Winter in Europe is almost over and what better way to celebrate the promise of spring than with a marathon in Spain?
We did just that with the Zurich Maraton de Sevilla 2016! We hopped on a Ryanair flight from the Brussels South Charleroi Airport to Sevilla on a Thursday evening. The flight took two and a half hours and we landed in balmy weather at Aeropuerto de Sevilla. We had a choice of taking a 25 euro cab ride for 25 minutes or a 4 euro bus ride to the old town for 45 minutes. We took the mass transportation option and got off at the sixth stop, Torre del Oro. We walked about 700 meters to get to our home for the weekend.
EME Catedral Hotel is a luxurious accommodation right in front of Cathedral de Sevilla and Giralda Tower. Two glasses of champagne waited for us as we completed our registration and the concierge gave us a personalized tour of the hotel facilities. We were amazed at the conversion of an old building into a five star hotel. The architects really did an excellent use of space. Rooms on the same floor were not at the same level. You had to go up or down four to five steps to get to your room. Loved our room on the third floor with three small balconies overlooking the street cafes and restaurants. The only negative is that the locals and the tourists like to party deep into the night and the revelry filtered through the double glazed windows. The hotel staff was extremely young, hip, and beautiful. I wonder if they hired people older than 30?
The hotel seemed to have an unlimited supply of champagne. They also gave us a voucher for a free bottle of champagne if we dined at one of their restaurants so of course we couldn’t pass this up! We had margarita pizza and risotto mushroom at their Italian restaurant Ostia Antica.
The main goal on Friday after breakfast was to pick up my bib for the race. Yes, champagne was also served for breakfast!
Intrepid explorers that we are, we walked 27 minutes along narrow alleys and main roads to get to the main train station, Estacion de Santa Justa. Train schedules can be found here. We paid 1.40 euros each to get on the C4 line to Palacios de Congresos one stop away. We were there when the marathon expo opened at 10:00 AM so we did not have to fight the crowd.
The goody bag included two chicken soup in Tetra packs, two instant noodles, 1 Cruz Campo lemon drink in can, a New Balance Sevilla Marathon windcheater, and a 30% discount coupon for Compex merchandise. The finisher shirt was being sold separately for 10 euros. I already have way too many race shirts so I decided not to buy one.
I love to browse through the items available for purchase at the marathon expo. I get to see the latest running and fitness gear in the market. If I’m lucky, I am able to buy new stuff at a discount. The marathon expo did not do much damage to Richard’s pocket this time but I did get a new Kalenji race belt in pink, some Aptonia chews and magnesium tablets.
Bib in hand, we took the train back to the main station Santa Justa and this time took a cab for 7 euros back to the hotel. We walked around the vicinity and attended mass at the Capilla Mayor of the Cathedral de Sevilla at 6:00 PM. Even though the mass was in Spanish, some of the words were similar to Tagalog and Waray and the order of the mass is universally the same anywhere in the world.
The Cathedral de Sevilla is a massive church. The cathedral chapter in 1401 decided to build a church so big that those who see it will think them mad! Indeed it is the third largest cathedral in the world, behind Saint Peter’s in Vatican city and Saint Paul’s in London. You can read more about Sevilla on this site.
Saturday was a leisure day. I decided to do a quick run at the hotel gym while Richard went to the rooftop restaurant and took photos of the panoramic views.
After breakfast at the hotel, We walked along the nearby street in front of the Unibersidad de Sevilla and took our time at the Alcazar Palace and its beautiful gardens. Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be familiar with the gardens since they were used as the locations for some of the scenes.
We bought some water and yogurt at the corner store MAS which, according to the concierge, was hard to miss since it is in front of the red church. The red church turned out to be the Iglesia de El Salvador, a former mosque and now a Baroque Roman Catholic church. The square outside the church was packed with all sorts of people drinking and socializing in the middle of the day.
We attended another mass in Seville at the Iglesia de El Salvador at 8:00 PM on Saturday. We got there just when a wedding ceremony was ending. Richard took some photos of the vintage Citroen bridal car and the scenes outside the church where a pair of beautiful flamenco dancers was performing for the crowd.
It was Sunday morning before we knew it. Breakfast was not served until 8:00 AM so I just ate my favorite chocolate bread from Carrefour and got dressed for the race. We were out on the streets waiting for a cab at 7:15 AM to take us to the start line at Cartuja but it was tough to get one. The street outside our hotel was littered with runners trying to do the same thing. We found out later that half the cabs were off the streets because of the marathon. We ended up sharing a cab with another Spanish couple and gave them 10 euros as our fare share.
We arrived at the start line with plenty of time to use the porta potties and get to the correct corral. The early morning was nippy at 9 degrees Celsius. I wore my Adidas wool running shirt, a garbage bag and a Nike jacket to keep me warm. I also wore my neon Craft running cap and a Brooks beanie. The Zurich Maraton de Sevilla is a bronze IAAF race which categorizes it as a mega marathon in the league of Venice Marathon and Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes. The race was capped at 13,000 runners with a 6-hour time limit. At exactly 9:00 AM, the start gun went off and the elite athletes were off and running.
It took about 4 minutes before the general masses and weekend warriors like me reached the starting line. I intended to take advantage of the generous time limit so I eased into an easy rhythm right from the start. The aid stations were spaced 5 kilometers apart. They had water and the Aquarius sports drink. Bananas and oranges were available at the 25 Km, 35 Km, and 40 Km aid stations. Sponges were also available to cool people down, especially when the temperature reached 24 degrees Celsius by noon. The Spanish spectators were kind and very encouraging. They shouted encouragements like “vamonos!” and “venga, guapa!” even if my face was covered up with my buff and sunglasses.
The race was billed as the flattest marathon in Europe and the course was indeed generally flat. We passed by some of the most popular tourist attractions along the route. I had to stop for a few beats and just gaze at the immense Plaza de Espana at the 37 Km mark. This huge square was used for some of the scenes for Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones. You can find more information about the race here.
The best part of any race is crossing the finish line. The Estadio Olimpico was a beautiful sight. Richard and I agreed he will wait for me at the hotel because of the difficulty of getting a cab in the morning. After getting my finisher’s medal, I continued walking through the finish area until I got out of the stadium. I had to ask for directions to the train station which, fortunately, was right outside the stadium. I took the train to the main station Santa Justa and grabbed a cab to take me back to the hotel.
Our Ryanair flight back to Belgium was not until 8:05 PM so we opted for a late check-out with an additional charge of 50 euros. I took a shower, got dressed, and ate a gelato before we were finally ready for the journey home. This time, we splurged on a 25 euro cab ride to the airport.