Marathon in Majorca. | MIQUEL A. BORRAS - UH - GRUP SER

If the traffic around Palma is a little backed up this weekend it is because 5,000 people will be hoofing it around the Paseo Maritimo and round the town centre for the Mallorca Marathon.

The race also includes a half marathon and a 10k and usually attracts close to 10,000 people, but global pandemics being what they are, the organisers are pleased to be hosting half that number this year.

Many marathons have been moved from their usual place in the calendar this year, which is why the London marathon was last weekend and the Paris marathon will be next weekend.
If you tuned into the race in London, you will have seen the men’s winner, Ethiopia’s Sisay Lemma, blow a $25,000 bonus for anyone running under 2 hours and 4 minutes after easing up and waving to the crowd at the finish.

Apparently, he didn’t know about that bonus and finished in 2 hours 4 minutes and 1 second, to run away with $105,000 in prize money.

The marathon running holds a unique place in sport.

Central to the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the marathon course was the 40km from Marathon to Athens, taken by Pheidippides (or Philippides, depending who you ask), in 450BC when he ran, naked apparently, from the battle of Marathon to the Greek capital to announce victory over the Persians.

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”, said Emil Zatopek.

The Czech athlete is considered one of the greatest runners of all time after winning three golds in the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He remains the only person to have won the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon in the same Olympics.

Accepting the challenge, hundreds of thousands of social runners now pound the pavements in a bid to break through the wall, the time in the marathon when your energy levels are utterly depleted and placing one foot in front of the other turns into a test of will-power.

When I ran my first marathon, London, which was an amazing experience and one I would certainly do again, I was advised by the nutritionist to the British Olympic team who gave me a strategy for taking on fuel and water that would see me safely over the wall. The trick, she said, was to take the 500ml of carbohydrate drink that was available every five miles, and drink all of it.

If it was a hot day, drink some extra water at the water stations.

It worked perfectly, until the fuel stations stopped at 20 miles. That meant my fuel ran out at 25 miles and the last mile along the Embankment before turning up past Buckingham Palace and the blessed sight of the finish on the Mall was total agony.

26.2 miles, or 42.2km is long enough for most people to run or walk, especially if you are dressed as a rhinoceros.

Getting around the course is challenge enough, but there can be distractions. They say the longest marathon in the world is the Marathon du Medoc, outside Bordeaux, which winds its way around the most famous wine region in the world.

There are around 50 orchestras along the route, stops for oysters and steaks, and the legendary 23 wine tasting stops. That’s just about one every mile. No wonder it takes a while and that’s if you can navigate the latter stages in a straight line. If this is to your taste, it is in September every year.

For those who feel that the marathon is too short, next week is the Ironman event in Alcudia where up to 2,000 people will start the 3.9km swim, 180km ride and then a marathon.

And for those who feel the marathon is a little too flat, next weekend is the 17th running of La Pujada a la Fita del Ram d’Esporles.

The Fita del Ram is an 832m peak located between Esporles and Puigpunyent. The race next weekend is 15km around the old paths of the coal miners and is part of the Balearic Cup of Mountain Races put on by the Balearic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing (FBME).

As you might expect, the ground is rugged and the first half of the race is mostly uphill, then after rounding the peak of the Fita del Ram, it is pretty much downhill from there. It is one of many beautiful walks on the island, but why walk when you make life difficult and race up it?