Madrid Marathon Race Report, 22 April 2018 by Enda Kerin

Planning to run a marathon is like life, anything can happen.” – Eliud Kipchoge

Journey to Madrid

My preparations for the Madrid marathon were far from ideal. I registered back in November when, fresh from watching the others in the club running Dublin and no doubt high on endorphins from a hills and sprints session, I decided it would be a great idea to sign up for my second marathon (the first I had done some five years ago to busy myself while on Erasmus and save my liver from all the pinard I had been subjecting it to).

With the Dublin Intermediate cross country race behind me in early December, I turned my focus to ramping up the mileage. Training was going well, I had gotten a few 20-milers in without much bother and I ran a (relatively) easy 1:18 in a half marathon on Christmas Eve after a heavy week of mileage. However, I didn’t give my body the rest it needed and after a very muddy 32km in Phoenix Park on New Year’s Eve I knew I needed a break. I just didn’t expect it to be nearly four months long.

Enda (375) getting acclimatised for Madrid

After running the Leinster Intermediate Cross Country in mid January off the back of two weeks of no training, I knew I had done myself a fair bit of damage and hobbled around for the next couple of weeks. The cross trainer became my new best friend as I tried acupuncture and everything else the physio could think of to get me back on the roads. Nada.

Eventually I had an MRI and was told to avoid running. So, as any runner would do, I threw on the runners first thing the next morning and went for my first run in 10 weeks. I’m not sure I even managed 5km, but the following day I headed to Bushy and ran a (not so impressive) 11km. Two weeks to Madrid, not where I wanted to be but at least I was running.


Fast forward to Friday 20 April and I’m taking the opportunity to work on my speed as I leg it out the door of the office and onto the AirLink. Flight delayed, I eventually arrive at the hotel around 2:30am local time. I set the alarm for 8 and head straight for the expo to pick up my bib number. After a quick nap, I decide to see how my legs are feeling and do a light 30 mins in Parque del Retiro; not great but not horrific either. I decide I’ll line up in the morning and probably turn off with those running the half at the 17km mark.

Parque del Retiro

Up the next morning at 5:45 and stretch for half an hour. Consume banana and continue stretching. I make my way to the baggage area around 7:45 and meet Oliver for a bit of pre-race banter. Soon after I bump into Will, Siobhan and Packie who are all getting a decent warm up in before the half, Sportsworld fielding strong numbers as ever (though I think the attempt of Myles and Emily to claim Siobhan is still a work in progress)! I do a light jog and a couple of strides as a warm up but opt to stick to the stretching and save my legs for the race.


9:05 and the gun goes. I decide to go off slowly to give myself a chance of running as much of the course as possible. I look at my watch after the first kilometer, 4:20 – not what I had intended. I checked again after the second and saw a similar result but decided to wait until the 5th to look again when the crowds would begin to thin and I could set into a more comfortable pace. Seeing that I’ve gone through 5km in around 21:49 I tell myself to abandon the watch, run by feel and enjoy the course. This mindset seems to help greatly and when I approach 17km (the turn-off point for the half marathon), I choose to stick with the full route and reassure myself that I can drop out at any point.

The next time I see a clock is at the half way mark, 1:28. Pretty sure that’s not sustainable with the lack of training, rising temperatures and tougher gradient in the second half of the course but I’m running by feel so none of that matters to me (right!?)

I make it to 30km fairly unscathed and am actually feeling quite strong as we make our way around Casa de Campo in the Spanish sun. The legs are starting to fill with lactate but I’m just glad to be running so I ignore that. Still not looking at my watch at this stage though I have glimpsed the 3-hour pacers in the distance. Part of me tells myself I need to catch them, the other part of me tells myself I will end up like Callum Hawkins in the Commonwealths if I do.

Casa de Campo

As I make it to 37km I’m starting to feel a bit dehydrated and the legs are getting heavier with the lactate. But there’s just over 5km left, how many times have I run 5km before? It’s only 5km. Actually it’s 5,195m, that’s more than 5km; that’s more than I’ve ran in February and March combined. This internal debate then mutates into an existential crisis as I wonder what I’m doing with my life and why I couldn’t have just went to Madrid for the sangria and tapas like normal people do.

The 3-hour pacers are coming back towards me at this stage and as we make our way up the climb at kilometer 38 I feel like I’ve been mistakenly entered into la Vuelta as the crowds roar us on and the road narrows to a couple of metres in width. Finally I pass the pacers and am tempted to look at my watch again but tell myself to hold off until I pass the 40km mark. After convincing myself the pacers have just judged the race badly and that I couldn’t possibly be on line for sub-3 I make my way to the next water station and reach for the water, banana and Powerade on offer and inhale it as though I’m a first year college student returning home to raid the parents’ fridge at the weekend. The result is that the cup of Powerade ends up in my eye (it burns) and I’m left to run blind for a couple of hundred metres, I nearly choke on the banana and the water is thrown on my legs in an effort to keep them cool. The existential crisis deepens.

I pass the 40km mark and after a couple of hundred metres of will-I, won’t-I, I finally cave and look at my watch, 2:49. Okay, sub-3 is on but nothing to get excited about, there’s still work to be done. Head down and the climb uphill continues.

The next two kilometers are about the longest two kilometers of my life, second only to the final two kilometers of the Burren Marathon in 2013. Then out of nowhere, coming up the final 800m, I hear someone shout out, “Come on Sportsworld!” And that was it, head up and the final kick for home, 2:57:27. Medal and goodies collected I make my way to the baggage area still not sure what’s happened. My shoulders that have rarely the light of day are burnt asunder and my feet are blistered, but I’ve broken 3. Soon after I catch Oliver after running a fantastic 3:14 in his first marathon! Fourth banana of the day later, we decide it’s time to head for tapas and beer and behave as normal people should in Madrid.

Times from the other members of the Sportsworld crew below:

Half marathon
Siobhan – 1:19 (second place, elite women)
Phil – 1:19
Adrian – 1:32
Packie – 1:39


Oliver – 3:14