Liam O'Hare's Spainish Conquest...  the story so far

In June 2008 a contract was signed for the construction the first stage of a Sports Centre in Antequera. This will include an indoor 200m running track, only the third permanent track in Spain after San Sebastián and Valencia. Stage 2 will include a football pitch surrounded by an outdoor athletics track. I would not be surprised to see a future European or World Veterans' Championship taking place here.

The summer road racing season has now finished as it is too hot. From about mid-May there have been Saturday evening races of varying distances and qualities, all interesting in the their own ways. Many races are non-standard distances - they choose the route and then measure it but there are also many 10k and half-marathon races. It is also common to have a race from one town to the next. I have now managed to run a race in each of Andalucía´s eight provinces. Incidentally, Andalucía is bigger than Ireland.

On 16 March 2008, El Ejido in Almería staged its first half-marathon. We finished finished by running 300m round the athletics track in the football stadium, with the spectators sitting in "El Vomitorio". Among the contents of the goody-bag were 10kg of local produce and a recipe book. The race started at 10.00 in about 23° and it gradually became hotter. I was pleased with 1:22:55 to finish 43rd of 304 (1st M50). This is the first time that I have seen a category "disqualified" in the results. It had two names but no reasons.

On 6 June 2008 we had a half marathon from Úbeda to Baeza in Jaén at 18:30. The race was run in very hot conditions, especially on the road between the towns where there was no shelter. It started and finished in the old parts of the respective towns which meant quite a bit of running over cobble-stones. 22nd of 346 and 1st M60 in 1:26:41 earned me a lovely ceramic dish which is now on the wall here. Baeza has a big training college for the Guardia Civil (National Police) and a coach load of them arrived to do the race. I was pleased to finish ahead of all but two of them.

My feet were in bits for several days afterwards. I went to a chiropodist/podiatrist (it is the same word in Spanish) and drastic surgery was the remedy. He removed 4 toe-nails as well as dealing with several blisters and recommended wearing two pairs of socks while running to avoid friction.

My other half marathon was in Berlin with a group from my club here. We left 24° and arrived in 4°. The temperature had not increased by the time we started the race at 10:45 on Sunday 6 April 2008. I ran 1:21:03 (193 of 17604 finishers), 2nd M60 behind an Italian who did not have a chip time at the 10k point.

The bigger races have a good range of age-groups but some can be quite quirky, as can the organisation. I have been placed as a M45, M50 and M47¼ as well as M55 and M60. I was on my way to catch a bus from Pruna to Olvera in Cádiz to race back when I came across the number distribution by chance so I collected mine. There were no baggage facilities so I had to run back with my T-shirt etc in my hand. It was advertised as 8.5k but it took me less than 30 minutes so it was nowhere near that. I never saw the results.

The 8.2 km in La Roda de Andalucía in Sevilla started in the town but we soon headed for the olive groves where the firm tracks were like tarmac. The last km was back in town and we finished outside the Town Hall. I was 17th (1st M50) in 30:32. Afterwards, we had a 90 minute presentation ceremony with food and drink laid on. Towards the end of the proceedings, I was surprised to hear my name being called out. There was a trophy for the oldest finisher!

A 9.3 km race around Ogíjares in Granada on 31 May 2008 needed a 7-hour round trip (including the race) rather than an overnight stay. There were cash prizes for the first three in each age-group, €100, €70 and €40. Amazingly, entry was free. Again, I have failed to find the results but I know that I was first M60.

The 7.5 km race in Cuevas Bajas in Málaga on Saturday 28 June 2008 was due to start at 20:00 but it was so hot (36°C) that they delayed it for 15 minutes which, as you might expect, made no difference (29:07 for 12th of 42 overall and 2nd M45). The next morning we headed off to Pedrera for the X Carrera Popular del Deporte y Amistad, the 10th annual 10 km between Pedrera and Gilena (it is run in the opposite direction in alternate years). It was not quite as hot as the previous evening but it was still hard going. I ran 37:27 for 30th of 158 overall, 1st M60. This was an improvement on my previous 10k in Córdoba (38:22). I was interviewed for local TV afterwards and, fortunately, I kept my Spanish together to make a few comments.

The last race of the summer was the XX Carrera Popular de Casariche at 19:30 on Saturday 12 July 2008. When we left home we did not how long it was going to be. They only decide on the day when they see what the temperature is. Veterans and women ran 4 times around a 1450m loop for a 5.8km race while senior men did 5 laps. It took me 20:10 which left me in 9th position out of 87, 2nd M50.

To be continued...