Sport in Spain might be dominated by football but running is making strides to catch up. In a country that brought the world flamenco, fiestas and bull fights, running is a great way to see the sights and gain a glimpse into what makes Spain special.
Whether you’re keen to race around traditional fishing villages or through the streets of the vibrant capital, this top 10, chosen by Runner’s World Spain’s Editor Alejandro Calabuig García, will have you flinging on your running kit.
Vila de Santa Pola Half-Marathon (January)
2009 Date: tbc
Santa Pola, south of Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanc, is a traditional fishing town that has been attracting visitors since Roman times when fish were pickled and salted here. Next year’s 20th edition of the town’s popular half-marathon is a great opportunity for some winter sun and stunning racing. As well as running past historical buildings such as a 16th century fortress, you’ll enjoy views over the town’s beaches and salt marshes towards the Mediterranean.
Race website: www.clubdeatletismo.com
Granollers Half-Marathon (February)2009 Date:
Granollers, capital of Vallés Oriental in Catalonia, is 30K from Barcelona and the location of this hugely popular half-marathon run completely on roads with fantastic views over the Spanish countryside. The race, which is organised by Col·lectiu d'Atletes de Fons, is popular locally with many runners taking part from the three cities that the course passes through – Granollers, Les Franqueses and La Garriga. It’s also popular with elite athletes looking for fast times and this year saw the Beijing Olympic marathon gold medallist Samuel Wanjiru win the 21st staging of the race.
Race website: www.runningcrazy.co.uk
Barcelona Marathon (March)
2009 Date: March 1
This fantastic running extravaganza has become a festive highlight in the city’s calendar. Around 10,000 runners take part in the race along urban Catalonian streets and boulevards dotted with live bands and entertainment. The route tends to alter every year but always manages to showcase the delights of the legendary local architect Antoni Gaudi, whose most memorable masterpiece remains the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Other sights along the way include the historical Arc de Triomf and Barcelona FC’s Camp Nou as well as colourful skyscraper Torre Agbar.
Race website: www.barcelonamarato.es
Cursa Bombers 10K (April)
2009 Date: tbc
Held in the Catalan capital Barcelona every spring, this long-standing 10K literally translates as the Race of the Firemen. Organised by Nike and the City of Barcelona, the race begins at the Parc de la Ciutadella and follows a looped course through the city-centre streets of Barcelona. Much of the city is closed off for the race as runners take on the flat and extremely fast course, making PBs a possibility. This year saw the race celebrate its 10th staging with 8,000 runners taking part.
Race website: www.cursabombers.com
Madrid Marathon (April)
2009 Date: April 26
Madrid’s most important athletic event has seen around 200,000 runners attempt to complete the 42.2K run within the six-hour time limit, but only 120,000 have been successful to date – it is without a doubt survival of the fittest. The well-supported race passes through a dynamic metropolis of famous plazas, great monumental buildings, such as the Kio Towers, and stunning parks including the Casa de Campo. The race may be in April but be prepared for heat and humidity as well as challenging hills.
Race website: www.maratonmadrid.org
Medio Maraton de Madrid (April)
2009 Date: tbc
The most recent staging of the Spanish Capital’s half-marathon last April attracted more than 13,000 runners onto the streets of the city. The route has been recently changed and a brutal finishing stretch surprised a few regular participants. There are few flat stretches in Madrid so expect a hilly course, then add to that the highest altitude of any European capital city and breathing becomes just that little bit more difficult – so you should probably forget about a PB. The organisation and support however is excellent and spring is the ideal time to visit the city.
Race website: www.admarathon.es
Madrid Women’s 5K (May)
2009 Date: tbc
Successful women-only race series are sweeping Europe and the Madrid edition of this Spanish 5K series reflects their increasing popularity. Part of a series that includes similar events in the cities of Malaga, Valencia, Gijon, Vitoria, Seville, Barcelona and Zaragoza, this women-only race attracts many new runners as well as the more experienced thanks to its festival vibe and friendly atmosphere.
Race website: www.carreradelamujer.com
Behobia-San Sebastian (November)
2008 Date: November 9
Particularly known for its lush green scenery, this 20K point to-point race is an emotional and exciting introduction to Guipuzcoa – the smallest province in Spain. After catching the train from the Basque city of San Sebastian to Behobia, you’ll run through the winding streets of the quaint Irun neighbourhood, which is always crammed with supporters, towards Pasajes Harbour then the local fisherman’s district, Trintxerpe, for the final part of the race.
Race website: www.behobia-sansebastian.com
Seville to Los Palacios Half-Marathon (December)
2008 Date: December 21
After a start in the unusual, beautiful and charming old town of Seville, it’s 7K into this race before the flat, paved course rises towards a challenging climb. There’s another hill at 17K before the finish at Los Palacios where bands, crowds and goodies will welcome your arrival.
Race website: www.mediamaratonlospalacios.com
San Silvestre Vallecana (December)
2008 Date: December 31
A post-Christmas work out and annual New Year’s Eve tradition, this race in the Spanish capital has attracted more than 16,000 runners a year since 1964. Split into two distinct categories - one for the amateur and the other for the more professional runner – this 10K evening dash takes competitors on a course through Madrid’s inner-city barrio of Vallecas. Starting at the Calle Concha Espina close to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium, the route passes the beautifully serene Retiro Park and before the finish near to the metro Portazgo.
Race website: www.sansilvestrevallecana.com