Barcelona marathon 2019

rodeofliprodeoflip ✭✭✭
edited November 2018 in Spring Marathon
I've just entered the slightly-confusingly-named Zurich Marathon of Barcelona. Assuming that I've got the right city, I've never run this one before. Anyone here got any tips or suggestions for this race?


  • A great city to visit and race to run. I ran for the first time in March.  Very well organised, a great buzz, a good route around the key landmarks.  Slightly bumpier than you would imagine, and a slight sting in the tail with a climb in the last km. Recommend staying somewhere off La Ramblas as not far from the start/ finish and very attractive and historic. Good luck and enjoy.     
  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    edited November 2018
    It's a great race.  I did it this year, and really enjoyed it.

    A group from my club are going next year I think, and I posted this about it to the club's Facebook page.
    For me it had everything that I prefer in a marathon. 
    - It is a big event with 20000 runners, but I had plenty of space to run, which I like, so I didn't feel crowded. London, by comparison, feels quite crowded.
    - Lots of spectators around the main sights.  
    - A good single-lap route, which was quite flat and took in some of the city's sights.
    - Really well organised.
    - Plenty of well stocked aid stations.
    - It's not too badly priced.
    - Closed roads.
    - In terms of logistics, the fact that the race started and ended at the same place made it easier in some ways. Also the Expo was by the start line too.
    - They were strict on pace pens, turning people away if needed.
    - Plenty of flights for under £100 return.
    - Lots of accommodation, although I did stay a bit of a distance from the start line (30-mins by Metro) to get an economical price; Three of us ended up paying about £35 each per night, for an AirBNB. However, the Metro station is right by the start/finish area, and Expo, so it wasn't really a problem.

    It's easy to get around the city. You can get a travel ticket called a T-10, which is valid on all modes of public transport (bus, metro, train). It cost €10.50 and has 10 trips on it, and you can share the ticket between people if you want. It doesn't cover all ways of getting in from the airport, but there is a bus that is €5.90 each way.

    In terms of places to eat/drink, it's the usual advice about not really eating on the main squares/streets as they tend to be highly priced and maybe not the best quality. But there are loads of places just off the main streets/squares that are affordable and really good. For example, just off Las Ramblas, we found a really decent place that had a 3 course lunch with a drink for €12.50. My friends were drinking large glasses of wine last night for €1.60, in a bar with a load of locals in an area called Barconeletta.

    I suppose a couple of gripes were that there were no way near enough loos, but then there rarely are at these big events - the loos were also running out of toilet roll, but I've long since learned to take my own anyway!  Also, there was a bit of a mad scramble when people were trying to drop their bags off before the race, but in fairness to the organisers they only let people in a few hundred at a time, so it worked quite well really.  It was just that people were initially panicking when the organisers temporarily stopped letting people in to the building.

    I would definitely do it again!

  • WardiWardi ✭✭✭
    I've done it 3 times so it must be good :)   Agree with the VLM comparison - Barca has a big city marathon feel to it but it's not as hyped or overcrowded like London.  Prettier course too IMHO.
    I tend to get a hotel very close to the Start/Finish so I can walk there on race day, and it's handy for the Expo (Pestana Arena hotel for 2019).  As a result I've never felt the need to take a kit bag, I just wear an old t-shirt if it's chilly at the start (8.30am start means it is usually around 10-12 degrees).  After the race I just walk back to the hotel, quick hose down then out for a celebratory beer in the sun. (hopefully).
    The Saturday breakfast run is good - the last 4k of the Olympic route finishing in the stadium.  Free fruit, cake & coffee afterwards.
    When you arrive, once outside the airport turn right, walk about 100m down the pavement and look for the No.46 bus stop.  The cost is about 2-3 euros which is much cheaper than the official airport bus.  This bus stops in Placa Espanya which is right outside the Expo.
    I'm in for 2019, everything booked so about to build up the training now I've recovered from the York marathon.
    Incidentally I booked the flight & hotel via Jet2 'city breaks'.  This is cheaper than booking hotel & flight separately and hold luggage is included.
  • Thumbs up for the number 46 bus - good shout that Wardi. 
    Plenty of bars to drink outside on the route of the last km, so after you've suffered you can enjoy watching the others suffer too. 
    And of course the race started in 2018 to Barcelona by Queen. 
  • GipfelGipfel ✭✭✭
    Wardi and OuchOuch, just out of interest, what did you think of this one in comparison with Valencia? It sounds really good from what everyone's said so far - I'm rather tempted...
  • Thank you all, really appreciate the feedback. Really glad I've booked it now, based on what you've said. Never been to Barcelona so excited just to visit it. We'll be there for four days, so plenty of time for expo and being a tourist. Breakfast run is already booked. Thanks again!
  • WardiWardi ✭✭✭
    edited November 2018
    I couldn't really split Valencia & Barca Gipfel, they are my joint No.1 marathons!  Valencia is completely flat from what I remember, Barca does have 2 or 3 uphills but nothing major.
    Rodeoflip.. once the breakfast run is over try to stay off your feet on the Saturday.  The tourist buses are a good way to do the sightseeing if the weather is ok.

