Race Report: Andrew Williams

Event: Madrid Marathon
Date: 27th April 2024

In an attempt to get some spring sunshine and a weekend away, I entered the Madrid Marathon and embarked on a short and insufficient training block. The trip, which took place in late April, got off to a bad start in that one of my two supporters who were joining me failed to get a passport in time which reduced us to a party of two; this proved to have a consequence on the race itself as I felt more obliged to stay out later and have a few too many beers on the Saturday night immediately before the race…oops.

Alas, the day of the race itself was bright and sunny and armed with a grande latte from Starbucks I embarked on the 2 mile walk to the start line – it was at this point I realised that Madrid was not a flat city and I may have underestimated the challenge that lay ahead. The marathon itself is part of a wider event that also includes a half marathon which started at the same time as the marathon and a 10km which I was fortunate to see the climax of as I was making my way to the start line. One last toilet stop and I managed to locate my starting corral alongside the 3.45 pacers (ambitious!).

The race forms part of the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ running series which essentially meant that there was lots of loud music throughout; crossing the start line whilst ‘Highway to Hell’ blared out, certainly felt appropriate given what was to come. The first 5km took us north out of the city passing Real Madrid’s stadium ‘The Bernabeu’ and was almost exclusively uphill. The fact that the half marathoners were running alongside us at the same time meant the course was incredibly congested and I was already slipping behind the Garmin ‘pace pro’ time.

The course then wound its way back into the centre of Madrid through tunnels, over bridges and past a huge number of cafes which looked incredibly enticing. Unfortunately, the only refreshments I was set to enjoy that morning were water, Gatorade and SIS energy gels. Just after going through 19km the half marathoners broke off leaving the course a lot less congested which was appreciated, however, at this point, with the sun beating down, it was beginning to get warmer and the first signs of feeling uncomfortable became apparent.

I struggled on to the 27km mark where there was a well needed drinks station where the Gatorade shuffle was enabled. I wasn’t the only one struggling with a fellow competitor stepping off the course and taking his number off at this stage. Quitting was not an option for me and I was grateful for the tree cover providing shade as we worked our way through the Casa de Campo before looping back towards the city centre via another massive hill.

It was as I went through 34km that the uncomfortable feelings began to manifest themselves and a decline became inevitable. A lone Portaloo came into view which was just what was needed and I was so pleased that I had thought to pocket some toilet tissue as I was leaving the hotel room that morning as it was well needed. Apologies must go to the runner who was waiting to use the Portaloo after me for I had just turned it into a biohazard.

The final 8km was all about staying alive as the sweat was starting to cause chaffing issues everywhere. I employed a tactic of walking up the hills and shuffling on the flats and down hills with a renewed aim of coming in under 4 and a half hours. I’m glad to say I achieved this with quite a few minutes to spare, partly due to the help of a man dressed as a pirate with a megaphone who forced me to sprint alongside him 300m from the finish line. After deposing of him as he went back to encourage another hapless victim I stumbled across the finish line and promptly vomited right in front of some spectators. Shrugging off the advances of the first aiders, I made a beeline for the goody bag and refreshments table in search of some water and a banana.

Despite being accosted by fellow runners who wanted me to take a photograph of them, I managed to get some food and also found my mate Paul. The 2 mile walk back to the hotel was less spritely than the walk to the start of the race and this time punctuated by a trip to McDonalds.

After a quick shower, it was time to tear up the town and drink as much Spanish lager as my depleted stomach could take, which turned out to be quite a lot. Hills were mostly avoided as we stuck to streetside cafes and rooftop bars with the odd strip club thrown in for good measure.