San Silvestre Vallecana, Madrid, Friday, December 31, 2010

Barry Cornelius

Honorary Strider Barry Cornelius, who runs the incredibly-helpful North East Races website, started the New Year with a flourish in Madrid, and here is his report on the proceedings. Ed.

The San Silvestre Vallecana is a 10K in Madrid from the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu (owned by Real Madrid) to a lesser known stadium, the Estadio Teresa Rivero. It has been celebrated on New Year’s Eve each year since 1964.

A sea of runners competing in a previous year's San Silvestre Vallecana. There are actually two 10K races each New Year’s Eve. The 10K for elite runners takes place at 1955hrs and previous winners have included Paula Radcliffe, Jon Brown and Dave Lewis but often the male and female winners are Kenyans. The 10K for the masses starts at 1730hrs, and by “masses” I mean about 27000 runners. The photo shows the start of a previous year’s race. So it was often difficult to run at a consistent pace as I spent a lot of the time avoiding people and looking where there was space to pass slower runners.

Each runner had to provide proof of their fastest 10K in the last year and this allocated you to a particular pen at the start. So I started in the 46 to 48 minutes pen. I spent the first few K watching the pacer with the 45 minute balloon drift further away and the 48 minute pacer passed me without me noticing! According to my Garmin, the K markers were accurately placed. The race was chipped with pads at each 2.5K. My intermediate chip times were 12:30, 24:26 and 36:05.

In the days before the race, I’d made two trips, one to recce the start area and the other to run the last 2K. So I was familiar with the steep ascent from 7.8K to 8.8K. All along the route the race was enthusiastically and noisily supported and during this ascent there were three deafening drum bands. Although the race falls over 50 metres, there were several other steep ascents including one for the first 0.4K (as you can see in the photo) and another for the final 50 metres.

Like most town races, there was the usual street furniture to cope with. However, unusual ones were: at numerous places on the road surface there were steel grills providing air to the metro below – these were slippery, and at two points on the route I overtook a motorbike with the pillion passenger wielding a TV camera providing live pictures of the runners (like as is done in the Tour de France)! This caused a bit of chaos as runners turned round to face the camera. Overhead, we were watched by two helicopters presumably also with TV cameras.

It took me 49m39s which is a reasonably good time considering the hills and the hindrances. I was the 7075th finisher of 27,000+ and was 136th in the over 55 male category. After the race, I got interviewed (in English) by a Spanish TV crew!

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