Lisbon Marathon

 

Where & When:

Lisbon, October 2017. I’d always heard great things about Lisbon and was looking for an excuse to go visit and find out for myself what one of the oldest cities in the world has to offer. It didn’t disappoint.

Why I ran this course:

When James told me he was heading out there in October with some friends and they had plenty of space in their apartment, I didn’t think twice to take the offer and run another marathon. James is an accomplished marathoner with a sub 3:00 time and a determination to keep chipping away at that time. I later found out that a friend of a friend would also be out there running the half, so a ‘runwithdai‘ to meet Laura before October was also on the cards.

The Course:

Starting outside of Lisbon in the area of Cascais the route initially heads west along the golf course before doubling back and heading along the coast towards Lisbon. Passing many towns and villages on the way, the course is a pleasant ‘point-to-point’ with stunning views and scenery to take in. There is a final stretch of about 10km or so that is rather challenging as it is along a long and straight dual carriage way through the industrial port area. Keeping focus at this stage can be a struggle! Generally the route is flat but dotted with little hills as you navigate the coast.

The Organisation:

Shocking. Considering it is one of the Rock ‘N’ Roll events, my expectations for efficient organisation was well off the mark. We queued for about 2 hours to collect our race packs the day before the race, Most of this time was outside in the blistering heat with no access to facilities. Upon getting inside the expo we were told to go to any counter and not bother going to the one corresponding to our number. What was the point then? It was no wonder the queues were so long, it was mayhem inside. runners everywhere, volunteers having to go all over the place to find the numbers from different counters. There was no order or control whatsoever.

I’d somehow been sent two different race numbers in the emails I’d received as confirmation to collect my race kit. So that was also confusing and the volunteer had to spend a bit longer determining which one was the right one. After figuring it out, and handing over the required documents, the volunteers were collecting the individual bibs, bags and other information/items individually and collating them together in the corresponding drop bag. No wonder it was taking so long! Why this wasn’t done in advance I do not know?!

We then had to re-queue for collection of the T-shirts, and much to our disappointment they had already run out of mens Small and Medium sizes. Again, what is the point of specifying your size only to be restricted when you go to collect? Quite disappointing as I’m sure the inclusion of a T is a factor for many runners to pay the entry costs for races?! Also worth noting that there was still over half a day of the expo to go and hundreds if not thousands of runners still outside queuing.

Come race morning, the trains to the start line were also massively crowded (perhaps more were needed?) and there was a completely insufficient amount of toilets at the starting line (which had an open space that was also too small) for the number of runners.

During the race the on route entertainment was in my opinion quite pathetic. The entertainment being one of the USPs for these Rock ‘N’ Roll events . the bands/DJs were either isolated in areas of no atmosphere or just not performing (I appreciate they can’t be performing non-stop all day, but I did get a sense of a lack of enthusiasm)!

All that, all of my gripes, though are insignificant to an experience a friend had on the half-marathon route – delays experienced in queuing to get to the start, for toilets at the start, and to begin the race meant he didn’t cross the start line until almost an hour after the race was due to start (despite him being on time!). This meant he was running midday in the blistering heat. Many of the water stations he reached had run out of water and runners were having to pick up discarded water bottles from other runners or buy from shops along the way. This is frankly dangerous. I provided my feedback to the organisers and never heard anything back. Regardless of the rest of my experience, I won’t be doing one of these events again that is for sure.

The Atmosphere/Support:

As the route runs from out of town towards, and into, Lisbon, the majority of the route has limited support. The support once entering Lisbon however was great and had a real party vibe.

My Race:

Training wise I was still in good form from the summer’s ultras. I’d recently started using some of the hills around where I live a little more so I didn’t do too much in the sense of long runs. A few additional hill training sessions closer to the event meant I was feeling quite strong.

Lisbon start
Pre-race smiles

As James was injured, he decided to not race his usual pace but to enjoy the weekend more in a relaxed way. Think beers and custard tarts the night before the run! He ran a slower race and I was able to stick with him for the first three quarters of the route (despite an urgent need for a toilet stop which I had to then play catch up on). It was like having my own personal pacer which was a great help. We stayed ahead of the 3:15 pacer for the majority of the run, however, after James had left me for dust (around the 20mile mark) the pacer caught up with and passed me. Surprisingly he was alone and had lost the huge gang who’d previously been tracking him.

Approaching the finish line I made the last mad dash as I saw the inflatable finish arch in the distance, hoping to hit the sub 3hr 15 time. Oh how wrong I was, after reaching the arch it turned out to be nothing more than a sponsor’s advertisement and I still had a few hundred meters(3 sides of the Praca do Comercio) to run before reaching the actual finish line. My sprint finish ended up being a finishing wobble. Despite everything, I’d come in with a new PB, a big chunk taken off my previous best from earlier in the year. I was smiling at last.

The goodies:

A wrong size T shirt a banana and a medal that looks like it was the result of a children’s design competition. Can you tell I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the event?

Time/Standings:

  • 3:15:52 (PB)
  • 272 / 4673

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