Brain failure

It is all going well. We have rented a great house for the weekend. All the usual suspects are here - Hugh, Richard, Pete and Bing. Seville is a beautiful city, we have eaten just right the night before and I have rested as well as you can the night before a marathon.

As usual I am up way before everyone else. I know my body by now and I go out into the dark streets for a short run to get my system moving. It's about three hours or more before the start of the race. We are staying in the old town and it is a jumble of narrow streets. I have my phone with me and although I haven't put my contact lens in yet I can usually read online maps without them.

Well somehow I manage to get lost. Mainly because I don't know the name of the street we are staying on. I sort of know what it looks like and can recall a few landmarks from the main street it leads off. I have negated the online map but I haven't gone all that far - I must be only a few streets away - surely it is up here? No. I ask someone but don't really have much idea what to ask for.

Finally I phone Hugh. He is just waking up but he isn't much help as he doesn't know the name of our street either. I have gone from up very early to borderline late, at least by my standards of wanting lots of time to get ready. I can't remember how I get back - maybe Hugh looks up the street or maybe I stumble upon it. Anyway it has done the trick for my digestion but it is too late for breakfast. I settle for a banana and we head off to the start. I'm wearing my Palma de Mallorca marathon shirt for a bit of Spanish solidarity, not that I look remotely Spanish. It is a good one for hot weather as it has very short cap sleeve, it's actually cold in the early February morning though so it is one step up from a singlet.

The race starts and finishes in the Estadio La Cartuja stadium and we are actually in plenty of time. As usual my priority is a loo and I find one without too long a queue deep in the stadium innards. Bag drop done and we head to the starting pens. There is the usual pre race adrenaline in the throng and we are off.

It is a superb course and I am nicely in the groove. I don't really like running in a group with a pacer but as I am aiming for 3.30 it is inevitable I am around them, either just in front or just behind.

The weather is cold but clear and really they are great conditions for marathon running. I haven't really eaten enough breakfast but I prefer running on a pretty empty stomach and I've done a fair amount of fat burning adaptation, doing long morning runs on minimal nutrition.. I'm just taking energy drink at the aid stations rather than any food and all I have in my back pocket is a single energy gel for a late race emergency.

Richard is a little way ahead of me and Hugh and Pete somewhere behind. The race is going well. The first 5K is relatively conservative which is always a good idea and each subsequent one is getting slightly faster. I reach halfway in 1.43.58 and keep the pace going but of course as ever it is the final miles that count.

All is good up to the last few kilometres when the lack of nutrition suddenly starts to bite hard. I can actually feel my brain running too low on sugar and I am finding it difficult to concentrate all of a sudden It is a perfect time for the emergency gel and as we cross the final bridge over the river I go to get it out of the small zip back pocket in my shorts. Sadly my hands are just too cold despite my running gloves and I simply cannot get the zip open. My brain shutdown isn't helping and I give up, I don't like the break in rhythm anyway. It's a big mistake as I drift on for the final section to the stadium slipping right off the pace. Once I hit the track on a stadium finish the adrenaline takes over and I raise a last surge around the bend and along the final straight. But it's too late, I cross the line in 3.30.24.

I'm disappointed to fall just short of my goal for a second time but it is still a creditable effort and I look happy in the post race photo. I meet up with Richard and after hanging about the stadium, collecting our bags and recovering a bit we decide to walk back the few miles to the apartment. This means tracking back along the side of the course so we get to watch the runners coming by on their way to the finish which is always exciting, right up to the back markers who are getting a great accompanying parade of cars and motorbikes.

We have a lovely next day in the city, Richard and I choose to go up on the top of the iconic mushroom structures in the centre of town.

As a final act of brain malfunction I manage to leave my medal behind in my room, it remains the one missing memento in my collection.

Brilliant race on a fast course in a lovely city.