Collection Like At The Barcelona Marathon?
Pack collection at the Barcelona marathon was a breeze. They offered 2 days were you could pick up your bags from 10am to 8pm on the Friday and Saturday. I went down on the Saturday morning to pick up my bag as my flight did not arrive in until late Friday night.
After a horrible four hour wait for my pack in Belfast just 4 weeks before my expectations weren’t hard to beat. We went into the pack collection centre which was located beside the start and had my bag, race number and T-shirt within a couple of minutes. Everything was laid out in an easy to follow manner with plenty of people about if you had questions.
After you get your race pack you can go through to the Expo centre which is filled with stands from lots of different running related companies. A few to mention were:
I picked up some gels for the race, checked out a couple of stands and headed on out. There was also one of the large padded running machines which allows you to try and run at record marathon pace to see how hard it actually is.
Overall there was a great atmosphere with plenty of happy runners.
Next up is race morning. The marathon kicked off at 8:30 so we left our hotel around 7:45 and headed to the race. The streets were already lining up with runners and spectators. Everything around the start line is easy to find with everything sign posted. We got to the start line and started to take some photos, take a last minute toilet stop and then head up to our section of the line.
Everyone starts in groups. In the sign up process you gave an estimated finishing time. This is the group you will start with. The first group goes at 8:30 with everyone through the start line by 9am.
In your race pack you will receive a timing chip that attaches to your shoe. Your timer will initiate when you cross the line. This obviously means when you come through the line the official timer will not be showing your time unless you start in the first group.
Every group gets their own small “Starting Show” before setting off. This year there was two amazing live singers as well as flaming torches on top of the line. It was an amazing way to set off with a great atmosphere in the crowd.
When the race sets of the pack is pretty tight especially behind the pacers. As you can see in my splits above my first k was pretty slow compared to any other in the race. Once you get through the first pack things start to filter out quite a bit giving you plenty of room.
During The Race
During the race was a great experience. As I have mentioned the track is pretty flat most of the way and I could comfortably run at my pace. It’s the best I’ve ever felt during a marathon even though I had ran one 4 weeks prior and couldn’t run for 3/4 weeks due to injury.
Lot’s of the streets look very similar but there are those amazing landmarks you hit throughout the race which really help to break it up. In the initial 10k the crowds were fairly light which initially was a little disappointing but let’s be honest that’s not where you need the help.
After the 10k mark of the race the track started to really fill up with crowds and people cheering you on which helped me out a lot. Every so often there would be some sort of street performer (Mainly these amazing Spanish Drummers) which really made the race more enjoyable.
The worst part of the track is probably the stretch from kilometre 15 to kilometre 22. This is a straight in and out 7km stretch which is on a slight gradient the whole way up. Crowds were pretty sparse here as well due to it being some form of motorway however what goes up must come down so the second half of the stretch was down hill back into town and huge crowds.
At 3 spots during the race there are cameras set up to take a video of you. At the time I didn’t know this and didn’t even see the first two. The one I did see I thought was a TV camera or something similar. However it turns out you get a personalised post race video with clips from these sections (I’ll talk more about these later). So if you see a camera during the race give it a smile.
Barcelona Marathon Race Nutrition
During the race there are plenty of fuel stops every 2.5km.
At the early fuel stops you will find:
At the later fuel stops you will find:
Please not that the Powerade may switch to a different sponsored drink on the year of your marathon.
Post race I got plenty of surprises that I was not expecting as this was my first marathon outside of Belfast. The production quality of the event in Barcelona was amazing.
Once I crossed the line I received a couple of different items. Everyone was handed a blue race bag which included snacks, a water, a Powerade and hand sanitiser. We also received our medal.
A couple of hours later I received an email saying my Finished video was ready. I had no idea what this was at the time but was pleasantly surprised when I checked it out. It’s a short 60 second video with some information about the race then around a 15 second clip of me crossing the line. This was amazing to watch back when I got back to my hotel.
A few hours after this I received another video which included clips from 3 different spots spread out across the marathon. It’s safe to say I look a little worse each clip. These were also amazing to watch back and have as a memory.
On the night of the Marathon i then received a third email which included a link to a photo album with photos of me. There was about 13 professional photos taken throughout the race which included me. I assume that they use AI to pick up your race number.
If you like the photos that were taken you can then purchase them for a high quality version.
What Can Spectators Expect At Barcelona Marathon
As there were four of us running we also had plenty of spectators over on race day. Barcelona marathon provided an app which allowed spectators to track specific runners. This made it extremely easy for people following us to find us at specific points around the routes.
The app had a slight delay from where we actually were but it was only a couple of minutes so it was no issue for spectators.
There is plenty of room around the finish line for spectators to line up and push on in those final few metres of the race.
The metro is an easy way to quickly navigate through the town on the day but I would recommend planning your route ahead of time. You can also get a taxi on something like the FREE Now app which is similar to Uber.
The app provided by the marathon also allows spectators to upload photos of runners so that everyone can view them.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this guide/review to the Barcelona Marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed this race and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in racing in great weather, in a beautiful city. If you have any questions feel free to drop them below and I will answer any that I can.