Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2: Marathon Day!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! If you missed part 1, go and check it out here for tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the expo, and a few fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!).

– Pre-Race Breakfast

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

I tend to have toast and a banana before a marathon, so it was lucky that one of the stands at the Expo was handing out free loaves! ūüėČ

If you don’t manage to score a free loaf of bread (LOL), Barcelona has lots of¬†little ‘markets’ or ‘mercados’ dotted about (i.e., newsagent-like shops that have fruit and veg outside and tons of random odds and ends inside!) where you can stock up on things like bottled water, bananas, bread, Nutella (a European staple which can be found in most EU countries and doesn’t need any translating!), crackers, honey, etc. for breakfast.

One thing I couldn’t find was peanut butter – so you might want to bring some along if this is your sort of thing!¬†Also, if you like porridge before a big race I would recommend bringing the little ‘just add water’ pots in your suitcase, and filling them up with your hotel kettle. For some reason, porridge oats can prove elusive in Europe!

I made good use of the free bread and a big dollop of Nutella, and took a banana along to the start area. Job done!

– The Start Area (Loos and Bag Drop)

Barcelona Marathon was one of the most straight-forward events I’ve been to. The best thing about it was that the Expo, start and finish were all in the same place:¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya. This means that you can familiarise yourself with the area before race day, which takes some of the stress away.

Barcelona Marathon Bag Drop

The whole process – from stepping off the metro, to the bag drop, to the loos, to the corrals, was well sign posted and easy to follow – and took almost no time at all!

The slowest bit was the bag drop, as they wouldn’t let runners in until they were ready to race; so lots of people were stripping off layers and sorting themselves out right outside the tent, resulting in a slight bottle neck. Whilst this didn’t add more than a couple of minutes to the whole process, I would recommend sorting your kit out and¬†zipping up¬†your drop bag before you get to the tent – just out of courtesy if nothing else!

– The Corrals

Once through the bag drop, the corrals were clearly signed as part of a simple one-way system round the side of the tent (left or right, depending on which corral you’re in).

Barcelona Marathon Start and Finish Area Maps

There were a few lines of portaloos, which are all cearly indicated on the start/finish area maps (photo above – you’ll see these at the expo) and I didn’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. After that, it was just a 2-minute stroll over to the corral!

The corrals themselves were nice and wide and not too crowded, and thanks to the colour-coded race tops (which plenty of people chose to wear), you can just follow the sea of runners in your group colour. Easy peasy! However, there are NO loos in the corrals, so make sure you go beforehand!

– The Marathon Course

The marathon itself was one of my favourite races, ever.

As far as the start goes, I was in the last corral and it took about 15-20 minutes to get over the start line. Each corral was showered in a cloud of confetti, and sent off with a huge cheer, which was EPIC!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

There are a few things to consider with regards to the marathon course:

    • The course is extremely flat, but there are a few very gradual inclines and downhills, especially in the first few miles. Pace yourself, and don’t shoot off with the masses.
    • Aid stations are every 5k, and as with most European marathons they offered bottles of water, fruit slices (orange and banana) and nuts. Later in the race they also provided bottles of Powerade – however I would check the race info ahead of time to confirm the exact sponsor and therefore the exact drinks/gels on offer. This year, it was Gu gels.
    • This race was extremely spectator-friendly, and the course map lists the best metro stops for various points along the route. The best spots are where the course doubles back on itself – this year, it was at km 4/10, km 18/22, and km 26/31. My boyfriend managed to spot me about 5 or 6 times, which is a new record! There were also minimal barriers on the course, and spectators could cross the road at lots of points, which made things easier.
    • The roads in Barcelona are wide, straight, and long. This means that you need to zig-zag a bit to reach the aid stations, so I would inch towards the side of the road shortly before you reach them to avoid hindering runners around you. As with other races, they’re located slightly after the 5k markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. Having said that, they were well stocked and not too crowded! ūüôā
    • As the roads are quite wide and straight, there isn’t a whole lot of shade on the course – almost none in the second half, especially on the stretch along the coast. Make sure you wear plenty of suncream, and hydrate well if it’s warm. They did have a sprinkler set up around km 30/31, which was looovely!
    • Get ready for high fives! The crowds in Barcelona are magic, and will shout, whoop and cheer you round the entire way. There are also tons of drummers¬†and singers and dancers. Make the most of it, and have fun!
– The Finish

The finish area is the same as the start, so it’s nice and simple to find your way around. After the finish line they give you water/Powerade, your medal, and then you’re funnelled back into the bag drop tent. I had my bits and was off towards the meeting point in less than 10 minutes!

