Tag Archives: marathon

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (book review)

MurakamiHaruki Murakami is Japanese writer of World fame. Murakami happens to be a consistent runner since the early 1980s, about the same time as he went full-time with the process of becoming a professional writer. “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” (2007) is an autobiographical book in which the author not only explains what running means to him but also how he turned from running a bar to becoming a writer, from being a rather sedentary person to training about 60 km weekly, running at least a marathon a year for over 25 years, etc.

Murakami draws some parallels between running and writing:

  • Stop right at the point when you feel you can do more, both when writing and running. As he says to keep going you have to keep the rhythm, the most difficult part being starting and setting the pace.
  • The most important qualities for a novelist after talent: focus (“the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment”) and endurance. These two can be applicable to practically every profession (e.g. “The Focused Leader” by Daniel Goleman at HBR).

There are some other passages that drew my attention while reading the book that I want to share:

Nobody remembers what stupid things I might have said back then, so they’re not about to quote them back at me”. (Think now about today’s social media)

“I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.”

“Have you ever run sixty-two miles in a single day? […] I doubt I’ll try again, but who knows what the future may hold. Maybe someday, having forgotten my lesson, I’ll take up the challenge of an ultramarathon again” (No need to tell me that)

“[…] Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one. I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them the best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.”

If you are a frequent runner it is quite easy to relate to the author in several passages (1). In my case, it has been from the races he has taken part in (New York or Athens marathons), to the experiences lived in a 100 km ultra marathon, the thoughts or lack of them while running, the balance found in training, etc.

The book is rather light (about 180 pages in the version I have) and makes for a good reading, however, if he ever wins the literature Nobel prize it won’t be for this book. 🙂

(1) I guess that for a professional writer there may be several parts easy to relate to as well.

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Marathon d’Albi (2016)

Last Sunday April 24th, at the time that this post is being published I was in the departing line of the marathon of Albi, a French town in the South West of France, famous for its cathedral and the museum dedicated to the painter Toulouse-Lautrec.

My brother Jaime came with me to the marathon as support team, but this time I would race alone. I had subscribed to the race a few months earlier in order to force myself to keep up with the training.

And it did force me, but not that much. The typical training plan that I use to train for marathons consists of 16 weeks, with series sessions during the week and a long run each weekend. This time, I lacked the motivation to start head on with the planning and it took me about a month to start with the series training. From then on I more or less tried to keep up with those sessions.

On the other hand, the long runs went even worse. I didn’t manage to complete single run of over 30 kilometres or even 2 hours. The longest ones I did were of 21.1 km, half marathons, one training and one in competition (Blagnac semi marathon on March 13, training calendar week number 11, in 1h40′, a moderately good time).

Apart from that, on April 3rd, David, our second child was born. And just before and after that (training calendar weeks 12 and 14) I fell heavily sick, having to drop running alltogether for 9 and 10 days each time. All in all, I arrived to the race with just 530 km of training in the legs. About 200 km less than if I would have met the plan at about 80% (a moderately good completion that I have managed previous times). I knew I would pay for it. The question was how much I would pay and since when.


The marathon of Albi departs and finishes in the athletics stadium of the city. It makes an initial detour through the city center and then goes along the river Tarn for about 18 kilometres and back. Part of this route goes through small villages, part of it at the side of the river with wonderful views and part of it through 2 tunnels of 900 m and 400 m, both ways, a strange experience. Along the route there are some groups of villagers cheering the runners but the atmosphere is rather silent. There aren’t many runners neither: 362 at the departing line, a handful less at the finish line. This running event is mostly about you running by yourself along a small road by the river.

Albi The organization of the race had several pacers. I decided to start with the 3h45′ one, knowing that I would not be able to keep up with him until the end, but knowing as well that that pace (5’19” per km) was a comfortable one to start with for me (having finished several marathons in around 3h45′). And so I did. However, the pacer in question started running consistently below the target pace, despite of some remarks made to him by other runners in the pack. We went the first 12-13 kilometres at a pace of about 5’05” – 5’10” which is not much faster but enough to take its toll on you when you’re short of training. I therefore decided to let them go and soften my pace from the km 13. I still arrived at the half marathon at below 1h52’20”, the target pace for 3h45′. However, as you can see below from the kilometre 24 and especially the 29 I started to notice the lack of training, of long runs. The hill was coming.


