Race Review: Barcelona Half Marathon 2019
Last week, I ran the eDreams Barcelona Half Marathon (or mitja marató as they would say in Spanish). It’s funny to actually be writing a race recap only a week later–these often come at least a month later, and I’ve even been guilty of six-month old race recaps (oops!).
Since this was my first time in Spain and my first “destination” race, I was pretty nervous the week before. I had trouble sleeping several nights–which only led to that vicious cycle of stressing even more and feeling more unable to fall asleep. I had specifically scoped out Barcelona as a PR course and spent a decent amount of money on transportation, so I felt like I needed to “justify” that expense with a killer race time. I’m constantly reminding myself that I run for fun–so if it’s no longer fun, I should re-evaluate.
The race ultimately went fine–I finished in 1:47:17 (8:11/mi or 5:06/km). It was 2 minutes slower than my time at the Lyon Half Marathon in October 2018, and 3 minutes off from my PR. I actually was on-pace to run a 1:45 for the first 8-9 miles, but hit a wall of sorts and my miles got 20-30 seconds slower. Still, this was my third-fastest half marathon time, so it was hard to be upset (the lovely weather and yummy empanadas and patatas bravas in Barcelona also helped boost my morale haha).
Here’s my overall take on the race experience.
The expo was held at the top floor of the Arenas shopping center, right by the Pl. Espanya metro stop. I unfortunately forgot to take more photos of the expo itself, other than the board with the course map (oops!). The mall itself had a great 360° view, so I definitely recommend taking a stroll around after you pick up your bib.
Everything was quick and well-organized at the expo despite the 19,000 entrants. I waited only a couple minutes to grab my bib (safety pins were in the envelope, but always check just in case!). There was a separate line to get t-shirts and a drawstring bag, which was also quick. If you ordered a discounted Hola Barcelona travel card, there was also a fast line.
One thing that wasn’t clear to me was the yellow timing chips that are mentioned on the race website. There are two separate entry fees for those with chips and those without. Those without have to pay about 3 euros more to “rent” a chip, but I never received one–there was simply the timing chip on the bib. I panicked a little when I saw hordes of people with yellow chips on their shoes on race day. It didn’t matter in the end though–I think the chips are just a common Spanish thing that allow runners to avoid one-time use chips and save a few bucks on races, if you do them frequently.
Another issue I had was getting a confirmation email–I think my Gmail blocked it as spam, so I never received one and had to hunt race organizers down to get a second one sent. The organizers are not very responsive, regardless of whether you use Facebook or email (calling is not super helpful since most don’t speak much English). It took me 2 weeks to get in touch with them and finally get the necessary email. If you have a non-Gmail email address, I would maybe try that instead (it finally went through to my Outlook account).
So while registration was stressful and disorganized, the expo went quite smoothly. Bag dropoff was also easy (see below).
As I mentioned, the Barcelona Half is a PR course (the women’s world record was actually broken in BCN in 2014 and 2015). The race is pretty darn flat, with a total of 180ft of elevation gain. There’s one tiny incline that lasts a few hundred meters at the beginning, and one short hill (if you can call it that) around mile 11ish (17km).
There is one section near miles 8-9 that is an out and back, so you see people returning on the other side. It didn’t bother me a lot, but it can be distracting and make you wonder how much further you have until you can turn back haha.
The course was mostly in the sun, but weather in Barcelona was perfectly mild, with temperatures of around 50°F. Every kilometer was also clearly marked. The conditions and course were basically ideal!
One thing that did get me a little at the end were the blowup arches–instead of having the single one at the finish, there were 5+ in the last 400m. They seemed never-ending haha, and made the last stretch feel even longer (though I suppose you could also say that they add an extra-celebratory touch).
There were aid stations every 5km, with water in the front and blue powerade at the end. The water was in small bottles rather than in cups, which made drinking while running easier, but seemed super wasteful.
The stations could get pretty backed up with so many people running. There were luckily signs alerting you to each aid station 100m before, but it wasn’t clear until the first one that they’d only be on the right, instead of on both sides. So, definitely weave your way over to the right as soon as you see those signs, otherwise you may inadvertently cut someone off in an attempt to reach the station (or you may just never make it).
There was no gu provided, nor any solid foods. At the finish, there were delicious mandarin oranges and bananas, as well as more powerade.
This is normally where I’d show you my hilarious ugly race photos, but organization around this was also poor. I got an email with a link to my personal “race album,” but there were only stock photos of Barcelona landmarks. They didn’t seem to have the technology to identify photo subjects (I know my bib was visible the entire time, so it couldn’t have been that). They have tens of thousands of photos that you can sort through based on your primary clothing color, but even that wasn’t very accurate. I actually did scroll through for almost 30 mins, and found nothing…
Tips + Summary:
- Check your spam for the confirmation email, and consider using a non-Gmail email address since I never got mine, even to my spam.
- Race organizers can be difficult to reach. Plan to wait at least a couple weeks to get any issue resolved.
- Don’t worry if you see a bunch of people with yellow chips on race day. If you paid extra for bib with a chip, you don’t need a yellow chip on your shoe.
- The course is flat, weather is typically mild, and every kilometer is well-marked. The last 400m has 5+ blowup arches though, so don’t be thrown off by those and expect each one to be the finish line.
- Don’t expect photos of yourself, as their identification system is poor 🙁 I was really looking forward to my ugly race photos!
I know it seems like I have a lot of complaints, but despite these logistical issues, I enjoyed the race and my stay in Barcelona. If you go into the process knowing what to expect, things should go much more smoothly. I would happily recommend the race for the flat course and fun location.
Shoot me any questions you have in the comments, and let me know what you thought of the race if you ran it too!
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a Runcation, I love it. And you hauled butt during that race. My last half marathon was about two years ago. PR’d and now I am afraid to race again. Just kidding, my feet hurt too bad to run all of those miles. Maybe one day. How cool to run around a place like Barcelona. I have only competed in Florida.
Aww, thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! It’s definitely fun to do destination races, and Barcelona is a beautiful city. I hope you’ll be able to finally visit after this crazy time!