14 January 2017, 8am
Each spring the Spanish capital pays tribute to the warrior Philipides and in 2017 it will be the 40th celebration. A testament to Madrid’s heart, the race has achieved ‘Gold Label’ status earned by virtue of the level of performance of its runners and through the quality of the race delivered to all participants.
Madrid’s triumph is collective and belongs to the hundreds of thousands of runners who, ever since the first edition in 1978, have taken each stride with determination in a city that offers a challenge that will be long remembered.
The marathon organisers MAPOMA (MAraton POpular de MAdrid), is appropriately an acronym for ‘Marathon of the People’. They are a tight-knit sporting family who have steered the running movement in Madrid from hosting a local race in its first year to a cosmopolitan extravaganza in its fortieth.
In 2012, Madrid joined the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and was its first international event (meaning the first event outside of the US). Prior to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Madrid was Spain’s largest marathon with over 10,000 marathoners. In 2017, with the addition of the half marathon and 10km distances, Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid participation will more than triple with over 34,000 runners touring the magnificent streets of the capital city. Foreign participation now accounts for 25% of all runners In just six years women’s participation has grown from a mere 6% in the marathon to over 28% overall — and 50% in the 10km.
Madrid’s marathon course is famously challenging. Finishers justifiably boast that they truly earn their medal. One of them, loosely translated, claimed: “My mother can run a flat course given enough time. Madrid is for the fuerte – the strong”.
There is good reason to feel proud. The Marathon course starts at Los Cibeles fountain, at an altitude of 650m, and opens up with a long, wide stretch gradually climbing along the Paseo de Recoletos. From 14km rolling hills dot the course. There’s a long drag up the incline from 32km to the finish within the beautiful Retiro Park where marathoners manage to find it within themselves to raise a sprint to the finish. Many somehow set personal bests but a world record is a remote possibility. Madrid is not much different to New York — where the experience is as important as the sport.
And of course there is the music. In true Rock ‘n’ Roll fashion runners can expect the beat of the drums, ripping guitars and emphatic voices to propel them on their journey. The local bands that line the course are varied and talented. They do not wear a bib number, but they also compete for a title. The winning band receives a trip to another Rock ‘n’ Roll event, where they play along the course — and in Liverpool at its famous Cavern Club. They strive and sweat along with the runners because sometimes they know a note can change the course of one’s life. They are aware that even if you do not run together, you never run alone.
In the 40-year history of the edp Rock ‘n’ Roll Maratón & ½ there are 40 years of stories too. To tell them all would fill a library but to take just one example: in the 1986 edition a small potato chip manufacturer, Ramiro Matamoros, won the marathon on his daughter’s second birthday and became a hero of the working class. His face appeared in every magazine and newspaper at the time. His saying, “everything is possible in Madrid,” is still popular today. Vanessa Veiga, a mother of three and a champion at three distances who competed in the London Olympics claims that Madrid is special and ‘nothing can match it’.
What is most impressive is the courage of the Madridlenos. They have seen the best and the worst of the human race pass before them. They are courageous defenders of democracy who 13 years ago lost 194 companions killed in terrorist train bombings. Less than two months later they stood shoulder to shoulder to let the world know that Madrid stands strong and united against the aggressors. Nine years later, just days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Madrid stood in unity, silently and with arms raised, fingers forming a “B”, to let their brethren know that there is limitless camaraderie among marathons, that in Madrid you have a shoulder to cry on and arms to hold you up.
It has been a long and uplifting journey, with far more joy than sorrow. The next edp Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid Maraton & ½ on 23 April will write chapter 40. We hope you will be with us to celebrate.
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