With only 10 days to go before the race, I was given unexpected permission by Mrs C to give my friend – Richie Rexy – some company on his first overseas marathon in Malaga. So with a quick bit of last minute race entering and travel booking, it was all arranged. A week later, early on a Saturday morning in typically very dull, windy, rainy weather, my plane taxied along Manchester Airport’s runway and I left the UK for the warmer climate of Southern Spain.
With such last minute planning I hadn’t looked into what to expect from Malaga neither the city, nor the marathon and I was picking up information as I went along. What I did know was this was a marathon that attracted running Brits as a little escape to some warmth a few weeks before the Christmas festivities. For this reason I was kind of expecting to bump into some other regular marathon running Brits who I knew at some point over the weekend. What I wasn’t expecting was to bump into someone I knew in Boots in Manchester Airport’s duty free area who was on the same flight as me, “Morning Marc!” This ended up being the way the whole weekend went.
After the two and a half hour flight, I had left the horrible Manchester weather far behind and enjoyed leaving the plane in lovely pleasantly warm sunshine. Cheekily I shared a lift with Marc and his friends to the marathon expo which was a short journey from the airport. It was set inside a sports arena, it wasn’t the biggest expo but there was plenty of room and enough little stalls to get us runners in the mood for the next day’s marathon.
Next job was for me to find the hotel which I had hastily booked without much research only a couple of days earlier. I knew it was going to be near the race’s start/finish but didn’t realise it was also well placed for the city centre’s shops and sites. I met up with Richie late on the Saturday afternoon, we decided to reccy the race start so we knew where to go the next morning especially with the early 8:30am start. In the race day information we read the start was on a main road in a park along the sea front called “Paseco del Parque” in front of the grand town hall. As we walked up and down the Paseco del Parque in the pleasant evening sunshine we found the town hall easy enough but no sign of anything to do with the marathon. We got quite concerned with nothing set up only hours before the race, I jokingly thought to myself “I hope we are here on the right weekend!”
On the morning of the marathon, even with this early start time, I managed to have a lie in. This was so unusual for me; normally I’m leaving home or a hotel very early to travel to a race start. I had picked some pastries up from a traditional and quaint bakery the night before so enjoyed breakfast in bed and only got up and dressed just before 8am. With the pleasant warm weather, I was able to make the 5 minute walk to the start in my race t-shirt and shorts without having to think about taking a bag and storing it at the start. As I got to the start on Paseco del Parque I was relieved to see thousands of runners but more importantly a start/finish gantry had been erected over the road and all the other infrastructure to hold a race this size was in place. None of which had been in the slightest evident the evening before. The Spanish organisers had certainly been very busy over the night whilst I’d been fast asleep in my hotel bed.
I managed to find Rexy, the race started with the sounds of pumping, electronic dance music as dawn broke. It was a very impressive race start on the wide straight Paseco del Parque road lined with palm trees and in front of the cities majestic town hall. The course took us along the front to the east returning back to the centre for the first half of the race. We stayed together for the first 8 miles, both of us running faster than we had planned. I’m not sure who was pushing who. At mile 8 I was feeling very strong and pushed on a bit harder than Rexy wanted and left him behind. The second half took us in the other direction past the sports centre where I had been the previous day to register and round a one lap of the adjacent running track (a bit of a novelty) before returning into the city centre. For miles 22 to 24 there was a bit of slight uphill gradients which I didn’t appreciate as I was pushing the pace but this was more than given back with the last couple of miles being slightly downhill with some great scenery and fabulous crowd support as I entered the city centre, ran past the cathedral and through the pedestrianised shopping area. Finally back onto the Paseco del Parque and the finish line. After pushing my pace very hard most of the way round and tiring over the last few miles I was extremely relieved to scrape under 3:15 by a mere 8 seconds. I was also very please for Rexy managing a shiny new PB of 3:22.
I had a preconceived image that Malaga would be simply a rather tacky Spanish beach resort, how wrong I was! Some of the city centre buildings had fabulous stone architecture surrounding the city’s imposing cathedral with it enormous doors and columns at the front. There was a lovely shopping area and square that was lit up with a wonderful arch of lights along its length during the evening. Also a short walk from the centre was a castle on a hill. On the Monday morning before I flew back I went for a walk up a pleasant traffic free stone path winding up along the outer wall of the castle giving a stunning panoramic view of the city, it’s harbour and mountains in the misty distance. I wished I had had more time to soak up the views and explore further. This is certainly a city I’d like to see more of and a marathon I would love to do again.