I was very lucky to win a trip to Gran Canaria to take part in the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria half marathon. I had four days in Las Palmas, courtesy of the marathon organisers, and made the most of them.
A 3am alarm is never much fun, but it was worth it, as it meant that we could make the most of the time we had in Gran Canaria. We landed in the mid morning, thrilling to see the blue sky and bright sea, and the outlines of the mountains rising up to the middle of the island. Las Palmas is a big city, with a beautiful long sweep of beach, and just outside of the city to the north is an area of trails and hills called La Isleta.
We had to go to the marathon expo to collect our numbers, so strolled along the beach front, realising that this would be the final three kilometers of the race. After getting our numbers and scoping out the start, I returned to the hotel to get changed for a run. On instinct, I headed for the hills that I could see to the north. Within a few kilometers I had left the main city behind and was heading up along a path through the volcanic rock. It was a fun, rocky, steep trail, leading up to a peak with a cross at the top. I ran up, took some photos, then tried to put my dubious descending skills to the task. In road shoes, this was probably not the best idea, but it was so much fun. I did fall once, but it didn’t matter. My first mini taste of the volcanic hills of the Canary Islands has left me very hungry for more.
The race itself was on the Sunday. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m good in the heat, but with only two days to acclimatise, I knew that it would affect me. The half marathon and full marathon started together from the same starting pens. There were around 6,000 participants. It was hot and crowded. There weren’t many women around, and it was hard to get a space to run for the first kilometer or so. I went off at a good pace for me, and felt strong and happy. It was flat, and as we were running down the city boulevards, we were mostly shaded from the sun. 5k in just over 21 minutes, I was happy with that. 10k in 43 minutes, absolutely spot on.
After 10k, the route took us out towards the harbour and away from the shade of the roads. A strong wind had started to blow, and it was getting hot in the full glare of the sun. I still felt very good, but realised that I probably would not be able to keep my pace up for the duration. I passed the 10 mile mark, just over 1:10, but the wind and the heat got me and I slowed down. The final approach to the finish along the beach front was spectacular, but tough. The brick paved surface was unforgiving, and the wind was harsh. I was passed by two women who were simply stronger than I was on the day. I finished in 1:35 – not a great time, but in the conditions, on an exposed, twisty, windy course, I was happy enough. I was in the top 20 women and the first non -Spanish woman home.
After the race, which was extraordinary well organised, with plenty of food and recovery drinks available at the finish, being able to swim in the ocean was a huge treat. My feet were a bit battered (my friend Mr. Plantar fascitis, and his cousin, black toenails, had come to visit again). Spending the rest of the day lying on the beach was such a pleasure.
Home in a dank, rain soaked day, having already done my run and got wet, with the reality of picking up the milage for marathon training again (week 3), it seems like it never really happened. But those few days of warmth and sea and mountains will sustain me, I hope, through the tough miles that lie ahead.