Having raced in two road marathons and two trail marathons this year you would think I should be getting the hang of this running lark. But the Lisbon Marathon at the beginning of October was to become yet another lesson in how running is a sport affected by so many variables that it can be almost impossible predict how you will perform on any given day. This is my race report and review.
Richard and Tanya had travelled out to Portugal a few days before us. They had also taken their daughter, Leia and enjoyed a few days of really hot weather in Cascais. Victoria and I flew out the day before the race and so had very little time to acclimatise.
Although it’s called the Lisbon Marathon, it actually starts in the very pretty town of Cascais, some 20 miles from Lisbon. We had rather a journey by metro and then train to get there. This was compounded by the seeming confusion of the locals as well as us as to how to buy tickets for the various journeys we needed to undertake. Suffice to say, we eventually made it to Cascais and walked to our hotel.
Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel
The Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel is lovely. We certainly struck lucky in booking it. A five star experience at a reasonable price. We were also lucky that our room had a beautiful sea view. Listen to me, I sound like a Trip Advisor review. But it certainly made for a better weekend away to be staying in such a nice place.
The morning of the race did not get off to a good start. I woke up with something in my eye. Usually these things shift after a shower or a bit of gently massage. However, on this occasion, whatever it was did not want to move and it really began to irritate me. All I could think about through showering, getting dressed and having breakfast, was my darn eye. It affected me really badly until I made a mental decision that it wasn’t going away and so I had to ignore it as much as possible.
We all walked the short distance to the start line. There was a running track next to the start which was being used to warm up on, so Richard and I did a few circuits before lining up. Apart from the eye problem I felt ok, certainly much fitter than I was for Paris and Milton Keynes.
Lisbon Marathon 2014
The first few miles heading out of Cascais were very picturesque and the running was lovely. Victoria filmed us starting and running past the hotel before she, Tanya and Leia jumped on a train to meet us at the end in Lisbon. I had considered tucking in behind the 3 hour 30 minute pacer, but he seemed to me to go off way too fast. I was trying to keep a steady pace of around 7 mins 50 seconds per mile, which is perfect pace for coming in under 3:30. I managed this for the first 13 miles. Then I did something stupid.
Much as I am a gadget geek, I am still not entirely sure of some of the settings on my running watch. It is set to log an auto lap every kilometre. I thought if I pressed the ‘lap’ button at 13.1 miles I would log my time for the half marathon. Instead it logged a kilometre split. So, suddenly my watch was giving me erroneous information. I spent ages trying to figure out if I could rectify the situation and pressed the lap button again a couple of times, which only made things worse.
Hitting the Wall
This, I think, had an effect on my confidence and concentration. Plus we were starting to run through the outskirts of Lisbon, which is not particularly pleasant viewing. There’s the railway line with factories and industrial buildings, the same as the outlying areas of any big city. Furthermore, I was finding the course particularly difficult. It was not flat but really rather undulating and this was having an effect on my legs.
Finally the weather. At the start of the day it had been cool. As the race the progressed and the sun rose in the sky it became warmer and then hot. I don’t think either Richard or I realised how hot it was until we had finished the race. I did not see Richard from the beginning of the race until the end, although that is becoming pretty standard! He’s younger and faster than me.
Push to the Finish
About a mile before the finish the 3:45 pacer passed me and at that moment I found the last ounce of strength I had to pick up the pace and make sure I got in under 3 hours 45 minutes. I finally crossed the line in 3:43:33. I’ve never been given an ice cream Cornetto at the end of a race before, but that was what greeted me at the end of the Lisbon Marathon. I couldn’t eat the cone and the ice cream was quickly melting which turned it into a rather warm, creamy drink. One thing we can all agree on is that the race bling is huge. It is without doubt the chunkiest medal I have yet to receive after a race.
Richard finished in 3 hours 28 minutes and agreed that those last 6 miles were very tough in the heat. It was not your average road marathon and not what we expected. I cooled my legs off in the fountain water and got changed in the toilets of a nearby cafe. Just to add insult to injury, on the next table to us in the cafe was a group from a running club in Manchester. They were all drinking huge glasses of beer and looked like they had just been for a stroll around the city. Turns out three of them had just run the marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes. I hate good runners!
Could Do Better
Despite the conditions, I am disappointed with my Lisbon Marathon time. I am better than 3:43 regardless of hills, heat, messed up Garmin times and a sore eye. I should have done better. But I am still struggling with my race nutrition and maybe I am not quite as fit as I thought I was. Room for improvement is the take away message from this marathon I think!
Victoria and I had a day to look around Lisbon before flying back to the UK. It’s a nice city but to me it’s a poor man’s Barcelona. I’m glad we went and the hotel was fantastic. I really like Cascais, but I don’t think I would do the marathon again and I have seen enough of Lisbon to be happy. If you are looking to do a European marathon there are probably more picturesque races to choose from than the Lisbon Marathon and more impressive cities to visit than Lisbon. It’s nice, just not amazing.