Despite the marathon having a pretty late start (9am), 6:30am came far too early thanks to my long night of wining and dining around Seville the night before. It was still dark out when my alarm went off, but I was surprised to find that the fog in my brain actually lifted within just a few minutes, and I felt quite good. I quickly got dressed and got myself all packed up to go, then paused at the door before leaving. Had I forgotten anything? Since I was going to be leaving the keys in the apartment with my friend (who would meet me at the race finish), and because there were four sets of doors between outside and inside (with no intercom and neither of us having cell service), leaving something behind would mean I couldn’t get it until after race.
I was halfway to the bus stop when I realized I had actually forgotten something critical – um, my race bib that I had struggled so hard to get! I started to panic, but quickly calmed down as I realized there was literally nothing I could do about it. My only hope was continuing to the race start, looking for some kind of solutions tent, and hoping they would take pity and give me a new bib. If I had to pay for it again, I’d even be willing to do that! My best chance was just to get to the race as quickly as possible.
I got completely turned around trying to find the bus stop, and 7am was apparently incredibly early for Spaniards – the only signs of life were a few people here and there who were stumbling home from the bars with drinks still in hand! But just when I had spotted a sober-looking guy to ask, it turned out he was standing at my bus stop – well, to be more accurate, the next stop down but on my same bus line (C1). I’ll take it!
The bus took a while to arrive, but I knew from the expo it would provide a straight shot to Cartuja Stadium, where the race started and finished. I waas surprised that no other runners were at my bus stop, but when the bus finally did come, I spotted a few others on board. As the bus cruised along, more and more runners started appearing, until one major stop where about 50 runners all crowded on. It was a city bus, but it was one of the few that went to the Isla de Cartuja, so it definitely felt like a special marathon shuttle! I loved the excitement.
Upon arrival at Cartuja Stadium, though, that excitement made way to worry. There were thousands of runners all speaking Spanish around me, but I didn’t see any volunteers or other official-looking people who might be able to direct me to some sort of solutions tent for a new bib. We entered the tunnel that led under the stadium, and the narrow area was packed wall-to-wall with runners all headed toward something at the bottom. It was a long and steep way down, and I fervently hoped that we weren’t starting under here with a major uphill for the first mile! Fortunately, it was just bag drop that seemed to be at the bottom, not the start. And, aha, a help desk!
The amazingly nice woman manning the desk fortunately spoke English, and assured me that she could give me a new bib without a problem. I wasn’t crying or anything, but the look on my face must have been one of pure terror, because she kept reassuring me that everything would be fine. For some reason, my old number wasn’t listed in the system (I showed her the pic on my phone of me with my bib at the expo the day before, so she knew I had it at one point, and also that I wasn’t miscommunicating the number). Finally, though, she just gave me a new bib and told me to email the race organizers afterward – that they would sort it out.
With that worry out of the way, I could now turn my attention to the race itself – and the thousands of men that were apparently my competition. I had heard from MarathonGuide that there weren’t a lot of women in this race, but wow – despite being in the middle of a solid crowd of people, I was hard-pressed to spot more than one woman here or another woman way over there. The uneven ratio was even more apparent when I headed to the stadium’s locker rooms, which was where the bathrooms were located. The men’s locker room had a hugeeeeeee line out the door, but upon entering the women’s locker room, I found that only two of the six stalls were even occupied – so I got a bathroom (with a full roll of toilet paper, besides!) without having to wait even a second. I could get used to doing mostly-male races!
After pinning my new bib on and stowing my purse at gear check, I hung out in the main area to await the start of the race. Temps were in the low 40s, so I wasn’t eager to head outside just yet! However, more evidence of how male-dominated the race is came while I was waiting – and saw more than one guy blatantly pulling his pants down to apply some sort of anti-chafing product. Hi, guys, lady in the room! I tried not to look around too much (other than spotting another woman to confirm that I was, in fact, in the main area and not another men’s locker room), but I thought it was kind of hilarious that the men were so comfortable because women were such an anomaly.
Soon, though, it was time to leave the relative comfort of the stadium and head for the start. I began the trek up the long stadium tunnel, and then found a split at the top – left for corrals for people going sub-4, and right if you planned to finish over four hours. I knew, again from MarathonGuide, that this was not really a race for the casual runner, and that most people were expected to go sub-4. Hey, the last two corrals were 3:45-4:00 and then “everyone over 4″! But it really hit home when I got to my corral (I went with 3:45-4:00) and saw that I was surrounded by hundreds of older men in their 50s and 60s. Apparently if you were younger, you planned to be faster… and if you were a woman, I guess you weren’t supposed to run at all? Because at one point at the start, when I was in a huge crowd and could probably see at least a hundred people from my viewpoint, I couldn’t spot a single other female. Meanwhile, I felt like some of the guys were looking at me kind of funny. Had I accidentally turned to the “men-only” corral, or did they just think my uterus was going to fall out once I ran more than 3 miles? I wasn’t entirely sure.
I didn’t care, though – I was at the start of my very first European marathon, and no matter what the guys thought, I was going to enjoy it!