Father Christmas and the unexpected Jean Bouin race

The last thing that I expected was to be entering a race within a week of moving to Spain. In fact I had thought that it would not be very sensible at all! In my mind my season had finished after a great race in Leeds on November 6th. The plan was to take two weeks easy while we got ready to move and then to start building the mileage for marathon training. Even on Thursday I hadn’t considered racing. After taking Josh to school I discovered some amazing mountain trails that surround Girona. One of the things that I love most about running is exploring new places to run. After about 4 miles of steady climbing I came to a beautifully bright blue painted stone seat with a few plaques remembering those that had passed on. I stopped to take in the view, the sun was beaming through the clouds and the back drop of the Pyrenees was spectacular. I wish I had taken my phone to capture it to share! It was so peaceful and I had the place to myself. I only came across a couple of mountain bikers as I was on the decent. I could have gone on exploring but I knew that I still had to run across the old town to get home. It ended up being a 10 mile run. In the afternoon I did a 5 mile threshold run along a flat sandy trail that goes all the way to the coast. It used to be a railway line. This path will be my equivalent of the Bristol to Bath Cycle path but with a better view! It was on Thursday night that I had the call about the race.

For those of you that are runners you will know that most of the time training is organised and races tend to be planned well in advance (well normally more than 2 and a half days in advance). If I was intending to do a race on a Sunday I would make sure that the Thursdays session would not be too taxing and it would definitely not consist of running up a mountain and then doing something speedy in the afternoon! When first asked I had said no and explained that I had just moved, it had been stressful and very tiring and I hadn’t planned to race quite yet. Appearance fees then got offered and the race was only going to be 10km and I do love to race. I asked if Rich and Josh could be put up in the hotel too and the following day it was all confirmed. We were heading to Barcelona at the weekend for the Jean Bouin 10km race (or so we thought). Bruce Tulloh my coach informed me that this was a classic race and that he had won the Jean Bouin race in Marseilles 50 years ago!

First we had a Christmas Fair to attend which was teaming with activities. A big array of stalls, festive foods, ginger bread decorating for the kids, face painting and the famous Father Christmas (which Josh was very excited about!). It was a great morning meeting lots of new people. Rich had a crash course in Catalan counting, offering to help sell teas, coffees and bacon butties as the team behind the food counter were rushed of their feet! It was then time to head on to Barcelona where the adventure began.

We found the athletes hotel fine and were given our room key. We trudged up to our room feeling tired, upon arrival we saw that the promised room with the double bed and the extra bed for a ‘nino’ (child) had no extra bed for the nino! We rang down and the staff said that they were sorry but there was no extra beds in the hotel and could Josh share with us. Rich explained that Josh kicks like a donkey and wriggles around in his sleep so there was no chance of that! We asked for extra blankets and pillows and made a bed for Josh on the floor which he was surprisingly happy about! Phew!

As I mentioned before runners tend to have routines especially pre race routines. For me I have breakfast 3 hours before a race so I was up nice and early for breakfast. The race was due to start at 9am so we arrived at 7:45am to give ourselves lots of time to collect my race number and timing chip. I had been told that I had number 45 and that it would be in the VIP area by the start. We found our way there and were told to go somewhere else and after being sent backwards and forwards a number of times there was no sign of my number, I need to learn some catalan running vocabulary! I have since written a list to learn for next time! Eventually I got told that there was a different race at 11.20am for the professional runners and that I was in that one. I was really hoping that they were right as the clock was ticking and I was anxious to be getting warmed up if I was due to be racing at 9am. We took their word for it and made our way back to the hotel. 9am came and went and so did the Jean Bouin 10km race. At our hotel I ate some more and after searching high and low on the internet we found more details about the professional race one of the details was that it was not a 10km race it was 6.6km! I was glad to have found that out before the start!

We made our way back to the race at 10am. There were lots of happy faces of hundreds of people who had all completed the 10km race. I was really hoping that I was due to be in the professional race and hadn’t just missed out! We found the VIP area again and I was sent to a table where numbers were laid out. Woohoo number 45 was there! What a relief! Despite number 45 being a number with the mens race colour on an organiser put his arm around me and said ‘tranquillo’ and then acted out running with fast feet. I took that to mean that I just needed to run fast!

I felt a lot better with my number pinned on and got into the zone with my usual warm up routine. Announcements for each woman racing were made and although I didn’t understand much I did understand that at leat 5 of the ladies were olympians. ┬áThe man on the microphone was saying ‘olympica’ very enthusiastically! By this point I was not phased I was just pleased to be in the right place with my number on and I was ready to race which is what I love doing. The fact that I had just had 2 easy weeks didn’t worry me either. I was ready and I was just going to do my best to hang on! I was just going to race this and forget looking at my watch to check for pace.

The gun went and off we went with the men too. The men were doing 3 laps and the women were to do 2. After about 400 metres it became apparent that the race was going up hill. We left winding all the way up to the top of Montjuic and then it was downhill until we got to the start of lap 2. The fact that it was up and down a hill twice worked in my favour as the distance is a bit short for me. I might have been left for dust if it was flat. I was in third position in the second lap but didn’t have quite enough in the tank as a girl overtook me in the final third of the uphill. I have never felt so out of breath running downhill to try and close the gap. I finished in a not too shabby 4th place. Despite all the stress and confusion pre race I am so pleased to have done it. It’s in moments where things are thrown out of routine that I remind myself of past races where there have been plenty of obstacles. The Toronto Marathon which I ran representing England was one of them. We were faced with jet lag, freezing conditions so we had to wear things that we hadn’t practised wearing in training and a number of other obstacles and yet I still had a good race there. I often use that race as a reference point to come back to.

They love a trophy here in Spain so despite not being in the top 3 I still got a great trophy! Josh was pleased! The winner got 4 trophies! We were well looked after and Josh and Rich enjoyed munching on the baguettes and complimentary drinks while I raced. I also picked up a Jean Bouin t-shirt for Bruce as a moment for his victory 50years ago!

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