On the 4th November 2018 I took on the Porto Marathon 2018. This was an event I have been looking forward to take part in, with one of my longest friends coming away with me. A month ago I was asked if I wanted to Pace New York Marathon, which is an absolute dream, and something I hope to do in 2019. However, it was not meant to be as it was on the same day as Porto Marathon, and I would have been letting to many people down if I took the opportunity.
We had an early start on Saturday, and when we arrived we went straight to the marathon expo. It wasnt the biggest expo, but there were plenty of stores and wasn’t bad as far as expos go.
We went for a wander after picking up our race packs, and Porto has a lot of old culture. Walking 15k steps the day before a marathon isn’t ideal, but it was good to look around Porto.
I had a Pacer brief at 15:00 so I had to hang around for this, so we went back to the expo for the pasta party. It was good value for what was on offer, and they had entertainment as well. The pacer brief was all in Portuguese given by the Director General. I was given some information by other pacers, but really it consisted of getting our pacing top and for most arranging which half of the race they were doing. I’ve not experienced this before but most of the pacers did one half each and then they both joined to finish together. Clearly when he asked what I was doing I said “the Marathon”.
We had an early night, and I got my kit ready. This was set to be a good race, the 63rd time I have been an official pacer, the 16th time pacing a marathon. It was my 43rd official marathon, but my 50th towards the 100 marathon club. I should look into being an associate member now.
Race morning was a little cool and wet. I had looked forward to a nice warm run, but you cant control the weather and in fairness it was much better running conditions than the heat.
I rushed to get to the start as my shuttle bus decided to wait for ages, but I needn’t have rushed. It turns out Portuguese are very relaxed with timings, so when I turned up on time I was the only pacer to be there. I had forgotten my vaseline in the rush, and no one seemed to have any with them.
I lined up with the other two 4 hour pacers who had decided to do the whole marathon. Unfortunately it was clear we would not be running together at the start. When I asked their pace strategy they advised they would run the first 10k faster to make up the time from the Gun, as they were aiming for Gun time. Apparently this is what was desired, but I explained that this would be no good for those running around us, as it would mean they would be running faster than they have trained for, and would be even worse the further back people started. I planned to start with them and see how it went, but as soon as the Gun went everyone rushed forward. I try not to rush to keep space, and before we got to the start line they were already 50 metres ahead of me.
I always think it works well to have a gap between pacers to spread out the group, and help make it less congested. By holding back I was able to create more space, which was good as it did feel fairly congested at times. I had a good size group around me, but language was a barrier. I had maybe a dozen with me who spoke English, so this worked out well, for the rest I just gave out simple words of encouragement and support, explaining each KM we were on target.
The course was mostly flat, and we followed straight paths along the river, so it was a great course for PBs. When we got to the old town it was a little bumpy, and dangerous in areas. It is not a course that would pass Health and Safety standards in the UK. We usually have to deal with potholes, which tend to be marked. This course was full of trip hazards, and nothing to identify them. We had to be very careful with our foot placements at times.
The aid stations were every 5k, with water in bottles at each station. When we got to 20k there were also gels and an energy drink in plastic cups. I picked up one of the plastic cups and squeezed to make it easier to drink, but it completely collapsed in my hands. That was the last of those I picked up, so I just ran the marathon on water alone.
It was great running across the bridge on the bottom that we walked across the top the day before. There weren’t spectators along the whole course, but where there were they were really encouraging. There were also a few entertainment points which always provide a boost.
I kept the pace nice and steady throughout the run and I kept a good few runners with me picking more up along the way. I built 30 seconds cushion by the first half and slowly let the 30 seconds go over the second half. The other sub4 pacers were not too far ahead of me at half way, and passed the Gun time at 2:01, in the second half they pulled away, I assume to hit Gun time, but I just kept the pace steady picking up runners along the way.
I ran a lot of the course with a 70 year old man, who didnt speak English. Someone explained that he is one of only 20 who have ran every Porto Marathon, all 15. Although he didnt speak English he managed to tell me on 6 different occasions that he is 70 years old. Respect to him running a sub4 marathon.
It was a nice finish, there were numerous arches so I thought the finish was closer, but turned the final corner to see the finish. Holding my pace I had an official finish time of 3:59:53.
After the finish I went to the VIP area. It is set up for outdoors, with limited shelter, so it was ruined in the rain really. It was cramped and cold. Also the organisers took my bag to the VIP area but unfortunately left it on the ground and it was soaked through, and so were all my warm clothes, so this was a little annoying. I grabbed a beer, and then jumped on the coach back to the hotel. If it was nicer weather I would have stayed for a few beers.
Apart from the trip hazards and uneven surfaces the course was really pleasant. For a marathon with almost 5,000 runners it was great race, and one I would recommend. It was good value with a simple bag, starter top and finishers top, and a decent medal. It would have been nice without the rain, and I would have been more tempted to see more of Porto if the weather was nicer. I wont be back next year as I hope to run New York, but I will be back again some time I’m sure.
I’ve not got any other races booked for the rest of the year, but will be looking at training to improve speed. In the meantime if you have a few minutes spare please head over to the Running Awards HERE and vote for pickupthepace Paul in the personal blog section. I came second this year so let’s see what next year brings. Thanks.