01 April 2016, 7am
Zurich Maratón de Sevilla
Sun 21 February 2016
In the 32 years of its existence the Seville Marathon has established itself as one of southern Europe’s most important marathons. But for many of those seeking to score fast age-group times it is surely among the top three most sought after races. The reasons are not hard to see. Seville enjoys one of the most benign winter climates in Europe. In fact it can hardly be called winter: when it’s winter in Europe it’s springtime in Seville.
The city lies in the southwest of Spain on the plain of the Guadalquivir River and is the fourth largest metropolitan centre in the country with a population of around 1.5 million. After the ‘discovery’ of the ‘New World’ Seville became an important economic centre in the 16th Century as its port monopolised the trans-oceanic trade. From the 17th Century it began a gradual economic and demographic decline as silting in the Guadalquivir forced the trade monopoly to relocate to the nearby port of Cádiz. What was lost over the centuries by way of maritime presence has fortuitously added to its present-day lure for Marathon runners.
Because besides the climate there is another reason for Seville’s popularity which is that the course is Europe’s flattest — highly suitable for settling fast times. Throughout the route there is only a ten-metre change in altitude between its highest and lowest points.
The course is designed to be more than flat though: it passes through Seville’s most beautiful, emblematic and recognisable points of interest: Plaza de España, Torre del Oro, La Giralda, María Luisa Park, City Hall and Plaza Nueva, Avenida de la Constitución, Alameda de Hércules, the Maestranza bullring… the list goes on. As the popular love song to the city of Seville declares, this event clearly has a special “colour” about it.
The race has the feel of a major marathon of where the results are of tremendous significance but the ultimate potential of the race is still far from being reached. The organisation again closed registration one month prior to race day.
With its price — one of the most inexpensive marathons in Europe, the Andalusian climate in February, the flat and scenic course, the services offered and the care afforded to the runners, Seville has found a highly successful recipe.
The race continues to be the only “sold-out” Spanish marathon on the calendar. Major improvements made since 2013 have resulted in a leap in quality. 13,000 runners entered the 2016 race of whom 10.800 finished. Among these 945 of them — an impressive percentage — managed to finish in under three hours. Apart from its title as “Europe’s flattest” the course contrives to be at its prettiest along that part of the route which coincides with when runners hit the feared “wall”. The area is brimming with people and excitement which greatly helps the runner to get through this critical part of the race. From 30km the marathon passes through the centre of the city, going through, for example, the beautiful María Luisa Park and Plaza de España (where Star Wars was filmed). This lasts all the way to the shores of the Isla de la Cartuja, from which runners can spot the Olympic stadium where their friends and family are waiting for them. It was in this stadium where in 1999 Abel Antón was crowned world champion in the marathon.
This year’s race provided further evidence of how fast runners can go when presented with such favourable conditions as Seville offers. Kenyan Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat who set the previous course record in 2014 broke it again with a time of 2:08:14. Behind him two male and two female Spanish athletes, who were competing in their National Championships, finished within the Olympic Qualifying Standard for Rio de Janeiro.
Women’s winner Paula González said: “It was my debut. I was really focused on the clock and on the Spanish women. But then I realised I could beat the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.”
The course is wide enough to allow all participants a clear run without any problems or sudden stops but to be in good company from start to finish.
The “side events” have their own highlights: the Marathon Expo features nearly 100 exhibitors; the runner’s goodie bag includes a New Balance technical windbreaker; the fun kids’ run; and a delicious pasta meal that is free for all runners.
Plan to start your 2017 Marathon schedule with a visit to Seville – fast becoming an international reference point for runners throughout Europe.