About a year ago, I was 27 and I was in a pretty good shape. However, I had never spent much time running. My main interests at the time were basketball, cycling and swimming. I would go for an occasional jog when I felt like it and there was nobody to play ball with. But one fine day my best friend told me there was a half-marathon in the town he was working at the time and he challenged me to train for it (it was a month ahead) and get to the finish line with him.
So I thought it sounded like a very appealing challenge and I took up running more seriously. My first run was something like 35 minutes and I felt like I could not breathe after it. But things got better little by little and after some serious training and some research I managed to finish my first half-marathon in less than two hours (and it was a very hilly course too). The adrenaline rush that I felt when I crossed the finish line was so great that I could not stop thinking, "when's the next race?" All of a sudden running became almost the only sport I did and I gradually improved my times at the half-marathon distance (From 1h 57 to 1h 32 in about eight months).
So I thought it was time to go for the big thing: a full marathon. I looked for a flat and easy course for my first one and I picked the Seville City Marathon (held on Feb. 11th 2007).
I continued my running schedule, like I was training for a half-marathon, but I added a little space and I slowed the pace a bit in every training session. I spent 4 months doing this, and the longest run I did was a 22-miler.
So the big day arrived and there I was, scared and wondering if I was really up to the challenge. The only thing I was ABSOLUTELY sure I was going to do was keeping a steady pace that I had already figured (around 4:50 a km., since breaking the 3:30 mark was the goal I had set for myself to be focused).
Off we go at 9:00 am, the day was absolutely perfect because it was cool and cloudy but there was no wind at all. I stayed with the 3:30 pace group for the first five kilometers or so to make sure I didn't get carried away by the atmosphere and started out too fast. After that, around the 8km mark, I started to pick up my pace and slowly leave the pace group I was with behind. It was then that I saw my girlfriend and another bud for the first and only time during the course (until the finish line, of course). It was such a great hype that I couldn't help but stop, kiss my girlfriend and slap a few high fives. The race had just started for me.
Once I had got into the auto pilot mode, I had time to talk to the people running next to me. I had the opportunity to meet another young man who was running his first marathon as well and who had a similar running experience. We decided we could help each other to finish the race and we stayed together for the next 30 kilometers. For a long while we exchanged impressions and ideas about the race as well as encouraging words as a means of motivation. We crossed the half-marathon line in 1:43, just as I was hoping I would.
The next 10 miles were the hardest part of the race, because before that I wasn't really tired and after the 36 km mark it was kind of a countdown and the excitement of finally finishing helped me push a little further. But these 10 miles after the half-marathon line were especially tough. And the worst thing was mainly mental, because I couldn't find a positive thing to cling to: there was no finish line for a while and the adrenaline rush from the first kilometers was long forgotten. Luckily I had run endless times over a 1-km loop in a park near home, and doing this alone seemed like a bit of a bore at that time. But I developed some mental toughness that proved itself very handy at this point of the race.
The only thing that I could use to distract myself from negative thoughts was the stamina I had developed in training and the beautiful sights that Seville offers for a marathon runner who is willing to look away from the road.
After that, it was like going downhill. Once I knew I only had a little more than a 5k to go, I was positive I was going to finish: I WAS GOING TO FINISH!
My calf muscles were kind of stiff and I could have pulled muscles a couple of times, but it was all a hoax in the end. All the pain, all the sweat, all the sports drink that stained my T-shirt and all tears that I started to shed as I entered the stadium were finally paying off. I did my last kilometer all out, I was possessed and I honestly don't know where I got the strength from. I remember overtaking like twenty runners or so.
After crossing the line I was so proud. In a way, I didn't want it to end, because I had worked so hard for this dream to come true, and I had had this only goal for such a long time that now that it was going to end I felt kind of sad. But memories are the best part of running. And I am planning to run this Seville marathon every year, because it is the best celebration of life I can think of and it is one of the best ways God has to tell you that life is always worth living.
Gustavo Adolfo Rodríguez Martín.