Tag Archives: training plan

Bucharest marathon 2022

Last Sunday, October 9th, together with my friend Juan and my brother Jaime, we traveled to Bucharest to take part in its marathon, with around 700 runners registered in the distance.

We picked Bucharest following our series of marathons abroad (to combine tourism with long distance running) that has taken some of us to run together in Paris, Berlin, Roma, Athens, Rotterdam, New York, Sevilla (x3), Madrid, Millau, Dublin (x2), Lisboa, Vienna, Krakow, Porto and now Bucharest.

To prepare for this marathon I followed the same 16-week training plan I had used in the past. Just before those 16 weeks of the plan, thanks to a running challenge we followed in the company, I cumulated ~240km in 4 weeks between end May and end June. Then I kicked off slow with the plan as I had some weeks in which I traveled due to family and work. In the end I arrived to Bucharest with less mileage (460km) in the legs in those 16 weeks than I would have liked. I trained quite well between August and especially September. In those 16 weeks I averaged 35km per week, completed 4 long runs (of 22km, 27km, 30km and 21km – with positive feelings especially in this last one) and a few sessions of series, though not enough of them to get a bit faster. I was confident in being able to complete the marathon in a time between 4h05′ and 4h15′ even if the final mark was uncertain.

The profile in Bucharest is rather flat. The organization prepared a circuit mainly composed of long avenues, allowing us to run at constant pace though there were up to eight sharp U-turns. The race started and finished in the Constitution square, in front of the iconic Parliament building. And we stayed the weekend at an apartment at walking distance from the place.

The temperature was mild in the morning, the sky was clear and it would be a bit hot towards the end of the race, though the temperature did not exceed 22°C. My strategy was to start at a pace just below 6min per km, and then, if I felt well, accelerate the pace at mid-race so that I could target a time below 4h15′. There were pacers for times aiming at every 15-minute mark and even though I did not follow any of them they were useful as references at every U-turn (i.e., I could see how far I was from each of the 4h00 and 4h15 pacers as I ran always in between them).

The bad news of the weekend was that my brother Jaime fell sick and by Saturday afternoon the throat ache he developed did not allow him to swallow without strong pain. He stayed in the apartment and finally took the decision not to take part in the race on Sunday, as in a marathon you need to constantly drink and eat.

The race started at 9:30am and we ran together with the participants in the half marathon and the relay race. That made the first half of the race a bit more crowded. For the first 13-14 kilometres Juan and I ran together, all the way up to the Arch of Triumph and down to the Romanian Athenaeum. Up until then we had averaged ~5’50″/km including a technical stop. Then, Juan softened his pace and stayed behind.

I kept my pace for a few kilometres including the stretch in the Cișmigiu Gardens where I found it difficult to run with the narrower paths (compared to the big avenues of the rest of the race) and the irregular ground. From the km 18 I increased the pace and averaged ~5’40″km in the next 13 kilometres until the km 30 mark. In that stretch we ran long kilometres by the Dâmbovița river, we passed the half marathon by the Parliament, we ran by the iconic Bucharest Fountains (by then we were no longer a crowd but a flow of isolated runners and some small groups)…

At the km 31 the race circuit went back to the Bulevardul Unirii, where we first turned to the East all the way to the National Arena (by the km 36) and then took a U-turn to head West back to the Parliament building. The circuit was quite straightforward in that last quarter of the race. There I felt the legs a bit stiffer, but I managed to keep a constant pace which was only slowed down at a supply post and a medical stop that made me lose some 30 seconds. I averaged 5’55″/km from the km 31 to the 41.

In all those kilometres I had seen the pacers of 4h00 not very far away and the 4h15 at increasing distances behind me. I started to make the numbers in my head and realized that I could well be somewhat below 4h05 and set that as an objective for the last kilometres, to try to run a faster marathon than my previous one in Sevilla.

The last 3 km of the race are superb. The race goes back to the Bulevardul Unirii and you have the view of the imposing Parliament building at the end of it, where you know that the Finish line is located. I kept my pace along the 40th and 41st kilometres and only gave it all at the last 1,200 metres.

In the end, I clocked a net time of 4h04’09”, a time better than what I expected and a bit faster (45″) than in Sevilla earlier this year (where I finished stronger but did a slower first half). Bucharest 2022 has been my 23rd marathon completed, easy to say today but not so on April 30th 2000 when I started in the distance in Madrid.

With those 4h04’09”, I was again above the 4-hour mark and finished in the 317th place out of 640 finishers (50% percentile). That time makes it my 9th worst marathon, though with a better time than the last three marathons and with a very positive feeling all along the race (for a second marathon in a row), thus, I am already thinking on getting again more serious with the series training to target a time under 4 hours in the next marathon, possibly next spring.

The organization of the race was great. The circuit showed a magnificient and beautiful city. They could have included some more water supply posts, but at least we could get water bottles to administer the water ingestion in between posts. I also missed some gels provided by the organization or more isotonic drinks; but with what they provided and the three gels I took I could manage the race well. The finish line was great, the wardrobe service was close to the start and finish line, there were even some puffs where to sit and rest by the finish area… It was a great experience.

