Marathon #1 location unveilled

It took me only three weeks, from the moment I had the idea of running twelve marathons in a year, to write my first post on this blog. It was just the time to tell my wife about it, having my mental sanity questioned by the family, and getting their green light. Shortly after, I was being pushed, I mean encouraged, to write a blog about it (my wife is a journalist… 😉 ).

As you can imagine, there hasn’t been much planning put into it. But I haven’t been too worried about it because in April, after a five years hiatus, I finished my third marathon at the Australian Running Festival, beating my PB by almost 15 min.! I also raced the whole ACT triathlon summer series and have been consistently training with the Bilbys  (I’m a proud member of the Canberra Bilbys Triathlon Club and was through their novice program that I became a triathlete). So, I’m not starting from scratch but it is about time to start planning at least the first few events.

As I mentioned in the FAQ, I’m not going to be traveling around running official marathons, but will select a few events and fill in the gaps with runs measured by my GPS watch. However, I will be traveling for work in the next few months so I thought: “Why not run some of the marathons while I’m away attending conferences and workshops?” Well, the first destination is… Benasque, Spain!

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On my way to the Portillon de Benasque in 2011.

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View from the lakes on the French side of the Pyrenees.

I’ve been to Benasque a couple of times, in 2011 and 2013, for this biennial workshop on quantum information. The “Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual” is the perfect place to do science: great people with similar scientific interests put together in a welcoming building with blackboards along the corridors and internet access. All that a theoretical physicist needs 🙂 !

benasque_work

I have an idea! How about combining work and my marathon challenge?

On top of that, the little village lies at the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and offer amazing options for those interested in outdoor activities in the free time. In 2011, we hiked to the French side passing the Portillon de Benasque. After a quick “swim” at the freezing lake we went to the little Refuge de Vénasque to grab some food and beer!

benasque_2011

In 2011, my friend Terra Cunha and I hiked to the French side of the Pyrenees. The swim in the freezing water was a shock! But we were rewarded with beer and food at this little place by the lakes afterwards.

In 2013, it was the turn of Ruynet, my PhD co-supervisor back in 2002, to join me on a mountain bike ride from Benasque to the Hotel Spa Hospital de Benasque. Nothing technical, just a long ride with a “few” climbs. Even longer with our bad navigation, wrong turns, a flat tire, and stops for photos, or simply enjoy the view. Having ridden for almost 5 hours to reach our destination, we devoured the sandwiches we had prepared earlier and quenched our thirst with the cold beer served at the little shack.

benasque 2013

One of the stops to contemplate the view on the long ride to the Hospital de Benasque.

In 2015 the plan is to fill part of the free weekend with the marathon (check the events calendar for the dates). The final route hasn’t been decided yet but I have some ideas. I found this website called Wikiloc that has lots of trails and mountain biking routes in that region. At the moment, I’m tempted to start my marathon challenge in style! The idea is to start along the same mountain bike course we did in 2013 but adapting it to fit the marathon distance. It would be something similar to this map. If I choose this route, it will be a though first half climbing all the way from an altitude of 1150 m to almost 2300 m. The advantage is that the second half will be a breeze. A negative split is almost guaranteed! If you know of a good route around that region, please let me know. I’m open to suggestions!

Here is the link to some of the activities I did there in 2013:

Benasque to Cerler (9 km)
Benasque to Cerler 2 (9 km)
Ride to La Besurta (Hospital de Benasque)  — many stops, wrong turns… (25 km).
Ride back from La Besurta (Hospital de Benasque) — mostly along the road (16 km).
Benasque to Linsoles (12.5 km)
Beyond Cerler — That was a good one! (20 km)

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