  • Gipfel - Both are very impressive, positive and I intend t go back and do both again in the next few years.  For me Valencia shades it.  For similar sized marathons, Valencia tended to attract more faster runners to run with. My 2.45.17 there in 2017 got me 331th  place, whereas 2.49.24 in Barcelona in 2018 had me coming in 139th so there were times when I was running on my own.  The finish in Valencia is also something unique and very special too. 
  • Wardi, that's the plan, Works for me every year in London!
  • GipfelGipfel ✭✭✭
    Thanks, both, for your opinions! Yes, the finish in Valencia is something else and I can't imagine many races that could beat it (also can't imagine many would be as flat!). I'm about to run it for the second time this year, having enjoyed it so much in 2017 - can't wait - but like the idea of other good Spanish events.

    The Barcelona course looks really nice from the photos. Good way of seeing a lot of the sights! Everything else sounds good too - as said above, just what you want from a marathon. 
  • Gipfel - Good luck in Valencia, I was thinking of running it again but opted for Malaga, a week later and a new city to run a marathon in.  I do love Spanish marathons, the best. 
  • GipfelGipfel ✭✭✭
    Thanks, OuchOuch, and you in Malaga - hope that lives up to the high Spanish standards too!
  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    Regarding Spanish marathons, I'm doing San Sebastian in a couple of weeks.  It's a Zurich-sponsored one (like Barca) and I'll report back afterwards on what I think of it :)  
  • OuchOuchOuchOuch ✭✭✭
    edited November 2018
    Please do Big_G, that's on the long list too.   I also have Gran Canaria coming up in Jan, which will be my 3rd running of this and is also good (and generally pretty warm 23-25C).  Seville is also tempting, so many marathons so little time! 
  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    OuchOuch, I hear what you're saying - I too have a massive list of marathons that I want to do!  When planning the year there are so many that clash too, which is very frustrating. ;)  
  • Madrid is another really good Spanish marathon albeit more hillier than those mentioned above. Can recommend it having ran it three times. Usually falls on the same day as VLM for those who didn’t get accepted / fancy an alternative.
  • LT - that's on the list too for 2020 (doing VLM next year). What's your thoughts on it? 
  • WardiWardi ✭✭✭
    I know a couple of runners who have done Seville who speak very highly of it (Feb).  Flat & fast plus a stadium finish.
  • OO - it’s a well run event, at least in my experience. The first 16k runs with the half marathon before the two courses separate and whilst congestion isn’t a massive problem you can appreciate the extra space after the split. There’s also a 10k race but they’ve started putting that on half an hour earlier and have separated the start / finish line from the main event.

    First four kilometers are uphill along the Castellana, the main drag which takes you past the Bernabéu. It’s more of an incline becoming less gradual as it progresses but isn’t too much of a big deal. Thereafter, it’s pretty much uphill / downhill most of the way, very little true flat. Casa de Campo, the big wild park, can be hard going and a lot of people seem to lose time there. To end, you’ve got an uphill stretch of about 5k from the river to the finish next to the Prado museum.

    At the insistence of the city council, who didn’t want the race finishing in the Retiro park anymore, they changed both start and finish areas last year. This took some of the sting out of the race as before the drag up the Castellana was a bit longer and that last section up from the river was more like 8k / 5 miles, possibly slightly more. However, the Retiro was a great place for the race to finish. It wouldn’t surprise to see the finish line reinstated there if there’s a change in the local government as it upset quite a lot of people and I don’t think the race organizers were too thrilled since the route change was imposed on them just a couple months before last year’s race.

    Despite the above, it’s not that bad a course. I got a Pb there in April taking the best part of two minutes of my previous best set at Valencia in 2017. There are areas where you can definitely make up time but you need to have something for the end as that last uphill stretch can turn into a ‘via crucis’

    Crowd support is good, really good in some places. In other areas it can be a bit sparse but I actually don’t mind that mix. I’d say there’s definitely more people out on the street now than when I first did it in 2014.

    The weather can be anything. In the 2015 edition it rained heavily for a lot of the race whereas last year it was a little on the warm side, especially towards the end. 

    The start and and finish are currently very close to each other so it’s easy to get to the back drop afterwards. Always get a good quality tec shirt at the Expo, which you can stop off at on the metro on the way in from the airport.

    Very good city for eating and drinking. Excellent public transport system.

