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! 🙂

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 Plaça Espanya or Plaça de Catalunya, where you can then join the metro. Tickets cost €5.90  for a single and  €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 €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€ each) and includes the RENFE airport train. The card can be used for UNLIMITED travel on the metro, bus (TMB), urban railway (FGC), Montjuïc 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: Plaça 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! 🙂

– 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 Milà, or “La Pedrera” and Casa Batlló 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 Güell – 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 Güell 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! 🙂

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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! 😉

– 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 🙂

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