So, by popular demand (well, because one person asked me for it!), here is my write-up of the 15K Nocturna Valencia.
Now, I know 15K is not a huge distance. I know because I have run 4 half marathons and one full marathon, which means I have run 15K or more in training many times. But still, for me, at the moment, in my new life in Valencia, it presented a challenge.
To recap, I arrived here in December. I had been running at home before flying out but not during the last week or so before leaving, as I was on my ‘grand farewell tour’. There’s no reason I couldn’t have picked it straight back up when I arrived, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. I ran a few times, but not far and not for long. And then I got a cold, and that put paid to running for a while.
When I finally got over the cold, I started running once a week with the Runners Ciutat de Valencia, but I found it hard to fit in. I’d been used to training on my own in rural Dorset so running and talking wasn’t really a thing for me, and running and talking in another language (and butting in at appropriate points in the conversation) just seemed like a step too far. So, I joined them to run, but I didn’t really get to know anyone.
Then I met Nouska at a language exchange event. Nouska wanted to start running on a regular basis and had taken the initiative of setting up a ‘Ladies’ Run’ event twice a week in the Río. I went along. I enjoyed it. I discovered the joy of running and talking – how much more quickly the kilometres flew by! And sometimes we talked in English and sometimes we talked in Spanish. It turned out the difficulty wasn’t with the language after all, but with being a single newcomer to a large group. On the Ladies’ Run there were normally 4 of us max, so it was much easier to join in with the conversation. (And maybe the fact that they don’t tend to be native Spanish speakers also helps!)
And so I started to run more regularly, both with the group and on my own. Confidence building, I entered two races: first the Volta a Peu, which I’d always had my sights on, and then the 15K Nocturna, which appealed to me as soon as I heard about it. I’d never done a night race before. I wanted to. And so I started training for it.
Now, let me say this: my training wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t quite as well planned as usual. It was also a bit hit and miss because of the weather and other distractions. Sometimes I would plan to go for a run in the evening and then, because it was too hot, or because Josh was showing a film in his room, I’d end up pushing it over to the next morning. And then that would have a knock-on effect on the next run I’d planned. But each week I did make sure to fit in my long run, up to a max of 13.25K.
If I’d had longer to get myself ready, I would have liked to have covered the full 15K distance, but I didn’t. Never mind. I felt confident I could get round those last 1.75 on the day. Or rather on the night.
The day before the race, I had to go and collect my race number and ‘bolsa del corredor’ – my goodie bag. It didn’t help that I was late to my English lesson near the venue (my first time having a real problem finding somewhere to park a Valenbisi) and so I was also late leaving. I rushed to the hall and joined the queue with fifteen minutes to go before closing time, and was relieved when the bag was pressed into my hand.
It came with a technical t-shirt, a can of Radler, some breadsticks with seaweed (actually tastier than they sound), some Haribo, a peanut butter and lemon wafer bar (also surprisingly palatable) and a shoe bag. Not bad at all.
So I went home, pinned the number onto the t-shirt and went to bed. I needed to catch up on some sleep – the previous night had turned into a late one, courtesy of my flatmates and Josh’s Brazilian friend, who was on the last leg of his world tour.
Now, normally on the morning of a race, I get up, eat my breakfast, get dressed and go. So, it felt rather weird to get up knowing there was a whole day to get through before the race. I tried my best to stay calm, relax and not expend too much energy, but it wasn’t easy. I could feel the nerves starting to creep up on me. It was hard to relax.
In the end, I left home at 9pm and caught the bus to the start, arriving at about 9.30. I scouted out the start / finish area and then joined the queue for the toilets. Then I took off my jumper, handed in my bag and joined the queue for the toilets again. By the time I got out the second time, it was 10.20. No time to do anything but head for my start pen.
Once there, I took a sip or two of my drink, checked my knee supports, did a few stretches… and waited. And waited. Half past ten came and we could hear the race starting, but we didn’t move.
Hmm. The nerves were really kicking in now.
Then, suddenly, we started to go. We walked at first, then jogged … then stopped. Ah. It seemed the pens weren’t just to get us in order. We were actually being released a section at a time. OK …
A few minutes later, they finally let us go and again we started to jog towards the start line. I looked down at my watch, ready to start it, and when I looked up again, I almost fell over the person in front, who had stopped to avoid a pile-up caused, I think, by someone else falling over further forward.
