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“Barcelona has a spectacular race route and the runners really fly”

The incombustible former World Champion will try and beat the world half-marathon record for over-55s in the eDreams Mitja Marató de Barcelona.

How did you come up with the idea of beating the half-marathon world record for over-55s?

Every year I set myself a different challenge, but always in road races over different distances. This year I was attracted by the idea of beating the half-marathon world record for this age group. I started studying circuits and routes and I saw that Barcelona is one of the best, backed up by the fact more than 80 runners completed the last edition in under 01:10. The circuit is a good one and there will be several groups to run with. It has everything required to achieve the objective

The time you want to beat (01:10:23), clocked by the US runner Norman Green in Philadelphia, is 33 years old. How difficult will it be for you to beat that record?

It is difficult, but I have a chance, bearing in mind that I beat the 10k record last year with 31:40. You have to run 03:20 per kilometre, which is not easy for someone over 55 years of age. Even so, I like taking on these challenges.

Have you studied the route of the eDreams Mitja Marató de Barcelona?

I did that last year. I was in the Expo working with Suunto, one of my sponsors, and I saw that the circuit is spectacular. The second half is very fast, the runners really fly there. They also go fast from kilometres 5 to 12. Jon Koldo, for example, ran exactly the time I want to achieve, and those of us who have belonged to the elite notice these small details.

You seem up-to-date on everything, Martín.

Not only that, the level of the women is also good, shown by the fact that the world record was beaten. There are also other women who record great times, so I can benefit from them and their pacemakers. In the small groups I make with other athletes I like to lead and give advice so that we can all benefit.

Have you thought about how you are going to approach the race?

I will start at 03:20 per kilometre and my idea is to go faster in the second half of the race.

How has your preparation gone?

I combine quality training with other long sessions. Above all, I have given great priority to rest periods. I am better in races than in training, and overtraining can lead to injuries. Indeed, I have had problems with my sciatic nerve in recent weeks.

Had you ever run in Barcelona before?

Yes, many times. The Cursa de les Empreses, the Cursa de La Maquinista, the Jean Bouin, the Subida a Montjuïc when I was young…and the Barcelona Marathon, which I ran with my wife a few years ago. I experienced the marathon from another angle, as all the popular athletes encouraged each other, and spectators gave them drinks. The Barcelona Marathon is a great one.

What maintains your enthusiasm for athletics after having run around the world the equivalent of seven times with those 300,000 kilometres in your legs?

Without doubt, my passion for this sport. Athletics is part of me, and then there is the talent that my family has given me. I am still motivated and enthusiastic.

This year you are celebrating the silver jubilee of your victory in the World Marathon in Sweden. Is it your greatest sporting achievement?

As a major achievement, yes, although on a personal level the greatest was the Spanish podium we achieved one year later (1994) in the European Championships in Helsinki: Diego García, Alberto Juzdado and me. From then on, Spanish athletes were treated with more respect and many cross-country runners started to specialise in the marathon.

That was a real bombshell.

Athletes like Abel Antón, Alejandro Gómez, Julio Rey, Carles Castillejo or Antonio Serrano started running marathons, and every Spanish city started to organise its own.

How do you see the state of health of elite Spanish long-distance running?

A generational change is taking place. We are just a few months away from the Olympic Games and quite a few athletes have achieved their minimum qualifying time, below 02:11, which has not happened for ages. At world level we have also improved a lot but the pace of the African runners is too fast! Marathons are now being won in 02:04 or 02:05.

What about the state of popular athletics?

It’s in very good shape. What we thought a few years ago was just a fashion has now become a way of life, and the events are very well organised nowadays. Thanks to the running boom a lot of people started to organise races thinking it was very easy, but many have disappeared because people go to races that are well organised. Then there are runners who are reticent to wear a race number, but they eventually end up doing it.

Have you got your next challenge in mind?

After Barcelona, I would like to do the New York Marathon this year, as it is the 50th anniversary of the event, 25 years since my victory in the World Marathon and my 42nd marathon.

Finally, what advice would you give to people like you who want to continue running at 56 years of age?

Lead a healthy lifestyle in the mental and physical senses, and don’t get obsessed by the sport. Athletics always gives you more back if you are not obsessed about winning races or setting records.

 Picture: Suunto