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Metro tunnels of Barcelona host a 10k underground race at early morning

On Friday early morning the 10km metro tunnel of Barcelona that links Universitat and Gorg stations became the track of the second edition of Discovery Underground. This is the only urban underground race in the world going through the centre of big cities and it is an original idea of the Spanish television channel Discovery MAX. 300 men and women with background stories that assimilate the channel's premise "ordinary people living extraordinary experiences" ran for about 1.45h, with the first two people arriving at the minute 39. 2014 Discovery Underground Barcelona marks the beginning of the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Metro of Barcelona.

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29 August 2014 06:55 PM

by

Helena Lins

Barcelona (ACN).- On the night between the 28th and the 29th of August, the metro tunnels of Barcelona became the track for the second edition of Discovery Underground, the only urban underground race in the world going through the centre of big cities. From the more than 15,000 candidates, 300 people ran the 10km tunnel that links Universitat to Gorg metro stations, on the Line 2. This was the double of candidates comparing to the first edition which happened last year in Madrid, and the triple of participants. The race is an original idea of Discovery MAX, a Spanish TV channel of Discovery Networks, which focuses on "ordinary people living extraordinary experiences". According to Antonio Ruiz, Marketing and Communications Director of Discovery Networks International for Spain and Portugal, this was also the main criteria of the participants' selection. The race started at 1.30am and the event lasted approximately until 3.30 am which meant that it did not interfered with the working hours of the metro services. Although it is a non-competitive event, there was a big timer on the finishing line. The first two people arrived at the minute 39 and 1.45h after the race began, it was successful concluded. Among the participants there were Carlos, who was running with his dog, and Serena, who was participating in order to raise awareness about organ donation. There were a few injuries and one dropout throughout the event but everything was under control due to the strict security measures and the 25 medical staff ready to assist anyone in need.  2014 Discovery Underground Barcelona marks the beginning of the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Metro of Barcelona.


1.30am, 29th of August. 300 people gather together in the metro tunnel of Universitat metro station, ready to run the second edition of Discovery Underground. According to Antonio Ruiz, there are other underground races around the world but this is the only one located in the centre of big cities.

Discovery Underground – an original idea

According to the Discovery Marketing and Communications Director, the idea of an urban underground race in a metro tunnel was born last year, when he was looking for an event that would reflect the premise "ordinary people living extraordinary experiences" of the Spanish television channel Discovery MAX. The first edition of Discovery Underground took place last year in the metro of Madrid. From the more than 7,500 candidates, only 100 people had the opportunity to participate.

Discovery Underground Barcelona 2014

This year Discovery Underground arrived in Barcelona even more ambitious, tripling the number of participants. From the more than 15,000 candidates, 300 people had the opportunity to run the 10km tunnel that links Universitat to Gorg metro stations on the purple Line 2.

Candidates were required to write a small text about their reason to participate in this race and the stories were assessed anonymously by a group of people from Discovery MAX. Each person was responsible to go through around 500 stories and present the best ones to a committee. From those, 50 stories were selected per person in order to guarantee the final 300 participants that best fit into the Discovery MAX spirit.

Among them was Carlos, a 33-year-old nutritionist who came to the race with his dog as a way "to honour her from saving my life two times already". Carlos has diabetes type 1 and during a strong attack almost two years ago his dog alerted his flatmate before it was too late.

Non-competitive event

According to Antonio Ruiz this is not a competitive event and, hence, there is not a winner. "The idea is to live this experience", said Ruiz. Nevertheless, there was a big timer at Gorg metro station. The first two runners arrived at the minute 39 and 1.45h after the start, the race was successfully concluded.

Carlos and his dog arrived towards the end of the race, looking tired but happy. According to Carlos, there were some challenging parts in the tunnel but, overall, "it was a rewarding experience".

Although there were a few injuries during the race, the participants qualified the race as safe moreover, due to the fellowship while everyone was running. According to Serena who was running "for all of those who need organ donations" like her husband, the participants in the front would always shout when there was an obstacle.

There was also one person feeling sick and one dropout by a participant that was already injured and, even so, wanted to be part of this lifetime experience. Ruiz relativised these occurrences by saying that this is an "extreme race" and things like this are part of it.

Security measures

According to Antonio Ruiz, "an overall priority of this event is security". Thereby,
the participants had to run with a helmet and, among them, there were runners from the organisation crew who were making sure that no one was left behind.

In addition, there was a time limit of 2.30h to complete the race. According to Ruiz, this gives a large margin for all the participants since, during the selection process, it was taken into account their physical preparation and how long it takes them to run 10km. Ruiz emphasised, however, that it was not required at all to be a professional runner.

A total of 25 medical staff were also placed along the track, with a sanitary station maximum every 500m and an ambulance on the outside. According to Ruiz, the exits of the twelve metro stations between Universitat and Gorg were enabled for possible evacuation as well as the emergency exits that exist in the actual tunnel.

There were also security staff controlling the access areas. No general public was allowed during the event due to the infrastructure limitations. Only the participants, the organisation crew and the accredited journalists had access to the event and, even so, journalists were only allowed at the start and finishing line of the race.

According to Ruiz, one of the main differences between the metro of Madrid and the metro of Barcelona is the distance between stations. "In the metro of Madrid there are very long distances between stations. On the other hand, the distances between stations in the metro of Barcelona are much shorter and are very close to each other." This facilitated the organisation of the security procedures.

Metro service not affected by the event

According to both TMB (the public company managing Barcelona Metropolitan Transport) sources and Antonio Ruiz, the metro service will work until midnight on the 28th of August and it is expected to restart, on its normal timetable, at 5am on the 29th of August. Moreover, TMB sources added that "the due time for the race is the same that is available for the daily maintenance of the metro infrastructure, approximately from 12.45am until 4.15am."

Economic investment

Although Discovery Underground Barcelona 2014 counts with the collaboration of TMB and the City Council of Barcelona, the economic costs was fully held by Discovery. Ruiz also added that the runners did not have to pay to participate.

The 90th Anniversary of the Barcelona Metro

Discovery Underground marks the beginning of the celebrations of the 90th Anniversary of the Barcelona Metro. According to sources of TMB the aim of this event is to "draw the attention of the wider public about this event and about the qualities of reliability, comfort, accessibility and modernity that characterise the metro of Barcelona."

The first metro line in Barcelona was opened to the public on the 31st of December 1924, linking Lesseps and Catalonia Square. In the past 90 years, the network has reached 102.6 km and an overall of 141 stations. Nowadays, one million people use this transport daily meaning that this is the most popular public transport in the city.

Moreover, according to TMB sources, the metro network of Barcelona will grow by 20km in the near future, with the opening of further parts of the innovative 9/10 line that functions without drivers.

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  • Runners arriving at the Discovery Underground race's end (by H. Lins)

  • Participants getting ready before the 2014 Barcelona Discovery Underground race (by H. Lins)

  • Runners just before starting the Discovery Underground race (by H. Lins)

  • Runners arriving at the Discovery Underground race's end (by H. Lins)
  • Participants getting ready before the 2014 Barcelona Discovery Underground race (by H. Lins)
  • Runners just before starting the Discovery Underground race (by H. Lins)