Picture: La Bolsa del Corredor

I first heard about the Mitja Marató de Granollers back in 2008. The late Samuel Wanjiru took the Catalan boulevards by storm to set an Spanish all-comers record over the half-marathon distance in a time of 59:26. This time still stands as the course record and, experiencing the route myself, remains a fairytale. In the past, Legends of the sport such as Haile Gebrselassie, Stefano Baldini, Robert Cheruiyot, Stephen Kiprotich, Wilson Kipsang and Gete Wami took on the classic Catalan competition and shaped an unique image of a world class elite and sub-elite field. The class of the competitors at “La Mitja” (The Half) is astonishing. There are not that many races around that take such a deep competitive field to the streets. To finish inside the Top-100 in this year’s version you want to be able to jog a sweet 1:16:50. There might be competitions around that you could win with that time. That is rad and forms an exclusive atmosphere within the field. All mixed up with the spotless organization and the remarkable support of the proud Catalans creates a race just as I like it.

This Sunday Wilson “2:03:23” Kipsang grabbed the victory in a time that was more than 3 (three!!!) minutes slower than Samuel’s course best. The latest New York City Marathon champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon represents an imposing PB of 58:59. That is just a couple of seconds shy of the up-to-date World Best, Zersenay Tadese’s 58:23. Witnessing the course, it is no wonder to understand the comparatively high wining times in Granollers. It is a tricky one!As you leave the town-center the path winds up en route to Les Franqueses del Vallès, continues to slightly, but surely ascents ’til it reaches the town of La Garriga. From there on it is a wild ride back to Granollers. Above and beyond some slight bridges and small road-boosts it is all downhill.

Picture: La Bolsa del Corredor

I started off with a pleasant tempo. I knew the field was deep so it was hard to find some orientation or groups. Usually after some kilometers you find a assemblage you could stick to. Not here. It was all over the place and there never was any real group I could stream. A new experience. The way up towards La Garriga was a harsh one. As the sun and crystal clear skies shaped a striking day, the strong headwind was a unkind and rough one. I knew I was well off target pace so I tried to avoid checking the splits on my watch. Once I checked my watch at the 9k mark I was upset. It was uphill and it was windy, but that still was a leisurely pace on the way up. Fortunately the crowd support was first class so it was easy to switch off and trail some other racers. Knowing the elevation map I knew that there are better (speak: flatter) portions of the course just about to happen. Turning around in La Garriga I was craving for faster running. And it immediately occurred. Some smaller climbs made up for a little variation and snug calf’s. When I was hovering down the motorway I checked my watch and was pretty much shocked to see a 3:15/K pace blinking up.

It just started on the very outskirts of Granollers. People in all places and cheers for all racers. Before the race locals told us only positive things about La Mitja and it turned out to be very much true. Flying down the narrow, crowd filled streets was class and made me forget the suffering. My loose goal was a sub 1:20 finish. With my fuzzy visualization I could identify some 1:20’ish time on the finish line clock. I knew I did not make it but I was content with the race. It is still early and there is enough to improve. A 01:20:52 is a decent start to the season.

We entered a local bar nearby the finish line. Soaked in the sun and some fine beers. As we set in the warm Catalonian February sun we were pretty sure – La Mitja was a total blast!