The designated meeting area is back on the¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya, which is a nice wide open space and right next to the metro! I wouldn’t meet your friends and family any closer to the finish area, as the space around the bag drop tent gets pretty crowded.

– Refuelling, Barcelona-Style

Barcelona Food Market on La Rambla

The food market on La Rambla was my happy place. Dozens of fresh fruit juices for a euro each, take-away fruit salads, sweets, meat, olives… The selection was endless!

For a post-marathon meal in Barcelona, it has to be paella, paella, paella! And Tapas. Most restaurants in Barcelona offer a fairly standard menu, at a reasonable cost. We headed down to Barceloneta, which is on the same line as¬†Pla√ßa d‚ÄôEspanya (so it’s easy to get to). There are tons of little food places towards the beach, which offer set menus of tapas, paella and sangria – all the good stuff!

Alternatively, there are plenty of places to eat near La Rambla. You’re pretty spoilt for choice!¬†But I highly recommend that you make¬†the most of the huge variety of tapas on offer, and try the seafood paella – it’s delish! Plus, sangria. No brainer, right? ūüėČ

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Are you running Barcelona next year?¬†Is there anything else you‚Äôd like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com ūüôā

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Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 1: The Day(s) Before!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! This installment will share a few tips and tricks for race weekend, including transport, the race expo, and things to see and do the day before (that won’t ruin your legs!).

Whilst planning my trip to Barcelona, I¬†stumbled across¬†the best, most informative website EVER: barcelona-tourist-guide.com. I hope you find it as useful as I did, and that my runner’s guide to Barcelona helps to fill in any marathon-specific gaps!

As always, if you think I’ve missed something, or have any questions, you know where to find me! ūüôā

Before the race
– Getting around

Barcelona was a super easy city to navigate. The airport transfer was straight forward, everything was extremely central, and the metro was easy to use.

There are a number of options for travelling between the airport and the city centre, depending on your preference:

  1. The Aerobus goes from outside T1 or T2 and will¬†take you to¬†Pla√ßa Espanya or Pla√ßa de Catalunya, where you can then join¬†the metro. Tickets cost¬†‚ā¨5.90 ¬†for a single and¬† ‚ā¨10.20 ¬†for a return (ticket valid for¬† 15 days). You can find timetable details here.
  2. The RENFE overground train, which stops at a few places including Passeig de Gràcia (a town centre station that joins the metro).
  3. The metro. A new line – L9 – has recently been introduced, which links the city centre to the airport (T1 and T2). A single ticket costs ‚ā¨4.50.

If you’re going for a long weekend, I would recommend the HolaBCN travel card. This card is valid for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days (we paid for 5, which was only¬†28.80‚ā¨ each) and includes the RENFE¬†airport train. The card can be used for UNLIMITED travel on the metro,¬†bus (TMB), urban railway (FGC), Montju√Įc funicular, tram (TRAM), and regional railway between the hours of ¬†5h00 and 23h00. We booked and paid for our cards online, and picked them up at the Tourist Information stand at the airport on arrival. The L9 metro ISN’T included in the HolaBCN card.

You can find out more about the HolaBCN card here. Information on other types of metro tickets can be found here. There are also information boards in the metro stations, which detail the types of tickets. The ticket machines are available in English and are really easy to use, too.

– The Expo

The great thing about Barcelona Marathon is that the expo, start and finish are all in exactly the same place: Pla√ßa d’Espanya. The expo building is directly outside the metro:

Barcelona Marathon Expo Building

And the start/finish line is directly next to it! (See below, between the 2 towers).

Barcelona Marathon Expo

You don’t need a medical certificate for Barcelona, which is a definite plus. You just present your passport and confirmation email, and you get your race packet! The pickup area is really simple – just one long table with the numbers displayed above (they split them into a few groups to spread people out).

Opposite this, before you head into the main expo hall, is a second table where you can pick up your technical race t-shirt.¬†This is split up based on size, which you would have selected when you registered. Just present your race packet (they’ll scribble on the packet so you can’t claim more than once) and they’ll hand over your top. The top colour matches your corral (pink, in my case) which is quite cool on the day – as you can easily spot others in your pace group, and follow them to your start area! (And of course, it makes it easier to pick them out on the course, too).

