Published on 21/11/2019 12:56
When a race reaches its centenary, it doesn´t need much in the way of introductions. And if we´re talking about Behobia - San Sebastian, less still.
This is the asphalt race with the most atmosphere, tradition and prestige in Spain. There is no official distance, it's not exactly a fast race and about the weather...let's not go there.
So what makes Behobia so special? Actually, I didn't know. And if I had asked, it wouldn't have been very useful either, because what goes on in Behobia is almost impossible to explain.
How do we explain the “pilgrimage" to Behobia. A Sunday in November in San Sebastian. 8 AM, 5 degrees C and rain. Lots of rain. A typical couch and blanket Sunday let's go. Except for some lucky ones (yes, yes, lucky ones). Exactly 27,054 lucky people make the pilgrimage to the train stations in San Sebastián. Some trains are full of passengers with their trainers, leggings, raincoats, nerves, targets, some with their struggle and others with their silence. A 20-minute trip to a small town on the French border: Behobia. A village with its most important event of the year. Tents where coffee and hot chocolate were offered as soon as these guests arrived. Promotional vans with loudspeakers, cloakroom trailers full of volunteers (by the way, the warm-up clothes you decide not to wear in the race are deposited in containers and donated to CARITAS). There were countless neighbours who had gone out into the street simply to help and point the runners to where they should go. All under intense rain. I've never seen a level of involvement so impressive for any race. It was then that I began to understand a few things.
10:00am and after more than an hour sheltering from the rain as best we could (under bridges, porches of houses, service stations), we finally get our turn. Having an Adidas VIP pass allows me to warm up in the Elite area. For many this is an insignificant detail, but I feel like I'm fulfilling a dream. It was a privilege to jog next to these animals, listening to them talk about their pacing plans, greeting a god of athletics like Haile Gebresselassie (majestic), and admiring the naturalness of Chema Martinez who did not deny a single photo with fans who asked for it just minutes from the departure. I jog a few minutes with my friend Damià Ramis, I know him, I know how hard he has worked for this day and I have no doubt that he’s going to kick ass (he did). We wish each other luck and each one of us goes off with “his own” (he goes with the extra-terrestrials and me with mortals).
After about 10 minutes of soaking waiting in our corresponding lane, they finally show us the way out. Friends, this is BEHOBIA – SS.
After the first few metres dodging puddles (and with 27,000 people by your side, it's not an easy task), I begin to feel that we'll be in our element in these 20km to La Concha beach. There is not a single metre that is not overflowing with cheering people. Rain, wind and sometimes even hail. But no matter, nothing stops the Basque public. Unbelievable.
The first five kilometres always have a slight climb, with some intentional slide areas to break up any attempt to get a rhythm going. It's like that until you get to the first important climb of the day: the upper Gaintzxurrizketa (for non-Basque people, “the highway climb”). This is a climb of almost 2km with a 4-5% gradient, which doesn't seem much at first, but you are really blowing by the time you to get to the top.
It is also true that, although many of us forget to mention it when explaining how long a race was (ego stuff), everything that goes up must also come down. From the seventh kilometre to the halfway point of the Behobia-SS you can get plenty of rest and take advantage to hydrate yourself and eat. Although the steep and long declines are actually very hard going. By the way, at km 8 I had the pleasure of meeting “the famous” Behobia pirate; a man who stands in the same place every year with his pirate costume and his speakers at top volume to cheer us up. The aforementioned Behobia-SS stuff.
After the "ten thousand", we leave the highway and begin to see the port of San Sebastián in the distance. With every km that passes we come across more and more public, and as we move through the villages there are real parties are already underway. We often have to form a line so that we can pass through the crowds. We shake kids' hands, and you hear your name being called when they see your number. By the way, it's still raining. I'm having a great time... and to think I wanted to miss it.
The "Alto de Miracruz" is the last stretch before you get to San Sebastián. It's not really anything out of this world either, but after 17 km your legs are feeling a little heavy. Anyway, it’s nothing that can't be solved by the screams of the public. Is there anything more amazing than a rainy climb among hundreds of people cheering you on?
We drop down to Miracruz and now we "only" have to complete the 2km coastal section. In my head I had imagined this stretch as a 'victory lap' before reaching the finish line, and that's what it usually is. But to celebrate the centenary, the Behobia-SS gave us a spectacular hail and windstorm to put the final epic (and cold) stamp, on what has been until now the most beautiful asphalt race I have ever run.
And indeed, I can't explain the “why” of Behobia-SS. Maybe it's the place, maybe it's the crowds, maybe it's the "magic" of the race, or maybe a little bit of everything. The point is, without knowing how, I've fallen in love with this race forever. Ikusi arte eta ezkerrik asko, Behobia!
My clothing size
Técnico de producto en Runnerinn. Apasionado del deporte. Triatleta del ViWo Sports Team. Graduado en CAFE y entrenador de triatlón. Actualmente enfocado a media y larga distancia, aunque acabo haciendo siempre un poco de todo.
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