Pain is only temporary. Jogging becomes a phenomenon in Catalonia

Jogging has, without a doubt, become a phenomenon in Catalonia. The number of marathon runners doubled from 2008 to 2013 and now stands at 57,000. In 2012, the Barcelona Marathon saw record figures with 16,000 finishers, compared to the 138 that completed the first race in 1978. The rise of running is "something spectacular" and "studies show that 10% of the population are runners and this is certainly going to grow," says Eduardo Grimal, who completed a Master’s in Sports Management. You only have to go one day to the seafront of Barcelona, to the Carretera de les Aigües in Collserola or Montjuïc, stand there for ten minutes and count the number of runners that pass in front of your eyes. But what motivates the runners and is it just a passing fad?

Sílvia Martínez (blue) running Granollers' Half Marathon (by L. Abellán)
Sílvia Martínez (blue) running Granollers' Half Marathon (by L. Abellán) / Lydia Abellán

Lydia Abellán

March 20, 2015 08:55 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- You only have to go one day to the seafront of Barcelona, to the Carretera de les Aigües in Collserola or Montjuïc, stand there for ten minutes and count the number of runners that pass in front of your eyes. "I love going to the Carretera de les Aigues and seeing lots of people of all ages jogging," says Fabrizio Gravina, who has a degree in Physical Education from the University of Milan. "Hopefully it will last. Hopefully it is not a fad, that there is a real change in the coming years towards a healthy lifestyle," he says. The rise of running is "something spectacular. Studies show that 10% of the population are runners and this is certainly going to grow," says Eduardo Grimal, who has completed a Master’s in Sports Management. Grimal has run marathons in Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao and Zaragoza, as well as several mountain races and, along with his wife, he is the creator of COR Castelldefels Runners where, in addition to providing training three times a week for free, he gives lectures and talks about the sport.

In the 1970s, jogging was virtually unknown in the world. Just 55 brave athletes managed to finish the 42.195 kilometres of the New York Marathon in its first edition in 1970, compared to the 50,000 that completed the course in 2013. In 1977, "The Complete Book of Running" by James Fixx became a success in America and since then the runner philosophy has permeated not only American society but also half the world.

Catalonia currently has 41 half marathons, 16 mountain races and about 15 marathons. "In Catalonia, especially with the rise of trail running and athletes who are a point of reference for the media and whom are of international prestige, it is something that will be studied," Eduardo Grimal says.

Running helped Grimal overcome asthma, and he took up the sport following encouragement from his college roommate Santiago Sanz, the first professional athlete in a wheelchair in Spain. "It's hard to define what makes me run. To socialise? To train? It also becomes a form of 'meditation' (...) when you run, all goes well, you feel in harmony," said the founder of COR Runners Castelldefels, "jogging changes people’s lives.”

Jogging has also changed Silvia Martínez’s life, a 21-year old woman from  Barcelona who fulfilled her dream this March: to finish a half marathon without injury. Her history goes back to when she was little and her parents encouraged her to do athletics for problems with her hips. At 14, she had to leave her passion behind after undergoing surgery for a foot abnormality. But the bug had bitten, and she resumed running with her father. "It is what unites us and what makes us enjoy life together," Martínez says. Last year, she decided to take a step forward and egged on by a friend, enrolled in the Barcelona Half Marathon 2014. Her studies and a lack of time allowed them to only train during the two weeks previous to the race, accumulating 100 km in 12 days. "This poor planning and low accumulation of kilometres made my right knee just say stop," recalls Martínez. The therapist diagnosed the injury known as "runner's knee" that causes a sharp, stabbing pain in the knee.

"How can a person who has trained for two months, with all the time she has devoted, with all her enthusiasm, with the runner's bag in her room, with the shirt ready and the  body asking for more, how can she listen to her rational side?", remembers Martínez. She ran the Half Marathon of Barcelona, and finished it, but not how she would have liked. At kilometre 15 the pain became unbearable and she had to walk the remaining kilometres covered in tears. "It was a really hard time because I walked six kilometres with a sharp pain, but now I see it was a time of learning and improvement that I would never have thought I could have solved this way," she says. For Grimal, "failures are a fabulous learning opportunity, if you've had a bad day in a competition, you're a little stronger mentally."

No sooner said than done. Silvia Martínez set a new target, "ending a half marathon without injury" and chose the Mitja de Granollers 2015, the half marathon par excellence of Catalonia. The psychological preparation was key to achieving the goal, "I had to lose the fear of 21 kilometres," she says. "I was very nervous; I knew I would not do the time I wanted but this time I would finish running one way or the other". "When your body gives up, you have to get your head in shape until the body returns to action," said Fabrizio Gravina, who has studied through the Master’s programme from FC Barcelona in High Performance Team Sports and also a Master’s in Biomechanics. "Aspects of visualisation, ability to endure long-term fatigue and capacity to suffer a high intensity effort are the keys to success", he adds.

Fear, excitement and nerves were mixed in two unforgettable hours. After enduring knee pain, several miles of running uphill and moments of doubt, the reward came at kilometres 19 and 20 when the crowded streets of Granollers received 9,000 runners, including one very excited Silvia: "When I crossed the finish line I felt I had taken a huge weight off myself and ever since that time, running for me would be very different."

"It's certainly admirable when after an experience like the Barcelona one you are looking for another challenge and looking  forward," said Eduardo Grimal, "Congratulations!". His contemporary Fabrizio joined in on the praise: "Silvia was brave because after having such a frustrating year and not being able to achieve her goal, she has made a change in her preparation and has achieved her goal."

"Finishing the Granollers Half Marathon has opened a 'Pandora's box' and the next challenge will be to improve this time and maybe even run a full marathon" said the finisher, "running helps me forget, reflect, meditate, relax, put things in order, plan, and, above all, makes me feel alive and free," she concludes. A sport, a passion, a way of life that has become contagious for millions of people worldwide. It is not only about taking one step after another but also about improvement, falling only to rise again, to continue until you drop the conviction that you have not yet reached the limit. Enjoyment through sweat and temporary pain.