Tripped-Out Running – Moving through Madrid

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Note: One place I’ve never had much opportunity to run (save for a couple of unmemorable outings in the horse quarter of Milan, during my “running dark years”) is Europe. Fortunately, one of my friends from this blog and dailymile, Jenny Poore, recently had the opportunity to travel to and run in Madrid, Spain.  And, even more interestingly, she just happened to throw down a half-marathon PR on her way home.  Thanks to Jenny for contributing this guest post; if you have any running travel experiences you’d like to share, your guest post is always welcome too.

We’re all busy, right? We’ve all got obligations and responsibilities that we work around. An unexpected meeting pops up on the calendar or you have to reschedule a task. And the one thing that usually takes the beating is often your running schedule. Such is life. Among all the other non-work things you must get done within 24 hours, you still need to figure out how to stay active and stick to a training plan, if you have one. I’m sure a lot of you are thinking, “easier said than done, my friend”.

Here’s my two cents : I find that if you’re disciplined enough to have a training plan and creative enough to fit the runs into your schedule, everything will be okay.

Every runner I know is incredibly busy—sometimes beyond basic comprehension. They’re overachievers. They put a lot on their plate at one time. They don’t know how to slow down. They have made the commitment to make their life busy for a reason—they know that the memories they create and the people they meet by being part of a running community are worthwhile.

Recently, I’ve had a change in employment that allows me to have a more flexible schedule. And beyond being excited about the change, the first thought that I had when the opportunity arose was that I’d have all the time in the world to go running. I thought, “Imagine! I could go running at 2:30 in the afternoon and still get all of my work done!” I had visions of living in my running clothes and heading out for meditative runs in the sunshine every afternoon (especially in this gorgeous Midwestern weather we’ve been having). Granted, it might have been a bit of a rosy thought. After all, time limitations will always exist—no matter what kind of schedule you are held to or hold yourself to. But that’s where the fun and discipline enter into the equation.

Last week was a busy week. On Tuesday, I left my apartment in Chicago in mid-afternoon to head to the airport. I was to catch a flight to Madrid for work & spend two days there working with a client. From there, I’d fly to Washington, D.C. on Friday to run the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon the following morning & visit with my sister for the rest of the weekend. Beyond normal time limitations, I was going to battle jetlag, attempt to stick to a fueling and hydration strategy, and explore the city of Madrid.

Map showing the Ayre Hotel Colon and Retiro Park in Madrid

Map showing the Ayre Hotel Colon and Retiro Park in Madrid

So, a few days before leaving, I did my research. First, I Googled my hotel and proceeded to scoff at the ‘exercise facilities’ that they pictured on their website. If I only had time to run in the evenings, I’d be relegated to slapping out a few miles on the treadmill that looked like it was bought in 1994 in order to avoid feeling unsafe in a city I didn’t know. Second, I asked Twitter—because that’s what every runner should do when they have a question. Immediately, I knew that I was in luck. A few people named Retiro Park or Parque del Retiro. They equated it to New York’s Central Park, which meant that I had a runner’s dream on my hands. So, I packed half of my bag with work clothes and the other half with running clothes & shoes.

I tried to be as realistic as possible when it came to running this past week. I was most nervous about getting on a normal sleeping schedule and ensuring that my training didn’t suffer because of a tired body and mind. On the flight from Chicago to Madrid, I tried to get as much shut-eye as I could. I also focused on hydrating during the flight. A large water bottle served me until the plane landed around 8 AM local time. Honestly, I was more than ready to get a few hours of deep sleep at the hotel once I checked in. When I awoke, I showered and felt like a brand new person. I resisted the urge to be lazy the rest of the afternoon and went out to explore and get a bite to eat. I ate, drank, and ended the night with cups of chocolate and churros. (My diet of pretzel dipping sticks and Nutella back home had to be supplemented with something superior in Madrid!)

