Our Barcelona marathon race review takes in the race itself as well as some funny and intriguing events. Discover where we went and what happened on our weekend trip to iconic Barcelona!
Barcelona is located on the north-east coast of Spain, in the province of Catalonia, right on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea - it even has a beach!
In 2023 the race was run on 19th March.
Arriving in Barcelona
We flew from Alicante up to Barcelona, a short 45 minute trip that would take over 4 hours by car. The approach takes you along the coast, where you get a great view of the city and beach if you are sitting on the right hand side of the aircraft!
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Checking out our neighborhood
We stayed at an apart-hotel quite close to the marathon start. When we arrived, it was all locked up, but there was a phone number to call. The guy on the other end gave us the code for the entry key pad, which gave us access to the entry area.
Once inside, we realized that the place was unmanned. We had to scan our passports at an ATM-like terminal, and our room key appeared in a little chute!
Once upstairs, we found the accommodation consisted of a nice lounge area and a separate bedroom with ensuite bathroom. Nice!
Our first move was to find the race expo, to collect our race numbers and bag of freebies. The expo hall was easy to find, and the entrance was clearly marked. The bag had a technical running shirt, an apple, a muesli bar, a small bottle of water, and a magazine all about the marathon. Nothing out of the ordinary!
The vendors on Las Ramblas ditching their gear
One of the most famous areas in Barcelona is Las Ramblas, a wide boulevard that runs down towards the sea. We headed out for a stroll, remembering that we didn't want to walk too far the day before our marathon!
As we wandered down the Ramblas, we watched street artists, inspected jewellery stalls, book stalls, and all sorts of food stalls. Finding a small bar, we sat down for a cold beer.
At that moment we saw a couple of street vendors with their wares laid out on blankets or sheets. They seemed to be doing a good trade in their souvenirs and knick-knacks.
Suddenly, they gathered up their stuff by quickly wrapping the blankets and sheets, and ran across the boulevard, dumping their load underneath bushes, before crossing the road to the far side. We were intrigued, and ordered another beer so that we could watch what was happening.
The men loitered around over the road, making calls on their cellphones. Then we saw the reason for their panic - two burly 'guardia civil' policemen came wandering past, bristling with sunglasses, guns, and smoking cigarettes. Obviously those vendors did not have the required paperwork or licences to sell on the Ramblas!
The Michelin starred restaurant
Our thoughts turned to the evening meal before the marathon. I had noticed a small Michelin starred restaurant opposite our apartment, and they had some vegetarian options that looked interesting.
I had never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant before, and felt that it would be fun to try - and it only had one star, so it wouldn't be too expensive, or so I thought. We booked a table for 7pm.
We went back on the dot of seven, and the place was about half full. We had a nice table off to one side, and waited for a menu. Instead, the waitress appeared with a roll of paper about two feet long. She showed me her suggestions, which numbered about 30, but all I could see was the total price at the bottom of the sheet - €250 !
I explained that we were running in the marathon the next day, and did not want much to eat. She seemed confused, but eventually let us order two dishes each, and a bottle of wine. The wine was ceremoniously opened by the wine waiter, and he poured a very small amount into each of our glasses before taking the bottle about 20 feet away to put it in an ice bucket.
We waited for him to bring the ice bucket to our table, but no, there it stayed, 20 feet away. We slurped the first swallow of wine, and the wine waiter shimmered into view with our bottle, only to pour another tiny amount into each glass. This was going to be a long evening!
Then the waitress delivered two small side plates, one for each of us, with what looked like a smudge in the middle. Putting on my reading glasses, I saw that it was some sort of vegetable mash, about the size of a teaspoon. How nice - this was obviously a small tapa to keep us amused while our meal was being prepared!
Unfortunately, we quickly realized that this smudge was actually the starter, when the main course turned up, only marginally bigger. It was obvious that all the meal choices were microscopic, but at the price of a normal full meal. We decided to bail out, and asked for the remainder of our wine and the bill.
We were stunned at how expensive the meal was, and then noticed that they had forgotten to add the wine; we quickly paid with cash and made a bee-line for the door!
The Italian restaurant full of runners
We obviously needed something more substantial to eat, and wandered around the corner to see an Italian restaurant about three-quarters full of people in track suits and running shoes, obviously fellow marathon runners loading up on pasta before the race.
We found a table and ordered a bowl of pasta each, with a bottle of red wine. It was just what we needed, and only cost about €20 in total - a much better deal!
Race day dawned clear and sunny but a little cool compared to our home base on the Costa Blanca. That meant an extra layer on top and long running pants rather than shorts.
After our usual pre-marathon breakfast of porridge with half a banana, we made our way out of the door, past the Michelin restaurant, and up to the start area. It was quite busy, with about 11,000 runners. We went to the rear of the start pack, and tried to keep warm while we waited.
The race organizers blasted 'Barcelona' by Freddy Mercury and Montserrat Caballé through the public address system as the race got under way - pretty impressive!
The Barcelona marathon route winds through the city, and takes in some of the highlights. There are some gentle hills going up and down, but nothing too steep. The longest climb is a gradual 2 mile run up to the finish!
It starts at Placa Espanya and heads north-west to the famous Camp Nou, home of Barcelona football club. After passing the football ground, the route turns East, then South towards the start area, then East again to go past the Casa Batilo (The Gaudi House), and then La Sagrada Famila church, still under construction.
The race then turns North east on a long out-and-back section, taking in part of the Diagonal, then along the coast parallel to the beach. After passing the Arc de Tromf the path heads past the Cathedral, down to the Monument a Colon, then back towards the finish, at the Placa Espanya again. There is a large park right there, with a view up to the castle the Castell de Montjuic.
Here is the official race route map.
The La Sagrada Familia was designed by Gaudi, and construction started in 1882, over 140 years ago. Close up, it was smaller than I was expecting, but so incredibly intricate and detailed, like a massive jewel.
The route also makes it's way out towards the sea, and a section runs parallel to the beach, although you can't see much from the road.
Out to the Hard Rock Cafe
After getting through the finish, we collected our finisher's medals, and walked slowly back down the half mile to our apartment. We had left a couple of beers in the fridge, and some energy bars.
After beer, showers, and lying on the sofa and the floor for about an hour, we felt recovered enough to set off for our little post-marathon routine - we always try to find a Hard Rock Cafe! Mogsy always has the salmon fillet, and Richard has the vegetarian burger!
The Barcelona marathon is a great event; it is very well organized, everyone is very friendly, and the route takes you past a number of Barcelona's highlights. It is a reasonably flat course, with a few gentle inclines. You can get a decent time if that is what you are after, and a fantastic weekend in one of Europe's greatest cities. Definitely recommended!
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