Apparently you can pay someone to escort you on a running tour of Barcelona and when planning my 4 day getaway a few weeks ago I momentarily thought about booking up. Then I remembered the main reason for yet another visit to the city: To stand in a windswept concrete exhibition space on the edge of town. drinking beer, eating junk food and watching upwards of 30 bands from dusk to dawn for three nights on the trot. Yes it was Primavera Sound time yet again.
This was the ultimate “not conducive to running” weekend and could have served as a an extreme “taper” to end all tapers, undoing all the hard slog that had got me back into running over the past couple of months. Yet for the first time in 6 years, on this occasion I took slightly fewer clothes to allow me to fit my running shoes into that precious hand luggage space with the express intention of doing a quick trot around the Catalan streets on the Sunday morning.
The pre-run build-up was unorthodox. Saturday night ended at 5:30 a.m. on the following day after hours of tapas and “hydration” around the city centre followed by a meticulously planned night catching bands on various stages at the festival. The pre-run nutrition was a chicken kebab in the small hours.
I woke at about 11 a.m., took a few swigs of water, pulled on some clothes-that-wick and then left my sleeping friends, sneaking out to see what Barcelona looked like before midday. It was actually a good day for a gentle run – grey with the occasional drop of rain. I had the idea of doing 5 miles. I headed up Diagonal, a long carriageway which just happens to traverse the city diagonally. The middle of the road is a wide strip of concrete specifically for cyclists, walkers and runners. My aim was to get to Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral to address the fact that in 6 years of annual visits to the city, I’d failed to ever pay a visit, despite it being probably the most iconic of Barcelona’s buildings.
My pace was gentle but not ridiculously so. I was pleased to note that, although it felt like it had taken me weeks to return to something like normality with my post-injury running, a few days of bad living hadn’t caused me to regress too much. I reached the cathedral and got some understandably strange looks from the hundreds of tourists as I weaved my way through them. After making it around the block, I had the welcome downhill stretch towards the coast to enjoy.
I have noticed the beachside runners more and more over the years, originally thinking “Maniacs” and more recently thinking “Hmm, maybe I’d be up for a bit of that”. Now I was finally joining them, starting off near the big copper fish, then heading away from the city, past palm trees, volleyball games and the smell of grilled seafood wafting out of the beachside bars.
By the time I returned to Diagonal, I’d done over 6.5 miles and could have gone a bit further if it wasn’t for the street-stall selling freshly-fried churros. Feeling extra pleased with myself, I ordered the ones that had unnecessarily been dipped in chocolate and ate the majority of a large bag of them before returning to the apartment. The usual Barcelona lifestyle then resumed, but it was good to have kept my running mojo ticking over and to add another dot on my worldwide map of runs. And now I’m wondering when I might be able one day fit in that nice little 10K the city hosts on New Year’s Eve when I could maybe do the hedonism and running in reverse.