I chose not to wear mine on the day, so as to stand out for my boyfriend to spot me – but lots did! ūüôā

– The Day Before

As you can imagine, there is TONS to do in a city like Barcelona. I’ll admit, I was quite disorganised and didn’t really plan too much beforehand, but it turns out that for loads of places you can book tickets online, and just present your ticket on your mobile when you get there (rather than having to print them out). So if you haven’t pre-booked, don’t fret!

A few things were recommended to me by friends: the Sagrada Familia, which is in the city centre and super easy to get to; the Tourist Bus tours, which follow 2 different routes in March and take around 2 hours for a city tour (though I didn’t end up doing this, it’s on my list for next time) and of course, Barceloneta beach. This gets wildly busy in the summer, but amazingly it was quite peaceful on marathon weekend! (This isn’t the only ¬†beach in Barcelona, but was the closest one to the expo and we didn’t fancy travelling further afield!)

Barceloneta Beach

As well as the Sagrada Familia, you also have Gaudi’s other projects on La Diagonal:¬†Casa Mil√†, or “La Pedrera” and Casa¬†Batll√≥ are both worth a visit. We chose not to go inside, as¬†entry is pretty expensive at over 20e, and they’re spectacular enough from the outside! Make sure you check them out during the day and at night, as they look vastly different.

Another of the Gaudi must-sees is Park G√ľell – but NOT before race day. My boyfriend picked this one for the day directly afterwards, but¬†kept very quiet about one little teeny detail: the climbing. (Thanks, James).

Park Guell Stairs 1

Stairs, and more stairs…

Park Guell Stairs 2

I played a game of spot-the-runners. Hint: all of us were hobbling about and gripping the handrails as if our lives depended on it!

Park Guell Stairs 3

Whilst the views were stunning, I did stop a couple of times and question my life choices slightly. (For example, I may or may not have needed help getting down from that rock. #runnerproblems).

Park Guell View

If you do fancy it, it’s well worth the effort. Park G√ľell is about a 15-minute uphill walk from Lesseps metro stop, but luckily for the worst of the climb there are escalators (though not, as I soon realised, for the way down!)

– Carb Loading

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

Collecting my Asics pace band, and some free bread from the expo! Carb loading FTW!

There are loads of places to eat in Barcelona. However, I would recommend checking out the local restaurants online before you travel. I forgot to do this, and ended up eating at the hotel the night before the marathon. A couple of good areas for food are Barceloneta (mostly paella and tapas places, but SO GOOD), and on/around La Rambla (huge variety). We found a couple of really nice Italian places as well.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Spanish tend to eat later than we do here. 9pm is a completely normal dinner time, and lots of restaurants won’t open for dinner before 8pm. If you want to have an early meal, stick to the touristy areas, as the restaurants and cafes here are more accommodating and serve food for most of the day.

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Stay tuned for part 2, which will cover race day itself! ūüôā

Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 2: Marathon day!

Paris Marathon and City Guide Part 2

So here we are – part 2 of my Paris Marathon and City Guide! If you haven’t already, go and check out¬†part 1¬†for some insider tips¬†and tricks¬†on getting around the city, navigating the Expo, and fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!)

This one covers the race day itself, with advice on the start area, bag drop and loo logistics, start corrals, spectator/aid points and post-run recovery. I hope it helps!

–¬†Pre-race breakfast

I wanted to make sure my breakfast was as close to what I’d had in training as possible, so I threw a few porridge pots in my suitcase. This worked brilliantly on¬†the morning – all I needed to do was add¬†some hot water from the hotel room kettle, and grab a banana to eat on the way!

parisstartend2

Looking mildly terrified on marathon morning – though luckily 26.2 miles sorted that right out!

If you’re not a porridge fan, the French are brilliant with their carbs. Just¬†pop into a local Monoprix supermarket, and you’ll have aisles of different breads and pastries and cakes (the¬†Madeleines and muffins were¬†next to the breakfast stuff, and yes, I definitely had them for breakfast once or twice!)

– The start area (loos and bag drop)

The first thing I’ll say is get there EARLY. There are plenty of loos, which was great – a row at each exit of the Place d’Etoile – so if the first lot look a bit busy, just keep heading round. I only had about 4 people in the queue ahead of me. Don’t worry about skipping a few – you need to cross a couple of¬†roads from the Champs Elysees anyway, as the bag drop is on the Avenue Foch. What I didn’t realise was how far down it was:

parisstart2Heading back to the start after the bag drop, banana and drink in hand!

They were directing runners along the side of the finish chute, round the far end of the bag drop area, and back along to the start Рit took us a good 20 minutes or so. But once we actually reached the right bit, we were sorted in 30 seconds.

