Why the Valencia Half Marathon is one of the best in the world

by Lorraine Williamson
Valencia half marathon
del canto chambers 2

VALENCIA – The Valencia Half Marathon is one of the best in the world for many runners. The climate, organisation and a city focused on running have made the race an international reference. 

On Sunday 23 October at 8.25 am the starting gun will sound for the first group of runners of this 31st edition. No less than 20,000 lucky people have managed to get a race number and are running in the Valencia Trinidad Alfonso Zurich Half Marathon. Las Provincias newspaper lists 20 reasons why this 21,095-metre race is so special and that runners can enjoy it mile after mile.

The route

The route has been improved again this year to have more space at the start and finish and to protect the riders from any strong wind. That is one of the few factors that can ruin the race in Valencia, as the last Half Marathon showed.

A flat city

The orography of Valencia allows the design of a favourable circuit. Thus, giving runners an opportunity to improve their finishing times. For years, the event organisers have adjusted the course to make it flatter, straighter and more comfortable. Therefore, it’s no coincidence that seven of the ten best men’s times in history were achieved here.

The Encouragement

Every 1,000 metres there is at least one encouragement and in most kilometres even two or three. Cheers of encouragement from the crowd or rhythmic batacuda music gives the runner some extra courage and strength to go the extra mile and make it through the finish line. Sponsors, Fallas committees or sports clubs have reserved their place to encourage the participants.

The running clubs

‘Running City’ would not exist without the large number of runners in the city. Numerous running clubs train year after year to perform better than ever at one of the best races in the world. The clubs support the thousands of Valencians who are at the origin of the Half Marathon.

The Goody Bag

Of course it is not the most important, but the riders also receive a goody bag when collecting their number. This one is packed with useful and fun trinkets, including a backpack, protein bar, skin care gel, fragrance spray, bagels, chewing gum, nuts, corn crackers and a running magazine.

The shirt

Valencia boasts great sports brands such as Luanvi, which has designed a running shirt with the slogan ‘born to be fast’. The shirt weighs 86 grams with seams made using the ‘flatlock’ technique that minimises chafing. The three world records achieved throughout history during this race are engraved on the back.

Letesenbet Gidey

One such record, still valid, is the impressive 1:02:52 of Letesenbet Gidey who had to flee the war months earlier in her native Ethiopia. She acheived this record on her debut race at this distance. In 2017, Joyciline Jepkoskei reached 1:04:51 as the finishing time. And in men, Kibiwott Kandie recorded 57:32 in the middle of the pandemic, in 2020.

Victory over Covid-19

The 2020 edition was ‘only’ for the elite. When corona still completely dominated life, Valencia managed to keep the enthusiasm for running alive. Despite that everything was sold out and a large part of the people with a starting number could not run with them in the end. Two years later, the starting numbers are again sold out.

The hotels

A city may have a flat track, enough animation and several world records, but if there are not enough hotels or other accommodations, an event of this size would be difficult. Fortunately, this does not apply to Valencia, because the city has 177 hotels with more than 18,000 beds. More than enough, because a large part of the runners live in the area or will stay with family or friends.

Gastronomy

Before and after the sporting achievement, the runners and their supporters can enjoy the extensive gastronomy on offer in the city. Besides the main chains, there are the typical options in the area such as eating delicious rice dishes in the area of ​​Malvarrosa or Patacona. Highly recommended is el Palmar, in the heart of the Albufera. Here you can taste paella as it is meant to taste, or enjoy the sunset during a boat trip through the beautiful nature reserve.

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The cultural offer

In addition to gastronomy and running, those who have the time and inclination can immerse themselves in the diverse culture the city has to offer. Think of a visit to the futuristic-looking City of Arts and Sciences, the beautiful Bioparc zoo or the exhibition about the Corpus in the Museu dEtnologia and many other museums and art galleries.

The Climate

At this time of year, Valencia is the ideal city to combine a long-distance run with a tourist weekend. However, unfortunately it will not be beach weather this Sunday. The day will be cloudy with a minimum of 17 degrees and a maximum of 26 degrees. The humidity is unfortunately not so favourable at 70%.

The Volunteers

The race could not be run without the selfless work of the 1,000 volunteers. Anonymous people who not only participate in the Half Marathon, but also participate in the running fair at the Feria de Valencia, the bag preparation, the services after the finish and even trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)… hopefully that will not be necessary!

Medical Assistance

The best-case scenario, of course, is that you don’t see them, but they are there. A team of 18 doctors will be attending the event, including anesthesiologists and intensivists. In addition to the field hospital, there will be 15 doctors in the race, with 21 ambulances and 5 skaters equipped with defibrillators.

The running fair

A running fair has also been organised in the Valencia stock exchange building, the Feria del Corredor in Hall 6 of the ‘Feria de Valencia’. In a large space you will find everything for this sport, stands of the sponsors of the event. It is here the riders will pick up their race numbers. The exhibition building is easily accessible by public transport. Several MetroValencia lines connect it to the airport, the North Station, the AVE and almost anywhere in the city where you stay. And for the day of the race, taking a taxi from the hotel is not a bad option and should not cost more than €10.

Integration

Everyone is welcome at the Valencia Half Marathon. That is why the organisation has prepared for the 31 athletes with disabilities who will participate in the race this year: 11 with functional diversity, 3 intellectual, 18 sensory and 1 person in a wheelchair. Seven guest guides assist these people.

Women’s participation

More than 5,600 women have registered for this edition. That amounts to 26% of the total. Since 2019, the organisation has been launching a campaign together with the sales company Teika to encourage women’s participation in the running competition. To that end, a survey was promoted this year to which 1,400 popular runners responded.

Sustainability

Plastic bags and non-recyclable thermal blankets have been removed from the event, paper usage has been reduced and all vehicles and cars used by the organisation are electric. Paper and plastic containers will be placed all along the course.

The Details

There are aid stations at kilometres 5.2, 10.2 and 15.2. When you come to the latter, energy gels and water and isotonic drinks are offered. The race numbers and the armband identify participants at all times. Each runner has access to a cloakroom service and toilet, as well as a place to leave their belongings. Furthermore all runners should have a good laugh along the way. There are photographers all along the route.

The Super Halfs

Valencia also participates in the Super Halfs initiative. Avid runners can go for it to run five Half Marathons. Other participating cities are Prague, Lisbon, Cardiff and Copenhagen. Not for the headlines. Not for a chance to take your place on the podium. But for the fun of running and the thrill of travelling. And for the joy of saying, “I did it!” 

Also read: Valencia is the World Design Capital 2022

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