Disaster averted, I carried on… only to have to stop again at the first corner, where the road narrowed. But once we had all got around the corner, the road became wider and we were away.
Unfortunately, my right knee support came undone after about 500m, so I had to stop twice to Velcro it back on. I was a bit worried after that that it was going to come off again, but actually it was fine.
I was pretty horrified when I went through the first km in 6:20. I’d put on my entry form an estimated finish time of 1:25 – 1:30, and that was well outside the pace I needed to maintain. So, I started to up the pace a bit.
To be honest, I probably needn’t have worried. All those hiccups around the start probably accounted for more than 20 seconds. My next km was 5:50, the one after that 5:44. The only other km I took more than 6 minutes to complete was number 13, in 6:02. (I was flagging a bit by then and it still felt like there was some way to go to the finish!)
Now, the first water stop was supposed to be after 5K, but we got there and there was no sign. We kept running, round the next corner … still nothing. Eventually, there it was. I practically stopped to grab a bottle of water (not realising there were plenty of other people handing them out over the next 100m or so) and tipped most of it straight over my head. It might have been 11pm by this point, but I can tell you it was still very, very humid!
The next big focal point for me was running past the flat. We turned into the Plaza del Ayuntamiento after about 6.5K and I thought maybe I’d got confused about the route. We were so close, but it was too soon! But then we turned away again, did a big loop and approached the Plaza de Toros from a different direction. 9K. This was it.
I’d told my flatmates roughly when to expect me and Josh had said he’d get me a bottle of beer from the bar, pass it to me and get Nirbhay to make a video of me taking a swig.
Hmm … a sip, I said. I’m not drinking a whole beer. And I’ll want water afterwards.
Well, when I got to the flat, there he was, sitting outside on the pavement, yelling at the passing runners at the top of his voice. I shouted and waved back and then he saw me.
‘Julia!’ he shouted. And then, ‘Julia, come back! I’ve got your beer!’
But by that point I was past and there was no way I was going back. To be honest, other than going up onto the pavement, there was no way I could have fought my way back even if I’d wanted to. But right then, beer didn’t really sound so appealing, stopping sounded like a recipe for never starting again and going back… well, frankly, no. My sights were set on the finish, even though it was still more than 5K away.
There was more water at the 10K mark – fortunately on time, this time – and again, most of it went over my head. It was only then I realised that I had my phone strapped to my arm. Thank goodness for waterproof cases!
And then there was nothing for it but to dig in for the finish.
Kilometres 12 and 13 seemed long and hard. Kilometre 14 seemed a little easier. And then when I started km 15, I told myself I was nearly there. But it was only when I turned the final corner and saw the finishing line (after my watch reckoned I’d already run 15K) that I really put a spurt on … or at least I tried to. By then, there wasn’t much left in my legs!
If I’d known there would be a video of me crossing the finishing line, I might have celebrated in some way. As it is, I’m just fiddling with my watch and looking tired. But at least I did it. I crossed the finishing line. I had run 15K at night, in Valencia, in 18-20 degree heat and 70% humidity.
I got a random finisher to take a photo of me looking very hot and sweaty before going and collecting my bonus goodies – some oranges, some water, Powerade, pistachio nuts and a glass of Radler (or two). Then, when I finally located the bag drop again, I collected my things, put my jumper on and cycled home.
It surprised me how few people did cycle back. I’d expected there to be a lack of Valenbisis available, and a tussle over those that were, especially as the buses had stopped running. In actual fact, most people seemed to prefer to walk back, but the last thing I wanted at that point was to walk 4K. I overtook loads of them as I pedalled along the cycle lane – slowly, but nevertheless faster than they were walking.
My legs were seriously achy the next day… and the day after that. In fact, to an extent, they still are.
I’ve arranged to go for a run with Nouska this evening. She contacted me earlier to say we’re going to do 8K. OK, I said, but slowly. I’m still not sure my legs have fully recovered.
But they will. And I’m determined to keep running now. It might be tricky given that I’m spending a couple of weeks in Cantabria soon, followed by a few days in the Basque Country, and then two weeks in the UK in August, but I’ve upped the stakes by putting in my entry for the half marathon.
I’m still sorely tempted by the full marathon in December. Josh has even said he’ll run it with me. But I don’t know. 15K was a challenge. 21.1K is a bigger challenge. Maybe 42.2K is a step (or lots of steps!) too far. Especially with training through the summer, and the humidity. Oh, the humidity!
But I can’t seem to stop thinking about it.