The next day, I had a full day of work ahead of me and the day after that would involve a very early departure to the airport to return Stateside. In other words, I didn’t have a choice—I had to run that evening. I laced up my running shoes around 5 pm and headed out to the park that Twitter had informed me was a runner’s paradise. I knew that it was going to be a great run from the start. There were old couples walking slowing with each other, competitive roller-bladers weaving through cones on the pavement, and cyclists whipping around the park on wide boulevards among other pedestrians. It was 70 degrees and sunny—and I imagine a walk through the park is how a lot of the natives spend every morning and evening commuting to and from work. (That would be great, wouldn’t it?).

The park itself is about 2.25 miles around on a path that can easily accommodate 2-3 runners in either direction. There are different running surfaces to take advantage of, from sandy gravel to pavement. As I was in the middle of a short taper before my half marathon on Saturday, I went out for 5-6 easy miles. As an added benefit, I was able to get a nice hill workout in, which felt nice and challenging compared to the flatlands of Chicago’s lakefront. My internal clock was set to 11 AM and I had energy to kick the legs every once in awhile. My body thanked me for getting the blood pumping after flying for 9 hours and sitting for the majority of the workday. I ran 5.5 miles and returned to the hotel feeling refreshed and ready for a good meal.

Friday involved an entire day of travel. At this point, my body didn’t know what day or what time it was supposed to be. I continued to hydrate and fuel just as I would at home. I tried my best to sleep on the plane to DC, as the reality that I’d be racing a half marathon the following morning set in. That night, I enjoyed a meal with my sister and ended the night with a tasty beer (I rarely see a decrease in energy or effort level the morning following a beer and knew it would help me fall asleep). After just 6 hours of very deep sleep, I woke up frazzled and sleepy. I drank a cup of coffee, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and headed to the race location downtown.

And, guess what? I was ready to go. I followed my routine. I made good decisions. My nerves were oddly calm. And I had a general outline of a race strategy that was guaranteed to lead to a PR. After a transatlantic business trip, a beautiful run through a park that I wish I could have brought home with me, and a 5 min PR, I am feeling great about this training cycle. And despite the fact that this past week did not include ideal racing conditions, I was disciplined and creative enough to make the most of it.

About the Author: Jenny Poore became a ‘serious runner’ in 2011 and qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:32:53 at her debut marathon in Chicago. Originally from Indianapolis, she now calls Chicago home. The Rock ‘n Roll Half was her 6th half marathon and she completed it in a time of 1:38:24. Her goal is to continue to get faster in both the half marathon and marathon this year, before running Boston in 2013. Connect with her on Twitter and on dailymile, and you can follow her blog, We Wander and Ponder.

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  • Johnny

    It’s a pity reading your post so late. I run 3 to 4 times/week at “El Retiro” and yes, it’s  a nice place to run, despite the surface, you can choose either running flat or uphill. Also, you can run outside the park (street) which is even 1,2 mille more or less longer and half of the way is downhill and the other half uphill.

    Hope you get to Madrid soon, you will love, not only running around El Retiro, but also architectonical and night-life.

    Greetings from Madrid

    Johnny @johnny_ofi:disqus 

  • http://predawnrunner.com Greg Strosaker

    Thanks for your comment Johnny. Most of my own travel is to Asia and the west coast of the US, as it is for business and that is where my (semiconductor) customers are located. Hoping to make it to Spain myself someday down the road!

  • http://twitter.com/jennypoore jennypoore

    Johnny! I wish I had known that a runner meet-up could have happened! My schedule was a bit unknown, but if I am ever in Madrid on business again, I will get in contact with you! Cheers

  • Runmadrid

    As a Madrid runner, I was happy to have come across this entry on running in my adopted city. I do see that you were here for a short while but I would recommend, for the next time you’re in town, heading out to Casa de Campo for a longer, less polluted run. Great spot to work on your half- and full marathon training. And spring time in Madrid is the perfect time to train. Thanks again for writing about and running in Madrid. Ciao.

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