– The corrals

The corrals were easy to navigate, as they were¬†marked with colour-coded time flags (these are the same colours as the bib pick-up tables at the Expo). The entrances to each corral were very crowded, as there were barriers all along the edge and just a small gap for the runners to get through; there were also LOTS of spectators milling around, so you might need to get those elbows ready ūüėČ

I’d definitely suggest making the most of the loos before you get into your corral, as there was only 1 cubicle in each, and 1 urinal for the guys. Each cubicle had a massive queue, even well after the starting gun – not worth the stress!

– The marathon course

There are a few things that are worth a mention here:

  • Pace yourself in the first mile or two. The marathon starts off slightly downhill, and it’s easy to get caught up with the masses.
  • Aid stations are every 5k, and include slices of orange and banana along with small bottles of Vittel water – but¬†the tables are set up about 200m past the km markers, so don’t expect to see¬†them straight away. I would also move along and grab a bottle/fruit from the far end, as it’s much quieter. Take the opportunity to walk here – the ground can get¬†very slippery due to the discarded banana and orange peel!
  • The main spectator areas seemed to be around Concorde, Bastille (as the course loops back on itself here, at 3 and 14 miles), Vincennes, the bridges along the river, and on Avenue Foch. My boyfriend managed to spot me at Bastille, Vincennes, and back at Bastille – but unfortunately we missed each other at mile 17 (however this is definitely a¬†good area to try and get to, as it’s a bit quieter than the earlier stages).
  • If you’re looking for decent race photos, it’s worth noting that the photographers were generally set up¬†in the middle of the street, rather than at the edge – so pick your good side in advance! And if you signed up for the live FB photo at 41km, be warned: the cameras are at the top of a short, sharp hill. Everyone around you who had been walking or taking it easy will shoot up this hill as soon as they spot the ‘you will be photographed in X metres!’ sign, so get those legs moving! ūüėČ
  • There was very little shade in the second half of the race, so if it’s warm, slap on the sun cream and grab a hat! (Don’t do what I did and only remember the sun cream half a mile down the Champs Elysees. You WILL suffer for it. I still have the tan marks from my Garmin and pace band…)
–¬†The finish

The finish area was brilliantly organised. There were photographers about 200m from the finish line, and once you crossed it, the rest was simple: medals and t-shirts came first, then the tables of water bottles (seriously thankful for those!), and finally the bag drop area. There were also a few stalls further down, with massage areas and running gear, but I personally skipped them.

With regards to meeting your supporters, I found that picking a specific spot on the Champs Elysees (or any street other than Avenue Foch) worked really well, as the crowds seemed to thin out past the finish area. I found my boyfriend almost immediately, and had an ice-cream in my hand within about 15 minutes! (Priorities, and all that!)

– Refueling, Paris-style

Whilst it was tempting to hang around after the race, the Champs Elysees and surrounding streets are always full of tourists, and it’s notoriously difficult to find a seat at any of the restaurants (though I wouldn’t write them off straight away – there are some lovely places to eat if you manage to get a space). We headed back to the hotel instead, where I grabbed a shower and we both had a short nap (spectating is hard work!) before venturing out for dinner a few hours later. There’s no shortage of restaurants in the city, and every French bistro/restaurant I’ve been to has done EPIC steak frites – which is exactly what I had! Along with a glass of wine, though that very nearly sent me to sleep… But if you can’t have a glass of wine in Paris on marathon day, when can you!?

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Are you running Paris next year? Is there anything else you’d like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com ūüôā

Paris Marathon & City Guide Part 1: The day(s) before

Paris Marathon and City Guide Part 1

Whilst I know Paris quite well, having lived there during my placement year, I’ve never visited the city as a marathon runner – and surprisingly, it was quite a different experience!

Suddenly I had all of these other things to consider. Where is the Expo? How does the Expo work? Where is the start/finish? How do I get from one to the other? What and where should I eat the night before? What can I visit without nackering my legs too much? (Slightly failed that one). And on, and on…

So I figured that I’d put together some of the things that worked well for me, in the hope¬†that it might help someone else who is thinking of running Paris. (And you should! It’s EPIC!)

Before the race
– Getting Around

For getting around the city, you have a few ticket¬†options as far as public transport goes.¬†If you’re not planning on using it much, you can buy single tickets for 1,70e a go; these ‘T’ tickets (or ‘billets‘, in French) will get you onto the metro, RER, bus, and tram. If you’re going to be travelling about a bit, you can either get a ‘carnet‘ (or book) of 10 tickets for about 14e – or you can get a ‘Paris Visite‘ card, which is essentially a ‘T’ ticket that lasts for several days, and can just be reused for multiple journeys (no limits).

