Ever wondered how much carbohydrate those lean, mean elite athletes eat the night before a race? Think of a decent-sized portion of pasta, double it, add rice, then a bread roll and you're just about there.
Staying in the same Lisbon hotel as Martin Lel, Sammy Wanjiru, Kara Goucher et al I had the chance to witness their carb-loading strategies first hand. I hoped that following their lead at the buffet bar would spur me on to a new PB at the distance the following morning.
The Lisbon Half certainly offers a fast course. So fast, in fact, that it's ineligible for world record attempts as much of the first quarter is downhill, and so the elites' route has a different, flatter beginning.
The mass race starts at the southern
end of the 25 de Abril Bridge (the date of the country's revolution in 1974, history buffs). Running north towards the city on the road deck of this 1.5-mile-long suspension bridge above the River Tagus must surely be one of the most spectacular starts in world running.
The road rises slightly to the centre of the bridge but the thrill is such that you'll barely notice. At this point you're 230 feet above the water, but from then on the route descends continuously as it connects to the north bank of the river and curls back down to water level at around the three-mile mark – at which point I was over a minute inside my target pace.
After that the route is pancake-flat, wide and straight, as it heads east into the city centre before doubling back west along the docks and under the bridge you've just crossed. On the way, I had just enough energy to admire the Belém Tower – built in the 16th century to commemorate the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.
I had less time for historical appreciation in the final quarter of the race as exhaustion set in, but managed to keep it together to finish in front of the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery with five minutes knocked off my PB.
As satisfying as this race was, it's logistically imperfect – there were no baggage facilities, while the start area, which had no time pens and mixed
runners from half-marathon and the
7.2K mini-marathon together, was chaotic. But if you want a fast race in a beautiful city just a couple of hours away, look no further.
Register for next year's race at lisbon-half-marathon.com.
GET THERE Easyjet (easyjet.com) flies to Lisbon from Liverpool, Bristol, Luton and Gatwick. TAP Air (flytap.com) flies from Heathrow. Flight time is two to three hours.
STAY BUDGET: Located in central Lisbon, all rooms in Pensao Portuense (pensaoportuense.com) are en-suite and have air con. From £21pppn.
STAY MID-RANGE: The Solplay Hotel (solplay.pt), six miles west of the city centre, is where the elites stay and has a pool and river views. From £50pppn.
SIGHTSEE Built around a castle on a hill, the Alfama district's narrow, twisting streets are great for getting lost in.
FUEL Rei dos Frangos: the 'king of chickens' on Trav de Santo Antâo specialises in cheap and tasty peri-peri poultry. Part-owned by actor John Malkovich, Bica do Sapato (bicadosapato.com) does modern takes on Portuguese classics in a converted riverside warehouse.
WARM-UP Just west of the city centre, Monsanto Park is a 1,000-hectare forested oasis brimming with keep-fit trails and footpaths.