The Barcelona Marathon

The Barcelona Marathon

The Barcelona Marathon

The next edition of the Maratón de Barcelona, or the Zurich Marató de Barcelona as it’s officially known, will be held on March 11th 2018 which also marks its 40th anniversary. Nowadays there are in fact two races,, the marathon itself and a 10 K run both of which start from and finish at Plaza España with participants gathering along the Av. Reina Cristina between the Plaza and the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain) just in front of the MNAC before the starting gun is sounded at 8.30 a.m. Recognised with Bronze Label status by the IAAF (the International Association of International Athletics) the Barcelona marathon meets its strict criteria including the participation of world class athletes, and provision of refreshment stations at every 5 km offering water and other essentials.

A scenic route combining fitness and tourist sights

The Barcelona marathon course is a circular one, predominantly flat and takes in many of the most iconic and popular tourist sights of the city as well as its most important arteries. Highlights include the Camp Nou (FC Barcelona’s home ground), Pedralbes (where the Spanish Royal family stayed while visiting the city), Passeig de Gràcia (the city’s most elegant and principal shopping avenue), La Sagrada Familia (Gaudí’s unfinished cathedral), the Natural History and Science Museum (designed by Herzog & De Meuron), Glòries (with its collection of 21st Century architecture), Ciutadella Park and Via Laietana passing directly in front of the Grand Hotel Central.


Grand Hotel Central


The consolidation of Barcelona’s marathon as a global reference

There were more than 20,000 inscriptions for the 2017 Barcelona Marathon with 16,500 actually taking part in the race which was won by Kenyan athlete Jonah Kipkemoi Chesum in a time of 2hrs, 8 min and 59 sec with Ethiopian Helen Bekele taking first place in the women’s race in 2hrs, 25min 04sec, the fastest time ever run for the women’s race in Barcelona. The course record is held by another Kenyan, Jackson Kipkoech Kotut whose time of 2hrs, 7min 3 sec is also the fastest marathon ever run in Spain. Almost half of all participants last year were foreigners with approximately a fifth made up of women athletes. The fact that the city of Barcelona lies at such a low altitude and that the climactic conditions at that time of year are so benign with clear blue skies practically guaranteed makes it a popular choice for marathon runners, visitors and local enthusiasts.


Barcelona Marathon


Other popular races in Barcelona

Interest in keeping fit generally and jogging and marathon running specifically has increased steadily over the decades and has been formalised by the proliferation of marathons, half-marathons and other road races that are held throughout the country. Each of the major Spanish cities has its own event, with Madrid and Valencia hosting Gold Label road races annually. Barcelona’s marathon is only one of the many athletic events that are organised throughout the year, both serious and more light-hearted.

During the month of May for the last 19 years the city has hosted the Cursa de Bombers, a 10 K road race through the city where firemen run the course in full garb, some even with oxygen tanks strapped to their backs. Almost 200 participated in the 2017 race which is also open to the general public. At Christmas the Copa Nadal is celebrated, a 200 meters open water swim across the city port held on December 25th and organised by the Club Natació Barcelona with competitors often taking part in fancy dress costume. Ongoing since 1907 it’s the oldest swimming race in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe.

Training in Barcelona against an inspirational backdrop

Anyone interested in training for the marathon whether living in Barcelona or just visiting has an exceptional array of locations to choose from. The Paseo Marítimo is an uninterrupted linear park that connects Barceloneta with Badalona, the neighbouring municipality. Completed just recently this ambitious urban project marked a new relationship between Barcelona and its beaches which were formerly considered the preserve of local fishermen but since the 1992 Olympic Games are now rightly appreciated as a unique amenity for sporting activities. With an overall length of approximately 10 K runners can choose between its different stretches that include the Sant Sebastiá, Mar Bella, Bogatell and Icaria beaches.

Another popular route is the Carretera de las Aigues, within the Parc de Collserola, the green hills that form the western edge of Barcelona. A serpentine dirt track, closed to vehicles that is formally anchored by Pla de les Maduixeres and the Plaça Mireia d’Esplugues at either end, offering spectacular views of the city within an area that is designated a nature reserve. The short route covers approximately 9 K while the longer route is 20 K (a loop circuit) and is a predominantly flat course. Its name (literally water road) comes from the time when Barcelona’s water supply arrived via this route.

The Monjuïc promontory which overlooks the city on its southern edge is another area that combines challenging inclines with breathtaking scenery in a natural setting that features a cactus park (Jardines de Mossa Costa i Llobera), open air amphitheatre (Teatre Grec), the Olympic Diving Pool and the very extraordinary Joan Miró Foundation designed by Josep Lluís Sert.

The beginnings of Barcelona’s marathon

The first Barcelona Marathon was held in 1978 (although strictly speaking the race was held in Palafrugell, a village located on the Costa Brava) when Chemist Ramón Oliu returning to Spain from having lived and worked in the United States organised the race after having become interested in running and participated in several marathons while living abroad. It was the first ‘popular’ marathon held in Spain (predating the Madrid Marathon by a month) and was won by Dave Patterson in a time of 2hrs, 23min 15sec. With Matilde Gómez winning the women’s race 3hrs 55min 33sec. In 1980 the marathon was relocated to Barcelona where it has been held since and the 1992 edition famously formed part of the Olympic Games that year finishing within the Olympic Stadium on Monjuïc.

A sport for the entire family

The Zurich Marató de Barcelona appeals to all the family, in recent years there is even a Kids Race organised the day before (set for March 10th 2018) that includes different age categories and distances. It is also held at the Plaza España and takes place over the morning and afternoon.

Official Barcelona Marathon site and inscriptions:

General info about restaurants and bars in Barcelona: Guía Punto

Photo by joan ggk, CC BY 2.0