How to Run a Marathon

Estela Navascues winning Spain’s 2013 Marathon Championship in San Sebastian. / FOTORUNNERS

Unlike other sports, running does not require a ton of equipment apart from a pair good running of shoes, comfortable clothing and a great amount of determination. The sport allows athletes to decide the distance they want to run given their physical ability, although to run long distances, one must have dedication and a great deal of motivation. On February 20th, 2016, about 13,160 athletes gathered to participate in the Seville marathon. While only 10,805 crossed the finish line, the following is a compilation of stories from five different individuals who directly or indirectly participated in the marathon.


In a marathon, each runner is distinguished by the obstacles he or she has to overcome preceding the actual race. Not only must you have a certain physical preparation, but it is even more impor – tant to have a purpose that you can hold on to from the start until the end of the race.

“If you have a goal and your mind is fixed on it, you’ll achieve it. When I started running as a kid, my dream was to go to the Olympics, and I didn’t stop working until I got there. With training, effort, and dedication, anything is obtainable.” Two-time world marathon champion, Abel Anton (1962), reflects on his thoughts as an up-and-comer.

Anton, who was an Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 meter runner – a distance in which he also won titles for at the European Champion – ships – decided to make a jump to longer distanc – es after his success in the 1996 Berlin Marathon. The following year, he won his first marathon world championship in Athens.

Already a figure of national pride to his home country of Spain, Anton became world cham – pion for his win at the 1999 Seville marathon, and as a result qualified for the 2000 Olympics games in Sydney. Later, in 2001, he would retire from professional running. “In my days as an elite runner, I suffered during my trainings. But when it came down to the race, it was the other way around because I enjoyed it. Today I enjoy it all – training and competing – but consider myself to be just another runner amongst the rest.” Anton continues to be very involved with the sport by giving motivational talks, running a sporting goods store and coaching athletes, such as Estela Navascués, 35.


On Sunday, February 20th, 2016, the morning dawned bright and clear, bringing along a cool weather in the atmosphere. At 7:30 AM, the streets begin to fill with spectators bundled up in layers and carrying signs in their hands. Some are in groups – perhaps relatives or friends – while others seem to be unaccompanied. Nonetheless, everyone’s intention is to encourage the runners.

Alberto Rodríguez after completing the 2016 Seville Marathon. / COURTESY OF ALBERTO RODRÍGUEZ

By 8:20, runners head toward the starting line, located on avenida Carlos III, to find a place that gives them a good start.

Finally, at 8:30, the starting gun goes off and the race begins. Athletes run shoulder to shoulder; everyone tries to break away quickly in order to take a favorable position in the herd. Gradually, the public begins to notice who is in the lead.

Estela, who has been preparing rigorously to hold up well in the race, keeps her eyes fixed on the prize: qualifying for the Summer 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After achieving her goal and coming in third place with a time of 2h 32 ‘49, Estella reveals that, “The Seville Marathon was a great opportunity because it is one of the best marathon races that exists in Spain.”

Estela understands sports as a true phiolosophy for life: “Not only have I learned to be a better person, but I have also learned to recognize what is it that I really want. I’ve discovered how to focus on myself and on my goals, without being distracted or looking at anyone else, simply mirroring myself.”

A. Antón. Sevilla
Abel Antón crosses the finishing line as world marathon champion in Seville, 1999. / KAREN McCONARTY


Suddenly, you turn left and then right. As you approach avenida Ada you have realized it’s just you and a couple of spectators. You start to feel lonely, exhausted, and many thoughts are running through your mind. At this point you must have already found a pace that you can sustain for the 12 miles that remain.

Lucia, a fanatic and participant of amateur races who was once a lower-level semi-professional athlete, understands the rigors and the dynamics that racing involves. “Something important I learned during a chat with myself while running, is that when you’re hurting, when you think you cannot go any further, or when you just want to throw in the towel, you must simply continue little by little, step by step, and reflect on what you’ve already conquered. It’s essential to have a good running technique.”

After several years of hiatus from the sport, Lucia has taken it up again with such an enthusiasm that it is visible through her voice when she speaks. Additionally, she is also aware of the importance of physical activity – especially in a place like Seville where there is a high percentage of elderly people. This has motivated Lucia to open a pilates studio on calle Antonio Machin in the neighborhood of la Macarena, in order to promote a health-conscious lifestyle within the community.

“Running teaches you to live, to enjoy things that are priceless. It teaches you to rely on yourself and fear nothing. To simply learn to appreciate what surrounds you,” Lucia explains with a satisfied smile. “I don’t have any definite distances or times I want to reach. It is true that your legs suffer, but above all, I run to enjoy. “


“The calm after the storm” is an appropriate adage for this stage in the marathon. As you try to avoid the fatigue in your legs, you also realize that you have come too far to give up now. After the mentally and physically exhausting previous stage, there comes a point where everything starts to make sense again. The distance behind you and your pace are increasing. Your senses return as you begin to notice again the support of the spectators, their applause and the majestic beauty found alongside mile 22, located right at Plaza de España.

“There was someone in front of me with a faster pace. I thought I wouldn’t be able to catch up but I made the effort and succeeded. It was from that moment forward that I started to push myself to run ahead of my previous pace,” explains David Florido del Corral, Faculty of the Geogra – phy and History departments at the University of Seville. Taking on a very spontaneous challenge to run the Seville marathon without any special – ized training, David wanted to test his mental and physical capacity. “Last year, I intended to run but did not get to participate. This year I decided to on the day prior to the race,” says David.

Finding it compatible with his character, Da – vid, who devotes considerable time to his work and needs an activity that serves as an escape, placidly states, “I consider myself to be an inter – mediate level runner. I don’t have any specialized preparation nor am I worried about time markings. I simply run to distract myself and de-stress.”


Whether or not runners are familiar with Seville, they very well know that upon reaching the Pu – ente de la Barqueta, they have finally entered the last phase of the marathon. The 702-foot display of the magnificent metal arc serves as a confirma – tion that they have reached the 24th mile marker. The public’s encouraging and motivating cheers – “Come on! You got this! Good job!” – are also very valuable. Believe it or not, those strangers who wholeheartedly cheer the runners on are genuinely proud of the journey they’ve overcome.

“The marathon is a stimulus that triggers a button questioning your capability to complete it. And the correct response to that is: ‘Yes, of course I can!’ So, when you’ve finally arrived to the 26th mile, you can safely say ‘I’ve reached the “other” side.’” Explains Alberto Rodriguez, 55, on his Seville marathon experience. Alberto, who is not only a parent but also a novice runner from Merida, Mexico, found himself in Seville for business at the same time as the marathon, al – lowing him to participate.

“My life has always been set by the goals, so I said, ‘In a year I’ll be running a marathon.’ It’s the sensation you get from setting challenges, and not precisely by covering distances, but that of reaching your objectives and defeating your own demons.” Despite his limited agility in comparison to other runners and his considerable inexperience (having only started running a year ago), Alberto’s life experiences are what have truly taught him to be a tough athlete. He assures that this is only the beginning of his life as an amateur, and would like to run other marathons in the future. Between retired athletes, professionals, semiprofessionals, intermediate and beginning-level runners there are no borders in the marathon. All involved share the same, simple passion: running. •