Features San Sebastian Marathon

Published on January 8, 2015

San Sebastian Marathon Race Report

Officially known as the Marathon Donostia, the Basque name for the city, the San Sebastian Marathon is an inspiring mix of both serious and friendly; hosting the Spanish national marathon championships, yet open to all runners. You can usually enter from February up until a few weeks before the race and its fast flat course, where 63% of runners got a PB in 2013, means that whether you’re running your first marathon or chasing that elusive PB, San Sebastian is a fantastic choice for an autumn 26-miler.

Having set my two pervious best times of 03:03 and 03:02 at San Sebastian I returned to chase the sub-3…

San Sebastian MarathonFor 2014 there were half-marathon and 10k options too, great if you’re in a group like we were, as there’s something for everyone. Some of our group changed down from marathon to half-marathon following inevitable lapses in training and various injuries (you have to notify organisers of changes a couple of weeks in advance).

The Expo is tiny but manages to pack a good punch of things to do. After collecting your number and attractive technical running top, you can pay for a massage, pose for photos on the podium, or, of course, buy some event kit. You can also sample the race isotonic drink – lemony, not too strong and goes down very well.

This is the only event I’ve seen that has pacers starting at a rather speedy 02:30 – the rest of the pace groups go through 15minute intervals up to 4hours.

The San Sebastian course is a short loop followed by two main loops. The small loop was altered for 2014 and includes an underpass, so there’s a mini down and up to tackle – you’ll do this twice. Also be warned if you use a GPS watch, you’ll lose reception there, so it’s a good idea to use total time and a paceband to ensure you don’t get put off or confused by a rogue lap time. Crowd and Marshall support is fantastic throughout, you’ll even be cheered by name (which is printed on your bib) and, If you’re a girl, you’re likely to get particularly strong support in what seems to be a male-dominated race.

The course is brilliant for spectating because of the loops with runners on both sides of the road, meaning you can spot your favourites several times and as runners you get to see and cheer on the leaders and anyone else you know, on the other side of the road.

San Sebastian MarathonConditions at San Sebastian always seem consistent; this time, as with the previous times, it’s been 12-14 degrees, not windy, but drizzling or raining – pretty much perfect marathon running weather. There is regular bottled water, isotonic drink in very large cups that are pretty easy to catch and drink from and there are also raisins, some bananas, and a powerbar gel at 30km. The course finishes in a stadium, which is always exciting as it makes you feel like a pro, arriving onto the track for a final 300m with cheering spectators in the stands.

The only disadvantage of the event is if you’re a runner slower than the 5hour cut-off, you may find the race being dismantled around you and have to finish on the pavements. Our group and other spectators were still out cheering these runners home, so you wouldn’t be completely abandoned!

This year the men’s event was won by Pedro Nimo del Oro in 02:15:57 and the women’s by Veronica Perez Rodriguez in 02:34:45.

A massive thumbs up to this event from RunningMonkey. Even without a third consecutive PB (I managed a still-respectable 03:11:33) the course, the atmosphere and city – wonderful for pre- and post-race relaxing and exploring – are all well worth the trip. Let us know if you give it a go and get yourself a PB…

From the UK, EasyJet or RyanAir fly from Stansted to Bilbao, it’s then just over an hour by coach to San Sebastian.

Further details on the San Sebastian Marathon at maratondonostia.com

Race report by RunningMonkey contributor Sarah Dudgeon – You can follow Sarah on Twitter @ArtOfYrSuccess

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