From the moment Marcos picked me up everything was simple. I arrived in La Parra around 11pm. The base camp for the competition was a kind of multi-purpose hall in the small town of La Parra. However it seems to be new and very well equipped. I had insisted on sleeping in the hall itself so Fernando came to greet me and to provide me with two mattresses and four blankets to wrap myself in. These were from Fernando Soriano, the legendary Spanish runner. By the time of the start the hall was all mine. Despite of felling asleep very hard as usual, I have rested well. I wasn’t 100% calm because my support team hadn’t arrived yet. Emanuel and Cristiana actually didn’t have enough time to get to La Parra from Seville at night time.
With all that had happened I was ready for the race. I didn’t have much food with me. Still I could rely on Marcos and Fernando Soriano for that. Learning from previous races I placed my “bunk” close to the starting point near the toilet and water source. I also had several chairs and benches (from the grandstand) next to me.
Somehow I felt like a special guest right from the start. In fact I was the only one who had come from afar. Besides the Spanish runners there were two Portuguese (husband and wife) among the about 50 participants. David and I had quite a lot to talk about during the race. My support team was still on the road. I was set to make it alone for the first few hours. What mattered the most was for them to get safely to the race spot.
In fact I was already in good hands and even before the start I received encouragement from volunteers and other competitors. Many of them knew each other which created a festive atmosphere. I couldn’t communicate much. Still, a smile and a handshake were enough to put me in a good mood!
Finally, after a very long wait we took off on what was to become a special race. It was like a kind of release, but at the same time I went into a kind of positive physical stretch that kept me going until I wasn’t actually able to run. The route was as beautiful as it was challenging. Physically and mentally. In fact the 6,7K loop turned out to be quite spectacular and also technical: tough climbs, a steep section, extremely narrow paths, rocks, roots, and the final part consisted of a steep descent through the city streets.
The first lap was a reconnaissance lap. And the next one were good enough for settling in and rethinking strategy. I realized from the beginning that the route will not allow me to complete more than 30 hours in the competition. And I wasn’t even thinking about the rain. The time-outs between the loops were passing slow enough. I managed to eat, to refill the bottle and to rest a little. Initially I could end the loop in a little bit more than 50 minutes. I think I managed to go below this limit only one time. Every time I tried to gain time by putting a strong effort effort on the final descent.
After six hours from the start Cristiana and Emanuel were finally there. We were a 100% Romanian team. I was really happy to see them,. I was even more happy to realize that they immediately understood what such a competition is all about.
Besides helping with food and water they managed to give me important information about the race and the competitors. It was vital for my mind to know in real time how many competitors were still in the race. On round number 8 I had a first difficult moment. I felt really sick. I finished the loop in 57 minutes. Before that lap I had eaten too much and too fast. A volunteer had tried to warn me, but I thought I knew what I was doing. I managed to recover myself entirely two loops later. And then the rain started.
It was a little rain and stopped from time to time. Nothing to be scared about, initially. And it was during that time of the race when I started to notice something fantastic. In the center of the little town a few locals were gathered. At first I thought they were just a few guys out for a beer, just curiously wandering the streets. They turned out to be more than that. The shifts were passing, the rain was getting darker and the boys were still there. And they were getting more and more vocal and enthusiastic about what was happening.
I was enjoying the atmosphere and my spirits were rising as the number of runners was dwindling. We were approaching 10 hours of running and the light rain continued. I was still managing to finish the laps in decent time becoming increasingly restless instead.
My support team was there and giving me such great confidence. At the end of each lap they were waiting for me 200m before the base camp. There was a straight line on a gentle descent before the end of the loop. After pulling hard through the city my heart would come back when reaching them. We would had time to get organized before I actually arrived at my “camp”. Emanuel and Cristiana seemed to have been doing this kind of support forever. And they put up with my moods with an overflowing silence.