Looking forward to the next race, that one with Jaime running with us again.


Filed under Sports

Athens Classic Marathon

I heard about the modern Athens Classic Marathon from Antonio, a colleague at the office. Ever since, I had wanted to take part in it. Last week, two friends (Jose and Juan), my brother and I completed it.

In a previous post I wrote about the legend of Pheidippides and the origin of the modern marathon. In this post I will focus on my experience and will share some of the pictures that we took during this trip.


Volume of kilometres run per week.

Volume of kilometres run per week.

To prepare for this marathon I followed a 16-week training plan provided by Garmin (Level II). Each week it included between 4 and 5 days of running and often 1 day of cross-training. I fulfilled most of the plan, missing not more than two or three days of running and some more of cross-training. I did not skip any series session or long run. In all, I ran over 780km in those weeks, excluding the 42km of the race (an average of just over 50km per week).

During this training season I beat my 10k and half marathon personal records. I had not experienced any serious injury that prevented me from training during whole weeks or months as it had been the case in previous years. According to a running calculator that I use sometimes, had the race been in similar conditions as those 10k and half, I should have been around 3h30′. The profile and conditions were not the same, and despite of that I started with a pace towards 3h30′ just to see how far would I reach maintaining it and if I could be under 3h45′, thus achieving a new PR.

The day before the race we went to the marathon expo which was held at the Taekwondo pavillion of the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens. This way we also visited the beautiful small port at Piraeus close to Faros (just past the Stadio Eirinis & Filias, where Olympiakos bastketball team plays).

At the marathon expo.

At the marathon expo.

Before the race

Marathon beach.

Marathon beach.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the race goes from the village of Marathon to Athens, replicating the route followed by Pheidippides to announce the victory of Athens in the Battle of Marathon. The Persians landed at the bay of Marathon in their attempt of invading Attica, thus Marathon is almost at sea level.

From Marathon, the race goes South more or less parallel to the sea-line for about 17 kilometres and then heads to the West to climb up the hills before the valley where the city of Athens is located.

Route of the Athens Classic Marathon.

Route of the Athens Classic Marathon.

The last part of the race is a descent from the hills to the centre of Athens where the Panathinaiko stadium is located. But by then, the damage is already done to the legs after a long climb.

Profile of the Athens Classic Marathon.

Profile of the Athens Classic Marathon.

The morning of the race, we were transported from Syntagma square to Marathon by dozens of buses early in the morning to be able to start at 9:00. Everything ran smoothly (in that and many other aspects the organization of the race was superb).

We changed clothes in Marathon, where we could take some pictures, go to the toilet, warm up and slowly get into the racing mindset.

Urinaries panoramic view.

WC panoramic view (at Marathon, picture by Jose).

We took one group picture and set for the departing line.

Pre-race group picture.

Pre-race group picture.

The week following to the race I went back to Marathon to visit the place with time and see the different spots (some of the pictures in the post are from those other days).

In the village of Marathon there is a small athletics stadium at the end of the national road from Athens to Marathon.

The 1896 Olympic marathon race started at “… the brigde at Marathon Plain”, or “… at the bridge near the entrance of the sacred city”, according to “Olympic Games 776 B.C. – 1896” by A. K. Bech, or “… The starting point will be at the 40th stadion on the Marathon – Athens national road”, according to the Athens daily “Olympia” on March 9, 1896 (as can be read in the milestone below). That point, the “40th stadion” of that national road, is marked by the milestone below.

Today, the Athens Classic Marathon starts a bit ahead at the mid-point of what is now a kind of majestic avenue at the beginning of which one can find a marble stone indicating the starting point of the olympic race, a milestone indicating that 40th stadion, and the tower where the Marathon Flame is lit after being brought from the Marathon Tomb (just 5km away).

1896 Athens marathon start

1896 Athens marathon start

40th stadion milestone

40th stadion milestone

Marathon flame tower.

Marathon flame tower.

Boston 2013 marathon memorial bracelet.

2013 Boston marathon memorial bracelet.

Just before the race start we observed 1 minute of silence for the victims of the attack at the Boston marathon earlier this year. This minute counted with the presence of president of the Boston Athletics Association. That was the 3rd such minute I had observed as during my honeymoon trip I had taken part in two races in the USA, in San Francisco and San Diego, from which I got the memorial bracelet that I wear often lately.

The race

At 9:03 our group departed and there we went my brother and I trying to pace ourselves at a bit less than 5′ per km. That was comfortable for the flat part at the beginning. Another positive point of that beginning: with less than 10,000 runners taking part the running was possible from the start.

Milestone of the km 1 of the Athens Classic Marathon Course.

Milestone of the km 1 of the Athens Classic Marathon Course.

The course of the marathon race is marked, not only by ad-hoc signals for the race, but by permanent posts along the road, such as the one of the picture for the first kilometre.