After having completed several marathons and a couple of ultra marathons, the difficulty in keeping a pace or seeing the pace deteriorating did not bother me especially. I knew I would finish. I just didn’t know whether I would make 3h55′, 4h, 4h05’… I especially softened the pace between the km 34 and 39, where we encountered a couple of small climbs and supply posts and in the end I clocked 4h10’14” of net time, which is the worst time I have managed in the last 15 years, about a minute worse than what I did in Toulouse in 2011. It didn’t matter. I already knew at the departing line that it would not be the best marathon nor the second best or… I came in order to complete another one, to keep up with the running and to collect the prize of having pushed myself to keep training for the last four months, even if I didn’t quite manage it as I wished I had.

The best part of the race were the last 3 km, already back in Albi, when I stepped up the pace, thinking about the children and the last lap at the stadium that was about to come, where I met my brother again, who took some nice pictures, one of them I share below, indicating that this was the 14th marathon that I have completed so far.



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Toulouse marathon (2015)

Last October 25th, I ran the Toulouse marathon. It was the second time I completed this race; the first one being in 2011, then the first marathon I had run since 2001.

This year, like in 2011, I ran the Toulouse marathon after having run the 100 km of Millau one month before. In fact, I only decided to take part in it 2 months before the race. The main driver: within the programme I am working on in Airbus since July (A330neo), the marathon of Toulouse had been taken as a big collective well-being activity. Over 80 people from different teams ran the race; which can be completed in relays (teams of 4 runners where each one runs about 10km) (1) and individually.

At the end of August, running about 50 kilometres per week as training for Millau, even if not doing tempo and series training sessions, I decided that I could fairly run the Toulouse marathon after Millau, if I sustained no major injuries and did not care much about the time. So I subscribed.

The day before the marathon we had a photo session, distribution of A330neo t-shirts especially made for the occasion and the traditional pasta party on the eve of marathons. This one was a somewhat elegant dinner, consisting of buffet with different salad, pasta and desert options, organized at the top floor of the Mediatheque in Toulouse, with live performance of a flamenco group.

The race itself went rather well. In the weeks beforehand, I had been considering the starting pace: whether to go for a 5’20” per km or faster. The first pace leads to a marathon of about 3h45′ (a time around which I had already completed some and was comfortable with). After some testing training sessions I decided to be conservative and go with the 3h45′ pacers as long as I could keep up with them.

… and so I did until the kilometre 35. It was therefore a rather pleasant race. Always keeping myself to the rhythm set by the pacers, enjoying the route along the far North neighbourhoods of Toulouse, the music bands, etc. Entering back to the centre of the city, at about the km 33 I started to feel that the pace took more effort to keep and at the km 35 I decided to let go, and run the last 7 km, through the centre (the boulevards, the Jardin de plants, Alsace – Lorraine…) at a more comfortable pace. I estimated that in those last 7 kilometres I would not lose much more than a couple of minutes, that would not make any difference (it wouldn’t anyway be my best time nor the second in the distance).

Pace followed during the race.

Pace followed during the race.

In the end I completed the marathon in 3h47’13”, my fifth best time, the 4th time I finished in the time bracket between 3h44’30” and 3h47’13”. Thirteenth marathon completed (2).

Finisher diplome.

Finisher diploma.

Find below pictures of myself and of the A330neo team:

EVE-957-03-20151025-AT-MARATHON DE TOULOUSE-158

(1) I took that option of running the marathon in relay in the year 2013 as a preparation towards Athens marathon.

(2) See all the others in the section Races from the blog.


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Madrid Marathon (MAPOMA) 2015

“Happiness only real when shared”, Christopher McCandless (1)

On April 26 (2015) I completed my 12th marathon (2) by running the Marathon of Madrid, 15 years after having completed the first in the same place. My friend Jose and my brother Jaime completed there their 1oth marathon.

We have run together several marathons: Paris, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Rotterdam, New York, Sevilla… the fact is that we have not run any of those together from the start to the end (3). For these reasons we had decided in the previous days that this time, we would run it together from the beginning to the end, no matter what happened.

After the bad experience in Sevilla, I had found it difficult to find the motivation to train. However, a couple of weeks after Sevilla, I beat my personal best in half marathon and managed to complete a good mileage prior to Madrid. I thus felt that I arrived to Madrid in a good shape. On the other hand, Madrid hasn’t got the best profile to attempt a personal best.

