SRC In Bilbao
Submitted by Neal
In the interests of my good self not writing a huge report here’s a combined trip report from a few members of the SRC party.
It only felt like a few weeks ago that we booked this long weekend away, but soon enough it came around and with some club members already there, six of us flew across together to Bilbao from Manchester. It can usually be stressful when going to the airport but with a meet and greet system whereby you leave your car for a member of staff to park it for you, we were all suitably relaxed as we headed to Pret a Manger for some refreshments. An eagle-eyed Neal spotted the manager-less silver haired Steve Bruce milling around, perhaps off to an interview or just enjoying some time off.
Upon arrival in Bilbao we quickly dumped our stuff off at our respective hotels and went to collect our race packs at the small but very busy Expo. An Italian Restaurant served me the largest pizza I’ve ever had before retiring for the evening.
An all you can eat buffet was presented to us Saturday morning, but with our races in the evening it was a trade-off between eating enough but not too much. A much-anticipated walk around some of the course to get our bearings including the start via the stadium club shop and checking out my 10km turn off point gave me some reassurance before a quick refuel at subway and a couple hours of rest followed.
18:35 and a sensible warm up was in order. The streets were now filled with runners bringing even more variability to an already multi architectural city. 18:50 and I lined up at the very front of the first pen alongside a mix of 10km, half marathon and marathon athletes. Just in front of me was a very small section assigned to some elite athletes that were competing. A quick glance to my left and a male runner sporting a USA vest greeted me…perhaps I was too far forward? However, I’ve been the victim of being too far back before so made the decision to stay where I was. 19:00 and after a false start (because of the commentator explaining what the countdown of 10 to 1 would sound like!!!) we were off.
This wasn’t a goal race for me and I opted not to wear my newest piece of running kit, a heart rate monitor, so I was free to run to feel throughout. An opening mile of 5:14 was aided by the usual eccentric optimism, amazing crowd support which continued pretty much throughout and a negative overall gradient. I found myself leading a group for a couple hundred meters but by this point the elite marathon runners were already into the distance. Incredible! The next four miles were a mix of continual straight roads, gentle rolling hills and long slight inclines and declines. I decided not to look at my time at half way but did see that my watch mileage was slightly over so I knew to bare this in mind when it came to the finish. My mile splits increased progressively but position wise this fluctuated throughout. As I entered the final stage not knowing my time at all, I still felt like I could maintain a good pace. I hadn’t hit any sort of wall nor was any part of my body screaming at me to stop immediately. The 10km turn off point couldn’t have been any clearer and there were still marshals there directing runners to either carry on or peel away. Of the group of 6 or 7 people that I was running with at the time, only myself and one other were running the shorter distance. I hope the others got the half marathon times they wanted. As for me it was 200m of downhill followed by about 400m of straight flat road, ending with a sharp left-hand turn. The sixth mile came up as 5:39 – I’d managed to dig in and get back to the pace I’d shown early on. Umm does that clock really say 34:40? If I can sprint the final few meters in less than 20 seconds I’ve got a sub 35 time here…and despite losing a position in a sprint finish, and for those who know me well that would usually hurt a lot, I couldn’t care less as I left everything out there and achieved an unexpected PB of 34:48. The official results showed that I was 25th out of just under 5,000 finishers, the second non-Spanish and first British finisher. I cooled down via cheering on our SRC half and full marathon runners including my wife Georgina and a late evening celebratory three course meal felt well deserved.
Sunday and Monday morning were great fun exploring and learning about the city. The roads were cleared up so quickly you wouldn’t even have known a race took place at all. Thank you to Neal for organising, to all SRC members who helped make this weekend a success as well as the first class organisation of the race officials. I’m looking forward to seeing the location of next year’s abroad event, however personally I wouldn’t mind having another go at this one!
I maybe a tad biased but I personally thought that the SRC trip to Bilbao was a massive success.
The race itself was extremely well organised with a great atmosphere all around the course which looped around the river and the City Centre. We were greeted with fireworks at the start as we made our way around the impressive San Mames (Athletico Bilbao football ground). The 7pm start meant that we were soon running in the gloom and it made a nice change to be running a race in the dark even though the temperature was still rising. This peaked at 20 degrees before returning to a more comfortable 17 at the finish. Unlike Berlin the signs on the split before the 10K Fun Run (only joking Ben) and the Half Marathon were extremely well marked and marshalled I was so impressed by this I said so to a fellow runner “Now that’s what I call a 10K sign youth ! in my finest North Notts accent”. Unsurprisingly he looked at me blankly. On a personal note I put in a pretty steady Half Marathon time as for some reason I struggled with my pace and only really got going on the second half of the course. The only minor compliant I would make was that the course was slightly congested and I had to dodge around a lot of people throughout the race. It would be churlish to criticise other runners for being in the wrong pens as our own party were also guilty of this. However I could have done without a group of runners linking arms on the home straight as my strong finish was somewhat ruined by me practically running into the back of them and stopping.
On crossing the line I wandered back to the hotel and cheered on the marathon runners including Tim who looked so relaxed he had time to inquire about my time as he passed me. I was delighted to read of all the various PB’s logged when I checked on social media later and a good race was had by all. A special mention here for the svelte figure of Brett Hull who somehow now manages to balance competitive pizza eating with all his triathlon training and as a result logged a ridiculous Half Marathon PB.
In respect of Bilbao itself it made the perfect place for a weekend away as by the time we left at Monday lunchtime I think we’d ticked most boxes. Most of Saturday seemed to be spent looking at the course and the 10K split whilst on Sunday Carol acted as tour guide and took us around the old town after a trip up the mountain on the funicular cable railway in the morning. Monday morning we did the bus tour and after looking at the Guggenheim Art Museum from absolutely every single angle it was time to go home. So as I started this mini report the trip was a huge success and I’m pleased to report after my Berlin fiasco with the course I only embarrassed myself once on this trip. This came in a restaurant on the Sunday when I bounced off the toilet door believing it to be locked and announcing this to the rest of the party before a local then went up and smoothly opened the sliding door to the toilets much to the hilarity of everyone else. Look out for more SRC trips next year all suggestions welcome.
My plan for this race was just run how I feel, and attack towards the end if I think a PB was in sight. I set off in starting pen 5 which meant a few nervous minutes wait before the other 4 set off before me. The start is a loop round the San Mames stadium, with a live band and an amazing display of pyrotechnics just after the start. This really got the adrenaline going and I was soon running past the city’s landmarks. It seemed liked practically all the locals had come out in support as we were cheered on at every step by a very enthusiastic crowd. The course is undulating but the crowds and live bands dotted throughout made for a very special atmosphere I’ve not experienced anywhere else. It wasn’t to be a PB day for me. However I crossed the finish line at the Guggenheim very satisfied at having run a night race with a very unique atmosphere, fireworks, live bands and great support from the locals.
My first trip away with the club! This was my first trip away with Sheffield Running Club and I took my husband along for the trip. The team made him feel welcome part of the group. We had a great time, it was well organised from start to finish, the other club members helped us find what we needed from the hotel to the collection point for our race numbers and other useful landmarks, the entire weekend was a team effort. I will definitely be going on one of these trips again. Bilbao was a lovely place to visit and the race itself was also well organised, we were well informed. Great time had by all!