At about the km. 5 the course takes a small detour from the national road to round the commonly known as Marathon Tomb, or Marathon Tumulus, a park with a small hill where each year the Marathon flame is lit. Close to the park entrance, there is a small statue of Miltiades, credited as the one devising the tactics to defeat the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.

Statue of Pheidippides km. 18.

Statue of Pheidippides km. 18.

At the return from the tomb, already 6km had been passed. The road continued to be flat until about the 11th km, where the road started to pick up until km. 16, where there is a short and steep descent up until km. 17.

At the km. 18, there is a small statue of the legendary Pheidippides. From then on the road continues to climb more or less continuously until km. 31.

Up until the 20th km I was still at the pace of 3h30′, but in the beginning of the climb I was already feeling that it was going to be very tough to run kms at below 5’50”.

I have checked the Garmin records afterwards and I had already surpassed 167bpm at some points by the km 20th, which experience tells me that is the barrier that makes me feel fatigued.

Statue of a runner at km. 21.

Statue of a runner at km. 21.

During the race, not having read about heart rate, just by the feelings I had I decided to forget about the time and continue the climb at a more comfortable pace. With that, the 3h30 and the sub 3h45′ were gone. In the end I completed the race in 3h53’18”, but the profile nor the day (temperatures from 14ºC to 21ºC, on the hot end) were the best to attempt a PR.

At the km. 21 there is another statue of an anonymous runner.

I crossed the half marathon at slightly over 1h47′, but knowing that the following 10km would take about a full hour and not knowing how I would be for the remainder 11km.

The heat of the day called for lots of hydration, and at that point the organization was again terrific, with water posts every 2.5km and with isotonic drinks in most of the posts, plus energetic gels in some of them.

One hour later, and having reached the top of the hill I remembered the sentence one of us had read describing the race “from km. 31 you can fly down to the end”. Well, I was not fit for flying. When I tried to speed up I felt muscles starting to cramp, thus I couldn’t run any faster than 5’45”, which I tried to keep, drinking and eating well at each supply post.

Panathinaiko stadium from Acropolis.

Panathinaiko stadium from Acropolis.

Once in the centre of Athens, there were still some 3-4 kilometres to cover. I kept myself just for the last kilometre where the atmosphere close to the stadium was great, starting with the descent by Irodou Attikou street.

The last turn to the left, climbing up the ramps to enter the Panathinaiko and covering the last meters inside the stadium was overwhelming. One of the best marathon endings I can recall.

See in the panoramic below a view of how the stadium looked that day.

Panathinaiko stadium panoramic view.

Panathinaiko stadium panoramic view (picture by Jose).

I remembered then when I first visited Athens back in 2002. That time, we visited the stadium and took some pictures as if running in those tracks. Now, 11 years later, there was I, sprinting to complete the Athens Classic Marathon (my 10th), where it all began, no less.

2013 Athens marathon medal

2013 Athens marathon medal

Post-race groupe picture.

Post-race group picture with a great marathon team! Juan, Jose, me and Jaime.


Filed under Sports, Travelling

Paris 2012: my first sub-4-hour marathon

During 2000 and 2001 I ran 3 marathons in Madrid. The best time I achieved then was just slightly above 4 hours, 4:00:41. Then I didn’t train much for them and I paid for that during the races.

Running in Paris (@ km ~26)

Last Sunday, in Paris, I ran together with my friend Serna and my brother Jaime my 5th marathon. For this one I had a training plan to go through for 17 weeks. That training plan amounted to over 1,100 km running, and a series session per week. I started a bit late with it, then I had trouble in the adapation to the new soles, injures… in the end, during the last 4 months I ran almost 500 km, or about 45% of the plan and did only 5 days of series.

Even if I was under trained, I managed to recover from the injure about 2 months before the race. I run as much as I could during the weeks following the recovery: 330km in 7 weeks, including 4 consecutive Sundays with a run over 20km in each of them.

The result: I completed Paris marathon in 3h45’35”, just at my target time before starting. My first sub-4-hour marathon. You can’t imagine how happy I am for that.

Some curiosities related to the race. You may find the route we followed in the diploma below. Some of the views while running were superb (Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Les Champs-Élysées, Place de la Bastille…), even if when running a marathon you don’t get to enjoy much the views. In the diploma you will see as well two times and positions. This is due to the fact that it took me 11 minutes to reach the starting line. Positions are calculated taking into consideration net times (deducting time to starting line, “real”) and arrival order (“official”).

Paris 2012 diploma.

You can also see below a small graphic prepared from the info recorded by my Garmin. There you’ll see how until km. ~29, I managed to run below my target pace to achieve 3h45′ (that was 5’20” per km). There are some kilometers before km. 29 in which it took longer, that is due to stops (“WC”) or slowing down to take drinks at every 5km. From km. 30 it was hard to maintain paces even below 5’30”. In the last 12km I burnt the 2-minute buffer I built in the first 25km.

In order to keep the rhythm in the last kilometres, it is extremely important not only the long runs (I got the one and only “muscle warning” at km. 39) and the series training, the famous Yasso’s to keep “speed” and endurance.

Pace (mm:ss) per km.


Filed under Sports