“IN VALENCIA”

File photo.

Stable scribe “Rocket” Ravi Lobo produced a cracker of a performance at the world-famous Valencia Marathon. His time of 3:16:03 represented a 24 minute PB and earned him 566th place in the ultra-competitive M45 category.

The Stable News’ senior Valencian Community correspondent, Ally “the Chin” Smith, was all set for a weekend of fartons, horchata, and road racing in the Spanish winter sun. But his dying lemon of a car left him stranded in the Scottish countryside en route to the airport and cursing every god in the sky.

Luckily, Ravi mocked up a detailed race report of his own to spare our blushes:

Sunday, December 5, saw the holding of the Valencia Marathon.

This is a race I had to find in a hurry once my dream of completing the NY marathon disappeared once again; this time due to the borders opening the day after the marathon … Obviously, Biden is no runner. 🤔

Having completed three marathons previously with a lack of training (or my body just breaking down), this journey really started with the man known to us as “the Marathon Marcus.”

I had stumbled across him probably five or six years ago, and something about his addiction to running interested me. 

I managed to bump into him a few times at different events, and back then he looked like a machine of an athlete—built like a middleweight boxer. I watched as he adapted, improved, got quicker and leaner. That’s when I asked about his coach, and not long after, I became a member of Stazza’s Stable.

Having suffered shin splints and stress fractures in both legs after more than 20 years absent from the sport, finding a coach seemed to be the right thing to do, as trying to return to track was just not working—and adding to my injuries.

Since I have been coached by John, the calf supports are gone, the use of RockTape to hold my legs together is almost a non-event, and while he cannot prevent injuries, I am no longer a long-term sufferer of shin splints. I can now run farther, longer, faster, and slower than I had ever done at this stage of my life. 

As a result of his guidance, understanding, knowledge, coaching, and encouragement, I have finally been able to complete a marathon by running the whole way, knocking over 24 minutes off my PB.

Anyway, enough about Stazza and on to the race …

The first mile is more like crowd surfing than running, and I have little choice at what pace to run. I pass the 1km marker exactly five minutes into the race. This is not a big problem in a marathon, as there is still a lot of running left to do.

After the first mile, I start to find some rhythm; the body is starting to click into gear. I am passing people, but it is still crowded—so I have to be patient.

The route takes the race down past the port and beach area, which is still being rejuvenated (this is where the Formula 1 used to take place). The crowd of runners is not thinning out, so trying to follow the blue line is challenging. The atmosphere for every step of the event is first class. There may not be as many supporters on this part, but you run the entire first 10km to the sound of drums everywhere.

The race markings and my Garmin are both set in miles. This helps me settle into a pace, which, at this point, is going very well, and I am feeling in control—although my HR is higher than it has been during training … I blame the warmer climate.

Then, the second quarter of the marathon, and it is now time to stay focused. I feel relaxed, and I am running easy. 

I pass the halfway point chip mat, and my Garmin gives me a time of 1:33-ish; I am on target. I want to have a London “Good For Age” time, which is 3:10, but I know that is a stretch and everything will need to be right in order to get close to it.

The shape of the course on the map is like a very wonky, drunken figure of eight, so the 25km marker is close to the start/finish area. The supporters here are at their best, but a few runners are now walking …

I push on into Old Town towards the 30km mark, still feeling strong. The streets are narrow and the old, Gaudi-esque buildings are high, adding great acoustics to the race. The route twists and turns through history here.

Approximately mile 18 is the first time I am aware of any wind. (The Spanish football team Levante plays nearby—the name translates very loosely into English as “the windy beach.) It is nothing major, and I can’t complain about the course, as it is like a pancake. But I am starting to overheat, so I check back slightly, and it’s time to adjust my plan to try and get under 3:15.

Just past the 30km point is another water station (they are every 5km). By this point, runners are getting tired, and some have already “hit the wall.” Cramps are starting on my left calf, and this reminds me of having to walk or walk/jog on other marathon attempts …. That is not going to happen to me this time! 

As I edge closer to the 40km marker, it is starting to get a little bit harder, but I think I have held enough back to slightly up the effort and push that little bit harder for home. But the cramping will not allow me to move freely.

I know I am very close to getting that magic 3:14:59 time, according to my Garmin—only seconds in or out. I know I will have to run farther than 42,195 metres because of the number of people running the race, and I have to go pretty wide on some of the corners. I think my Garmin will show 42.5km, so I am just inside.

My Garmin shows 41km, and it is starting to hurt; I just need to dig deep and push. 

The last mile of the Valencia Marathon is pure adrenaline. The course is narrow, and the crowd is 10-deep and right on top of you, like something in the Tour de France. You then head down a ramp onto what used to be the river bed.

I can see the finish area, the towering arms of the Pont de Montolivet pointing skywards behind the City of Arts and Sciences. I now know I have left myself too much to do to get under 3:15.

The finish of this race is completely fantastic. You enter a wall of sound, with a rock band playing on a stage erected in the middle of the lake. The finishing straight has a pontoon over it, so you get the effect that you are actually running on water.

I cross the finish line. Not as strongly as I would have liked, but I am still running and able to smile, and that was the main goal. (But don’t tell #Stazza. 😜)

The Chin, drowning in a sea of spark plugs and carburettors, remarked: “Well done, Ravi. I hope you treated yourself to a few aguas at Cafe de las Horas afterwards. Now where did I leave that spanner?”

The Stablemaster, Coach Stazza, reached for comment, responded: “Ravi’s race was a triumph. And his beautifully written account, which combines the track nous of an Evelyn Aubrey Montague with the magpie traveller’s eye of a Bruce Chatwin, reminds us all of the true meaning of Stablelove. Let’s keep climbing literary and athletic mountains in 2022, Ravi!