On the 7th November 2021 I took part in the Barcelona Marathon. This race was not planned, in fact until recently I thought I would be pacing the New York Marathon. But with the travel ban lifting the day after the Marathon, this race was just not meant to be. I hadn’t planned another race, but with Boston registration happening next week I knew this was my last chance for Boston 2022. To be clear, my goal was absolutely sub 3, but the only reason I decided to do this race was for the off chance of a Boston Qualification for 2022. Having completed 11 events in 2 months, finishing with an Ironman 2 weeks ago, my body isn’t exactly fresh, but I knew I had more in me.
I decided not to tell anyone. Actually, I didn’t have much chance to tell anyone because I left entering so late. Actually, I missed registration, but I was told that it could be sorted out at the correction desk. So I booked flights and accommodation 2 days before and made my way to Barcelona. I usually throw it all out there, but you may notice the radio silence on social media over the last few days. Life is stressful enough at the moment, and I’m so grateful for my wife letting me go and try and get a place in Boston. I also provisionally booked a hotel for the family for 4 nights to Boston, I went to Barcelona Intent on getting my place.
I travelled very early on the Saturday morning, so early that security wasn’t open and I had to wait for restaurants to open. But the flight and customs at Barcelona was plain sailing (the check in for return was not so good). I had a reserved day in Barcelona, going to the expo, and trying to get my bib was harder than I would like, but I got there in the end. The expo was very small, and this will be because of covid. I didn’t hang around and then just spent the night in my hotel. I stayed 3 km from from race start, so this was ideal for getting to the start.
I left it later than I usually would to get to the start, opting for an extra 45 minutes in bed. But it was very easy to drop bags, go to the toilet, and I had time to spare before the start. I loved the live singing of Barcelona to set us off, and then we were off. I had hoped to run with the sub 3 pacers, but unfortunately they all pushed to the front and started with the 2:45 pacers. I decided to hang back and keep them in sight. The average pace needed for a sub 3 marathon was 6:52, so I thought I would try to keep to around a 6:45 and have some cushion. I aimed for a steady race, first goal to beat my PB from London Marathon of 3:04:39, every second is a better chance of a Boston Qualifier. Second goal was sub 3, and I wanted to be reserved to not push too much and get my goal. But the overall goal was a Boston Qualifier.
I started off well and aimed for a steady pace. It went perfectly, and I ran the hills at effort. Barcelona is not flat, its not exactly got difficult hills, but you are pretty much going up and down the whole race, and those ups are not my friend. I tried to get my fuelling right for this race, and I picked up some Mauten gels as they were easy to digest at my last Ironman. I took one every 5km. They went down well, but even these gels felt a bit much by 30km. I had a pattern, water was every 2.5 km, so I took water every stop, and a gel just before every other. There were some more difficult miles with the odd climb, but I was mentally strong and kept my pace even. When I had a slower mile I made sure the next made up for it.
Usually I start losing it at 16 miles, so when I went passed this point I had confidence and kept telling myself I could do it. Knowing the average pace needed to be 6:52, and I pretty much ran the blue line, I thought an average of 6:48 would get me a sub 2:59. I held on, and caught up one of the 3 hour pacers.
At 40 km, according to my watch I had 10 minutes, this would be close but I was on target. I didn’t try pushing on, I didn’t want to ruin it, I was on for sub 3, and that was the ultimate goal. However, when we got to an arch, which felt like it should be the finish, I knew it wasn’t. With perhaps 600 metres to go I realised I was not on, there were 3 arches and I realised my watch was running long. That moment I could have cried, when I thought I had done everything right, but it wasn’t enough. When I saw the finish I knew it would be impossible. To be honest, I probably gave up 10 seconds with that initial disappointment.
But I have an official PB of 3:00:26, this is 8:30 seconds quicker than I started 2021 with. It is also a 4 minute 13 second PB. I had already reached the Boston Qualifier time, but 21 seconds was never going to be enough. So although I’m gutted I did not get a sub 3, I have a 4 min 36 second cushion for Boston. Although you can never be sure, that should be enough, and it’s certainly 4 minutes more chance than I had before today.
When I finished I phoned my wife, and I’m not going to lie, I got a bit emotional. I really thought I’d done it, and with everything else in life, my reaction is not the most rational. It means I will have to try again, and there are certainly easier courses out there. And being 26 seconds away just shows that I am more than capable, but next time I won’t be leaving it so close, I will aim quicker.
So today wasn’t my day to pace New York Marathon. It wasn’t my day for a sub 3. But I got bloody close, and soon we will find out if it was my day for a Boston Qualifier.