    Let me know if you have any more questions.
  • OuchOuchOuchOuch ✭✭✭
    edited November 2018
    That's a great review, thank-you so much LT.  Very tempting for 2020.
  • A pleasure OO. Definitely worth doing for the city as much as the race. By the way, I noticed on another thread that you did Mont Blanc ultra so I don’t thing Madrid will be a problem for you!
  • WardiWardi ✭✭✭
    It appears the Barca course has been tweaked for 2019.  As far as I can tell some of the previous climb from 3-9k has been cut out near the Nou Camp and the distance made up in the middle of the course.  Also at 40k you turn off the Av de Parallel and take a different route re-joining Av de Parallel near the usual finish.  I think the idea is to take some of the ascents out which I don't mind at all :)

  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    As mentioned, here is a quick update about San Sebastián Marathon. 

    Firstly, having never been there before, I really enjoyed the town, especially the Old Town area. There were lots of bars, and a really great atmosphere around there. There are a couple of high viewpoints overlooking the bay (one accessed by funicular), and there is a lot of well priced accommodation in the centre. It’s a great place to visit from that point of view. 

    To get there, we flew into Bilbao and then caught the airport bus to San Sebastián which all worked with no problems at all. 

    Turning to the race, bib pick up was either the Friday (late afternoon) or all day Saturday before the race. This was done in an indoor athletics track, and is also where the bag drop was on race day.  There was no expo really, apart from a stall selling race related gear.  The track was about a 5min walk from where the race starts and a 2-min walk from where it finishes, and is about a 10-15min bus ride + 5min walk from the main town. 

    On race day, the public busses were free for runners until 2:30pm and spectators until 1:30pm, and although busy there were a lot of busses running. I had no issues here at all, and got to the start area in plenty of time. It was forecast to rain, so it was good being inside in the bag drop arena. As usual, there weren’t an abundance of loos so I just joined the queue straight away. 

    The race start itself was a bit chaotic in that although the bibs had start pens allocated, there was no one checking the runners so it seemed a bit of a free for all. Barca, by comparison, were pretty strict on this. I got there 5mins before the race started and managed to get into the correct pen for me. 

    The race started on time and this event is a two-lapper. The first section is around the arena area and starts more or less straight away with an out and back section, before heading into town and one of the two main beach areas the course goes through. There was quite a lot of support here and in fact it’s good for spectators as around here they can see the runners 4 times if they wanted to. 

    The course then went through a tunnel (again done 4 times) before what I found was a tough bit of the course - a long out-and-back section with hardly any supporters, and no real scenery, before heading back to the beach area, past the main cathedral in the centre of town and back towards the start.  Then it’s around again for the marathon (there was a Half as well that veered off here). I believe there was a 5hr cut off for the marathon which looking at the finish times they appear to have been fairly strict on. 

    The finish was on an outdoor athletics track which was nice enough, and was where the medal and goodie bag were handed out. It was then a short walk to the baggage area which was easy and worked well, before catching the public busses back into town. 

    Would I do it again?  If I were to choose, I’d say Barca is better - Barca is up there high on my list of favourite races I’ve done though. San Sebastián is well organised, it’s a quick/PB-potential course, it’s affordable if booked early, it’s quite a large event (approx 2700 runners in the marathon) but with plenty of space to run, the medal and shirt are nice etc etc, but the course wasn’t great, although it’s easy for spectators.  It as an okay course, but not a fantastic one.  I’m glad I’ve done it and I’m really pleased I’ve visited the area as I enjoyed it a lot, but personally I’m not sure I’d necessarily rush back for the event. Other people’s views may vary of course :)
  • Thanks for that Big G. That’s really informative.

    I’ve been thinking about doing this race for a couple of years now and barring the business with the starting pens not being controlled, there’s nothing in your review to put me off. I don’t mind stretches of the course being sparsely supported and the rest of the organization and logistics sound good.

    I think next year the finish maybe back in the football stadium where Real Sociedad play if the works are finished in time. I’m glad you enjoyed the Basque Country, I’ve had a few trips there and really enjoyed it.

    Anyway, I saw on another thread that you had a good race. Congratulations and hope you’re recovering well.

  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    Thanks LT. Interesting about the race usually finishing in the stadium. I had noticed that there was a lot of building work going on there. 
  • Cheers Big_G, glad you enjoyed the run and visit. My thoughts are exactly the same as LT. It's between San Sebastien or Florence for a November 2019 marathon. 
  • GipfelGipfel ✭✭✭
    To any Barcelona Marathon goers, quick note to say I've just come back from Barcelona, having done the half marathon - I had an excellent weekend! I know most people on here have run and enjoyed the marathon before, so I'm preaching to the converted, but for any who haven't, the city is fantastic and the half route was very enjoyable, so I think the full marathon will really be something else (the half took in a few 'sights', but the full looks as if it goes past loads). It was all very slickly organised and had the good support/atmosphere I was hoping for. I'm sure that anyone doing the full will be in for a great experience. It's going to be a serious consideration for me next year!
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