Madrid marathon profile.

Madrid marathon profile.

Thus, we decided to take it rather easy. Our quick strategy was something like: run at about 5’20″/km the first climb (7km) then run 5′ till the half marathon, close to that pace till the entrance of the Casa de Campo (~26km), take it easy there, exit it and do the final 6km climb as we can… thinking we could finish in about 3h45′ doing that.

Madrid marathon route.

Madrid marathon route.

… and that is what we did. Give or take some seconds to the paces, and softening a bit more in the second half. Our final net time was about 4h02′, but you would have to discount about 9′ to have the time we were actually running as we had a rather long pit stop at km. 13. Discount those minutes and we would have been at some 3h53′, just a few minutes above the target.

Time splits.

Time splits.

My brother Jaime wrote a very detailed post here about how the race developed. I suggest you to read it.

The marathon in Madrid normally is rather hard. It was a pleasant experience this time. Running together with friends. Not being mentally pressured by the time. Running at home; knowing what would be after almost every turn, how long and how hard the climbs would be, where one could relax the legs… The rain, heavy rain at several moments, made it only better. More epic in a way. Helping each other in the last kilometres, cheering my fellow runners. And finally crossing the finish line, sprinting in the Retiro park where I have trained so often with Jaime. As he said to end his blog post,

It was an honour to run with you

(1) In a previous post, “Running in the Incles’ valley“, I described the joy of running alone in the mountains. I then compared it with what the experiences of Christopher McCandless, the man about whom the story of the movie “Into the wild” is based. I quote here one of his latest sentences.

(2) Not counting Millau in 2011 (100km) nor Sevilla 2015 (not completed).

(3) I completed Millau together with Jose in 2011, and I have completed several San Silvestre with Jaime.


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Maratón Popular de Madrid (2000)

Hace 5 años escribí unas lineas describiendo mi experiencia cuando en el año 2000 corrí mi primera maratón, en Madrid, la Maratón Popular de Madrid (MAPOMA).

El 30 de abril de 2000, tras varias experiencias corriendo por las calles de Madrid: olor a réflex un domingo por la mañana frente a la fuente de Neptuno, empezar a correr sin saber hasta donde iba a llegar, escuchar Carros de Fuego sonando desde un balcón de la calle Fuencarral, cruzar bajo el arco hinchable de la Puerta del Sol, los primeros dolores musculares en la Ciudad Universitaria, el saltarse las lágrimas con las caceroladas de los vecinos en la calle de la ribera del Manzanares, la soledad del lateral de la M-30, respirar el aire del pulmón de Madrid, ver el Paseo de los Pontones como una pared vertical desde el Puente de San Isidro, el Paseo del Prado, los últimos metros empedrados… mi primera maratón, MAPOMA (1). De nuevo por tus calles, Madrid.

A aquella carrera me inscribí porque unas semanas había visto por televisión la maratón de Londres (11 de abril) y pensé que no podría perderme una experiencia similar. Aparte de las líneas que he copiado arriba, de aquella experiencia tengo muchos más recuerdos bien grabados: un corredor que, viendo mi cara de sufrimiento, me paró en torno al kilómetro 37 para darme un pequeño masaje en las piernas; los paracaidistas de la BRIPAC descendiendo en la Castellana antes del comienzo de la carrera…

Hoy, 15 años después, de nuevo participaré en dicha carrera. Esta será mi cuarta maratón en la ciudad. Y tras una parada de 2002 a 2010, sera la 14a vez que tome la salida en una maratón.

El recorrido es parecido, aunque a lo largo de los años ha cambiado un poco. La dureza será la misma. Por otro lado, yo llego ahora mucho más entrenado que entonces, cuando apenas si preparaba la carrera y basaba todo en la creencia de que siendo joven y deportista podría acabar la carrera. Y de hecho la acaba, pero con mucho más sufrimiento y tardando más de una hora más que hoy en día.

Esta vez de nuevo correré con mi hermano Jaime y mis amigos Jose y Juan. Esperemos que por la tarde solo tengamos motivos para celebrar.

(1) Maratón Popular de Madrid (MAPOMA), 30 abril 2000, 42.2km, tiempo oficial 5:00:36; tiempo neto 4:59:23. [6083/6552, 93%]

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Marathon Sevilla 2015

“A marathon always offers you the opportunity to do something epic”, Jaime Irastorza (my brother)

After several dozens of races completed in the last years, including 11 marathons and an ultra, on February 22, a race hunted me down. In the last Seville marathon I DNF. I did not finish.

