Although I was planning to run this race alone, in the end Charles decided to join me. I signed him up a few days ago, but he has a lot of schoolwork and had plans to study 24/7 this weekend. Anyhow, I think the guilt began to eat away at him and he, very sweetly, decided to come along.
I was a little nervous at first because a) we parked in a dirt lot and then walked about 10 minutes up a small mountain to the Estadi Municipal and I kept thinking that that 10-minute mountain climb would be the last 1.5 kilometers of the race, b)I was having some rather icky stomach issues, and c)I had decided to leave my I-pod in my duffle bag in honor of Charles who had sacrificed his studies in order to accompany me. I've been toying with the idea of weaning myself off the I-pod anyway. Shouldn't I listen to what's going on around me as I run? Shouldn't running be a time for thinking--a few hours a week to mull things over? Shouldn’t my own thoughts be enough to keep me occupied?
But as soon as I made the decision to run sans technology, it seemed that absolutely everyone else, except for about three super skinny 80-year-old runners, had their I-pods set and ready to go. I wondered if Charles’ presence would be enough to keep me from slowing down, could his love truly compete with the Neville Brothers’ “Pocky Way” for motivation?
A few trips to the bathroom, a conversation with a friendly Catalan weatherman / runner, and the pre-race festivities calmed me down and got me thinking positive. Since this was a fairly small race (1300 participants) and outside of the big city, everyone was really friendly and low-key. We watched the kids' fun run and by 10:08 we were off!
The course wasn’t pretty—Sant Boi is an industrial suburb outside of Barcelona so while you can imagine that circa 1900 the rolling hills along the Llobregat River must have been breathtaking, at this point it’s pretty much just sun-baked highways and dauntingly drab high-rise apartments built during the Franco regime. Charles stayed with me for about 2 kilometers and then he went on ahead. I understood his need to kick my ass, especially because I tried to outrun him Thursday night, so I patiently found my own rhythm and tried to keep him at least in sight.
The first half of the race went fairly well. The weather was perfect: low sixties and slightly cloudy and I was feeling good. I must say though that the Sant Boi crowds were surprisingly soso (bland, boring). Why can Spanish people get so excited about dancing at a town fair or a discotheque, but refuse to even clap for runners? It just goes to show that every culture has its own idea of what it means to look foolish. Most people just sort of stared at us in sleepy disbelief.
At km 6, I realized I was making decent time and that I could possibly finish in 57 minutes, but the last 3 km were all up hill and I slowed down and lost sight of Charles. I was moving sloooowly up that little mountain, just putting one foot in front of the other and hoping that not too many people would blow past me. And, luckily, they didn’t—everyone was hurtin´ at that point and when the guy next to me started walking I talked him into running, into running slowly, but running.
It was great to see my friend N, who lives in Sant Boi, wave to me at around km 8 and hearing her call my name gave me a little bit of kick, but by the time I reached the stadium I was extremely thirsty and my stomach really hurt. I’m ashamed to say that I jogged around the track to the finish line. Perhaps the stomach junk had dehydrated me more than I realized. This is the first time I haven’t really sprinted at the end of a race, but I have to say--all things considered-- that I’m reasonably happy with my time of 58:45 and this was a wake-up call: I best start training on some hills.