‘If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.’ – Emil Zatopek


‘The marathon never ceases to be a race of joy, a race of wonder.’ – Hal Higdon


‘I get emotional when I watch a marathon…I start to cry because I know what they’re going through.’ – Steve Jones


‘Don’t believe the hype.’ – Flavour Flav


When it comes to the marathon I was always with Comrade Flav. The sheer volume of attention, resources, analysis and cultural weight it attracts seemed the consequence of ludicrous exaggeration. I mean, how hard could a few hours on flat road actually be? 


I went to Barcelona to find out.


The Saturday registration area was a confusing, crowded, multi-coloured assault on the senses and the wallet – give me the pub in Strathyre any day. After taking nearly 2 hours to pick up a number, get a free t-shirt and eat a bowl of complimentary pasta it was a relief to get outside again. I did 20 mins of sightseeing before heading back to my apartment to watch TV for the rest of the day. Will have to actually visit Barcelona some day, seems like a nice place.


At 8.30 Sunday, I was standing on the start line, more nervous than I have ever been before a race. It was cool to see Eoin Lennon of Carnethy being escorted out with the elite African athletes – nice to see a familiar face. 


I did the first 10k in 37mins, the first 10 miles in an hour and the first 20 miles in bang on 2 hours.  I had my name on my number so every 500m someone would shout ‘Venga James!’, which was cool at first and infuriating by the end. The organisers provided refreshments every 2.5km and a samba band every 750m. I hit the wall around mile 22 (why couldn’t that bastard Pheidippides have died here?) and managed the grinding nightmare incline of the last 2km at a shuffle.


I crossed the line in 02:40:29, as wrecked as I’ve ever been at the end of a race. I hate every one of those 29s.


So, the marathon: 1) Well ‘ard 2) Awesome 3) Lives up to its reputation. I wanted to go faster but I’m happy with my time for a first go. I’ll definitely be back.


One last thing – over the last six months I’ve been coached by Martin Cox at VO2 Max Coaching. He’s reasonably priced, knows what he’s talking about and has helped my running no end. Would recommend him to anyone looking for a performance boost!



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