I wrote a post which was published on the morning of the race. In it I explained that I arrived to that marathon in my best shape so far. However, for me the race took place not on the Sunday 22nd February but on Saturday 21st.

I had put much illusion into the event: running in Seville, the attempt at beating my personal best time, being accompanied by family and friends…

On Friday afternoon we went to the marathon expo at the FIBES. There we retrieved our running bibs, got the confirmation that we could start the race together, took our official expo picture and by chance I met elite runner Pablo Villalobos (1), with whom I had exchanged some tweets in the morning.

That evening we had dinner out with friends in the downtown; plenty of different delicious tapas to share. We had some fun… though at the end of the dinner I started feeling weak, and I went back to the hotel instead of staying with the friends to take some drinks.

On Saturday morning I woke up with stomach problems and some diarrhea. I went to the pharmacy to get some pills and rested a few hours. I feared for the race the day after. The hours passed and I felt a little bit better so we went to have lunch with some 14 friends at Puerto Delicia.

Saturday's lunch with friends.

Saturday’s lunch with friends.

After lunch we went for a walk and I started to feel weak again. We went back to the hotel room. By about 18h, in the bed, I started shivering. During the following hour the fever went up and up. At 19h I reached out for the WC to vomit (such a pity of the previous meals!). I called my brother to ask if he could bring me some drinks and food to the room. By 20h he came with some Aquarius and bananas. 10 hours to recover before waking up time, 13 hours to the marathon start time. That was the start of my race during the night in order to take part of the event.

In the following hours I drank, ate and slept bit by bit, until 24h, when I finally put myself to get a long sleep (6 hours).

On Sunday morning at 6am I woke up on the clock alarm. I stood up and it seemed that I felt OK. With that check I went downstairs to have breakfast. I met there Jaime and Juan, who were happy and very surprised to see me there. After the breakfast we took a taxi and departed for the Stadium at La Cartuja, where we met Jose.

The day was sunny though a bit cold. Changing clothes, drinking a bit, seeing the thousands of runners going through the rituals before the race… that cheered me up.

Before the race.

Before the race.

At few minutes before 9am we went to our corral, 3h45’-4h. We chatted with other runners and with that we went off for a good run!

You can see here a good report of the marathon by my brother Jaime.

We went together for the first 13 kilometres. Our target was to run at a pace of 5 minutes per km. We alternated some at a somewhat higher pace with other at a slower pace. At km 7 we saw Luca and Andrea who greeted us from the hotel room.

Passing by the hotel at km 7.

Passing by the hotel at km 7.

By the 10km mark we were just losing some 40″ in relation to our 3h30’ target time.

Running at some point.

Running at some point.

After having drunk at a few supply posts I started feeling some pain in the stomach, like cramps. Something wasn’t working well. I told my brother and Jose to go ahead with their pace and forget about me. I wasn’t sure of the fate of my race. Ten minutes later, at km 15 I stopped at one of the WC cabins. I had to vomit everything I had taken. Not a good signal. I was emptying my reserves and not replenishing sugar nor minerals.

I re-started at a slower pace (~5:15) for some minutes and then decreased it later (~5’20”-5’30”). I passed the half marathon point in 1h52’01”, not a bad time. In theory that would point at a marathon time of around 3h50′. However, the feelings weren’t good.

At the km 22 I was feeling weaker and most important, I started to worry. After the last 24 hours, having vomited everything and not being able to ingest food and liquid, at some point I would run out of glucose. I feared that if I continued to run I would be risking fainting in any moment above around 2 hours. I pondered during some minutes whether to give it a try. “It doesn’t matter if you are well above 4 hours!” I had been there (in those times) before. I had completed other marathons in pain, injured. However, I thought this risk was more serious.

At about km 23 I had decided to quit. I would have other marathons to beat my best time. Other marathons to complete. Other marathon to run with Jaime end to end. But it would not be this one. I continued running softly, seeking out for a taxi. I found it at km 26.6… and then I stepped aside.

With that decision I put an end to my epic fight against the distance of that marathon that day. See the records of my Garmin watch below:

My Garmin data from Seville marathon.

My Garmin data from Seville marathon.

