So here we are at the last marathon of the year and what a place to run it – Valencia, one of our favourite cities ; and what a way to finish – doing something we both love: pacing – but this time with a difference.

We’ve written about our love for Valencia in a previous post and how our experience at last year’s marathon encouraged us to return to the city to train. We had also decided early in the year to register to run the marathon again but after a busy year of racing (and especially being so close to last week’s San Sebastian marathon) we knew that we wouldn’t be racing this one.

Jacquie had already decided some months back to run with Beccy, a friend and neighbour, who she had been helping train to run her first marathon in 35 years. Beccy had previously run the second ever London marathon in her 20’s and, after some years of competing in triathlons, swimming and cycling events, wanted to have another go at the marathon distance. As part of her preparation Beccy had recently completed a half marathon in 2hr 13min which, using race calculators, suggests a marathon finish time of 4:38. However, after an ongoing injury and a viral infection had interfered with training, the aim was to finish in not too much discomfort and anything under 4:45 would be amazing.

Meanwhile Beccy’s cousin Tom was also running Valencia which was to be his third marathon and was hoping to run under four hours. Being a diabetic does not hold Tom back from competing but he obviously has to manage his fuelling carefully during the race. But again due to a busy race schedule and a minor injury, training had not gone exactly to plan. Tom was concerned at the danger of going off too fast and running out of steam.

It soon became obvious that what Cam should do was to pace Tom round his race.

So come race day we would each have our jobs to do – but that would be on Sunday. Arriving early Friday gave us a little time to delight in the sunshine and warmth of the Valencian winter. The city was looking magnificent with cobalt blue skies and trees still laden with oranges. The Valencia marathon has become very popular in the last few years, this year selling out its 22,000 places and the city was really buzzing with runners everywhere.

Friday afternoon was a short jog down to the expo and the evening was spent having dinner with friends. Saturday morning we all took part in the International Breakfast run in the Turia Gardens – a must do if you decide to run the marathon here – then spent the day relaxing and catching up with more friends who had also come to take part in the race. As always, over the course of the weekend, we managed to make some new friends too. The running community never fails to surprise in its welcoming inclusiveness.

Come race day we woke up to a mild morning with the promise of another sunny day. A walk to the slightly chaotic start, some final exchanges of well wishes and before we knew it we were heading to our respective pens.

As always the race itself gave rise to a whole host of different emotions. The excitement of the start line and standing side by side with runners from so many different countries and walks of life is always there – even after so many. As also is the occasional low point during the race, and likewise the elation and sense of achievement at the finish. But we have each also chosen another memorable moment from this marathon connected to our pacing duties.

Jacquie: The most memorable moment for me in this marathon was when at 37K I said to Beccy, by way of encouragement, “only a parkrun to go “, which she acknowledged by a nod of the head. I too find this point in the marathon reassuring, I know where I am and what I’ve got left to do. So I was somewhat taken aback when just a few minutes later we turned a corner and came across a large inflatable arch and Beccy’s face lit up as she implored “Is that the finish?” I was sorry to have to tell her that unfortunately we were only half way down Sawyers Hill. For anyone who doesn’t know Richmond parkrun there is still some way to go!

Cam: The highlight of my day was definitely running with Tom and seeing his enthusiasm and pure joy (well, for the most part) of being part of the race. From the beginning he made a point of acknowledging every band and choir we ran past, something I was pretty sure was short lived and would stop when the pain started to kick in. I didn’t say anything to him but I did think to myself “you are using up a lot of energy there!” He proved me wrong however, and continued to clap every support station until the end. It also felt good for me to high-five some of the younger members of the crowd as it had been the last thing on my mind the previous week in San Sebastian when I was racing. Of the 140-plus marathons I have completed I’m sure it will remain up there as one of my favourites.

We both had really enjoyable races but we thought we would leave the final words to our pace-partners who did so well. We were so impressed with how determined they were in their endeavours. We asked them to answer a few questions about their experience.

What inspired you to run the Valencia marathon?
Beccy: I had run a marathon 35 years ago and always wanted to run another one – Valencia appealed because it is a beautiful city and my friends were doing it too.
Tom: My cousin (Jerry) said it was a great flat run and my other cousin (Beccy) signed up for it. I love Spanish cities and it was also a chance to meet up with my son (living in Spain). Perfect.

What tip would you give to someone starting out on their marathon journey?
Beccy: To someone starting out I would say just be happy with completing, don’t worry about times – the main thing is to enjoy it and take in the atmosphere and sense of achievement.
Tom: Having done just three marathons I am glad that I put in a full programme of training for the first one. I’d say running happy, smiling and enjoying the run is as important as the time.

What surprised you most about yourself?
Beccy: That I finally got to the start line.
Tom: I burst out crying when I got to the end.

What was the toughest moment?
Beccy: Towards the end the whole thing was a struggle – everything hurt. I knew I would finish but I just wanted it to end.
Tom: Somewhere about 37K my head went down, I was lifted by my pacer telling me to “stand up”.

Aside from crossing the finish line what did you enjoy most about the day?
Beccy: The fact that I had my friend running with me and supporting me the whole way.
Tom: The whole thing was brilliant, being with family and friends among thousands of runners in a beautiful city on a sunny warm day. Perfect (again).

Beccy and Jacquie finished in 4hours 35min
Tom and Cam finished in 3hours 54min
Thank you Beccy, Tom and Valencia – you were all brilliant!