Whilst you can buy the ‘T’ tickets¬†at the ticket machines, you need to order the Paris Visite card online at least 4¬†days before you plan to arrive, and will have to pick it up from the Paris Tourist Office – my old office!! – on the Avenue de l’Opera (L7 metro, ‘Pyramides’) when you get there. There’s also an option to have it posted to you at home.

If you’re going for the individual/carnet¬†ticket options, it’s worth noting that used tickets look almost identical to new tickets (they just get a very faint purple stamp across them from the machine). As you only put them into the machines when you enter the Metro (and don’t need them for the barriers at the other end), I’d recommend folding (or ideally, binning) them once you’re out, so they don’t get mixed up. Nothing worse than having to fish through a dozen identical little tickets¬†whilst impatient Parisians mutter and sigh¬†behind you! ūüėČ

– The Expo

The Paris Marathon Expo is held at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, on the metro L12. Being a French marathon, you have to take along some paperwork before they’ll hand over your race pack: a medical certificate (you can download a template from the website here, which has the correct wording – and the¬†guidelines are¬†here),¬†your Convocation (this will be available to download from the ASO Challenges site shortly before race day), and some ID.

At the first table, they check your medical certificate and ID. If all is ok, they’ll stamp your convocation and hand it back:

Parisexpo

Then all you need to do is head over to the race pack tables (clearly split up by pace group), and show them your stamped Convocation. The race numbers have both your first name and your country on them, which is brilliant as you can find other Brits/Americans/Spaniards etc.¬†in the corrals and along the course – unless, of course, you’re accidentally registered under the wrong nationality:

IMG_20150412_192931

Though it could have been worse. At least I got plenty of support from the locals!

If you signed up for an Asics pace band, you’ll find them at the Asics stand just after the race pack area (and before you head into the main Expo hall). All you need is your email address. I’d recommend getting one – you can tailor it to your exact goal¬†time, and you get a little¬†map of the course with projected times on it:

parisasics¬†My very optimistic race target. Maybe next time…

– The day before

I’ll start by saying, don’t do the Sacre Coeur the day before the race. Or, if you do, take the flipping funicular. Against my boyfriend’s better judgement, I insisted on walking up all of the steps from the metro – and there were a LOT. Not what you need before a marathon. Fail, Lucy, fail. The views are stunning though, and well worth the effort!

Luckily,¬†most of the main sights are close to¬†the river, on flat ground and within range of a metro station. Word of warning, though – metro stations in Paris don’t generally have escalators!

There are a few sights I’d avoid the day before, such as the Eiffel Tower (there’s a lift to the second floor, but you need to climb the stairs from there), the Arc de Triomphe (arguably some of the best views in Paris, but again, STAIRS), and the Louvre (you’ll be queueing for a good 30 minutes or more¬†before you even get to the museum,¬†which isn’t ideal – but certainly¬†doable after the race!)

Good alternatives are¬†the Orsay and Pompidou galleries; the Rue du Rivoli and Chatlet/Les Halles for shopping; the Tuilerie Gardens; the Carousel du Louvre shopping arcade (hidden directly under the Louvre – you can find quieter entrances next to the ‘Paul’ stand in the Tuilerie Gardens); the Champs Elysees; boat trips (you can get a sightseeing cruise for about 14e, leaving from the Eiffel Tower and heading up and around the Ile de la Cite and back – about an hour). For something a bit more unusual, there are also¬†the Crypts by Notre Dame. Versailles is stunning, but best visited after race day, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking!

– Carb loading

Paris is brilliant for food. Especially carby food. I lived on Paul baguettes – you can find Paul shops¬†across the city, which is great. We grabbed one on the Avenue de l’Opera and ate them in the Tuilerie Gardens:

parispauls

For evening meals, there are tons of places to eat. We were staying close to Montparnasse, which has a huge range of restaurants (French, Italian, Moroccan, Belgian) but if you’re after¬†something basic there are a few restaurant chains that are pretty good¬†– Hippopotamus (burgers and steaks)¬†and¬†Bistro Romain (pizza and pasta) are a couple of my favourites.

Any questions? Give me a shout! My next post will offer a bit more info on the marathon day itself, so stay tuned ūüôā

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UPDATE: Find part 2 of my Paris Marathon & City Guide here.