“What’s something special you’d like to do in Barcelona?”
That was the question I was asked by my travel companions as we planned our time in Barcelona.
I remembered watching the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, with a flaming arrow being shot to light the Olympic torch at the Olympic Stadium and the majestic views of Barcelona from the Olympic venue.
So my answer was — running on the track in the Olympic Stadium.
Was that even possible? I read information about the Olympic Stadium and learned that it was open daily with free admission. But it was unclear if one could actually run on the track.
The day was visited the Olympic Park, we arrived at Plaza Espanya and walked to the Magic Fountain. That’s where we saw the banners for Salomon Run Barcelona waving in the breeze and a row of tents for registration for the Salomon Run 10K (6.2 miles), which we learned was to be held the next day.
We talked with a couple who were picking up their race packages. They had run the race a previous year. They said the course was very steep – up and down – with dozens of flights of steps. The race started at the foot of the hill that rises up to the National Museum of Art of Catalunya, a favorite location for taking photos looking out at Barcelona. Then uphill from the museum is the Olympic Park.
One of the women assisting with race registration said that the race included running on the track in the Olympic Stadium – my goal.
“You should do the race,” my friends encouraged.
I said I’d think about it. I knew we would be passing the tents later on when we returned to the subway. So I could register then after we had walked at least a small portion of the course.
We took the escalators to the top of the hill. For the race, I’d be running the flights of concrete stairs that were next to the escalators.
We explored the Olympic Park, walking through several areas that had Salomon Run markers. The views were majestic but indeed this would be a race with lots and lots of stairs.
When we arrived at the Olympic Stadium, I wasn’t allowed to run on the track.
I registered for the race. My friends and I began discussing the logistics of arriving by 8:30 a.m.
When we walked to the subway the next morning at 7:30, we had the streets to ourselves. We arrived at the location for the start of the race and found runners warming up and psych-up music playing loudly. Between the songs, the announcer gave an energetic commentary in Spanish, with comments punctuated with “Salomon Run” every few sentences.
About 2,000 runners set off, with the last runners crossing the starting line six minutes after the start of the race.
The first half mile was intense — probably 100 stairs and then an uphill run on a road to the Stadium. I reminded myself to run my own pace and take care on the stairs. No handrails on any of the staircases.
Next, we ran downhill, then on a trail, then on roads between venues. When we passed a long line of soccer spectators waiting to get into the soccer field, they cheered for us.
Lots of heavy breathing. Some runners stopped to take photos with their phones. The views of Barcelona below were spectacular. The sky was blue without a cloud. The sun was shining, but there was a cool breeze. What a wonderful day for the race. How fortunate I was to have happened upon the race registration and have friends who would be my support team.
At mile 3, we entered the Olympic Stadium. We ran down the long set of stairs and onto the track. We ran from end zone to end zone. That was the flattest section of the entire 6.2 miles. I briefly thought of what running on the track would have been like for the Olympic runners with the stadium filled with cheering spectators. Then up the stairs and out of the stadium.
Next we ran downhill and down stairs and up stairs into and out of a garden. We ran up stairs to another roadway and down stairs to another section of the park. Most of the time, there was a little break between stairs, but one time we ran down a set of steps and within 20 yards were running up another set of steps.
Finally we began the last segment of the race, running down the huge flight of stairs that we had run up to start the race. A lap around the fountain, one more flight of stairs up, and then the finish line. My friends were there cheering.
My Fitbit reported that I had run 83 flights of stairs. My legs reported that, too.
My friends asked many questions about the race, and they could better understand the challenges, as we had walked many sections of the course the previous day.
I had fulfilled my aspiration of running on the track in the Olympic Stadium.
When I said that was my goal, I didn’t know that I would have to run more than six miles with more than 80 flights of stairs to be able to run on the track.