I regretted having quit not even a minute afterwards while seeing the runners along. I even saw Juan from the taxi… but thinking it over a few days later I think it was a good decision. In less than 2 months from that date and just 6 weeks from the date this post is published I will be running the Madrid marathon and there will hopefully be many other marathons to run.

The experience in Seville will teach me to appreciate even more the marathons completed, to value the good health enjoyed on race days so far, and to realize how difficult is to achieve and beat a personal best time… something you do not conquer the day after you have been sick. Nevertheless, I love the distance, the race, the marathon, and I had to give it a try. I tried some thing epic but it could not be.

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(1) He had placed 2nd and 4th in previous editions of the race. You can check out his blog here. By the way, for Pablo it wasn’t also the best day: he quit in km 26 too, his first marathon not completed, too.


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Buenos días, Sevilla!

At the time this post is being published, two friends (Juan and Jose), my brother and I are about to start the Marathon of Sevilla.

To prepare this marathon I followed the same 16-week long training plan I used for the previous two marathons (Rotterdam and New York). However, the 1st day of the plan was on November 3rd, just the day after we completed New York marathon. Thus, I took a week of full rest and another 3 of almost no running, and I started following the plan at full throttle only from week 5, beginning of December.

From December till February 15th (when writing this post) I have completed over 616km (650km including those few in November) in 11 weeks, or about 56km per week. I have completed about 20 sessions of series training, I ran 9 long runs over 17km (6 of them over 27km, 2 over 33km), I did not take part in any race but during training sessions I managed to clock my 5th best time over 10km and my 2nd best time over 21.1km (half marathon). I am close to the fastest shape that I have been in the last year, and have no doubt followed the best training season so far.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for Sevilla.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for Sevilla.

In between, I switched training shoes, so I will run with shoes with less than 150km though more or less used to the shape of my feet.

Back to the race. We will cover the 42.195km by running all around Sevilla. This marathon will be somewhat special to us since it will be the first one we will be running together all of us in Spain. It will also be special as both my brother and I lived for a year in Sevilla while studying and working (not simultaneously though).

It will start in Isla de la Cartuja (where we studied at EOI) to go South towards Triana and Los Remedios. At km. 4 will turn left to take Av Republica Argentina just 4 blocks where our cousin lives. We’ll cross the river and turn left to go along the river for about 8km, passing Torre del Oro, La Maestranza (bullfighting arena), Av Torneo all the way to the Puente del Alamillo (we’ll be passing the cinemas we used to go, places where friends used to live, etc). At km. 14 we’ll pass by La Macarena, where Jaime used to live. Shortly after we’ll take Luis Montoto heading towards the hotel we normally stay when on business, where more friends used to live, etc. Then we’ll take Kansas City avenue to the North for another 2km. Shortly afterwards we’ll cross the half marathon mark.

PlanoDetalleRecorrido_v2The next 7 km will cover parts of the city I don’t know that well, therefore it will be perfect time to focus on the pace, drinking and eating. At km. 28 we’ll take Luis de Morales street, where I use to train when on business in Seville. At km. 32 we’ll pass by the football stadium of Betis and then take the Paseo de la Palmera for 2km until Parque de Maria Luisa and Plaza de España, two of the most beautiful spots of the city (which I also go by when training in Sevilla).

From then on, the last 6km I guess that are going to be overwhelming: the race will go through the very centre of the city (the University, the Cathedral (La Giralda), the city hall, Av Constitucion, Tetuan, Trajano, Alameda de Hercules), by then it will be about noon and more people will be on the streets cheering the runners. Hopefully, by then, we’ll still be in good shape, fighting for the objective and enjoying the experience.

This tour through the centre will end at the Puente de la Barqueta to cross the river and cover the last 2km in Cartuja before reaching the Olympic stadium where world athletics championship of 1999 took place.

And what will be my objective? Since I mentioned that I arrive at this race with the best training so far (as does my brother), we’ll depart trying to stay with the pacer of 3h30′ all along the way and thus clocking a time under that mark, which for me (and possible for Jaime) would be a personal best. The race is quite flat and if the day does not turn out too hot, the conditions should help us to achieve that goal.

To support us along the race we’ll count with the direct families (Inma, Luca, Andrea), extended family, friends that come from Madrid explicitly to cheer us (Elena, Maicol) and possibly some others we may see along the race.

To end this pre-race post I leave you with the traditional picture by Jaime:


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