Fitting a marathon into vacation requires trade-offs. When I looked into travelling to Spain over Thanksgiving, I found there was only one marathon taking place in the country over the 10 days I could visit. The 26.2 mile trial is gaining popularity, but blocking roads and securing hours for at least five hours requires logistics. So I was able to find a race, but only one and it was a little off the beaten path of where I could easily find flights and accommodation packages. No worries - this is one reason I like running marathons on vacation. In a wide open world, it leads me to places I might not otherwise discover.
It also led me to create an itinerary of relentless travel for the small amount of time I could take off from work to travel! I found a package for a flight to Madrid, three nights of hotel then a train to Barcelona and three nights of hotel and a return flight from the local airport. Truthfully, I was lured by an attractive sticker price and the simplicity of a preformed itinerary. I impulsively clicked purchase from my desk at work on a particularly dreary, rain-soaked Friday.
Thanksgiving loomed closer and I realized my pipe dream was about to turn from a negative space in my bank account to a real, life-changing experience if I let it. I had an entry to the San Sebastian marathon. I just needed to find a way to get there. After poring over plane, train and bus schedules, and even considering a car rental, I came up with a tentative itinerary:
Thanksgiving Day: New York to Madrid via Istanbul
Friday Afternoon: Arrive in Madrid
Saturday Morning: Madrid to San Sebastian via train
Sunday Morning: Marathon
Sunday Afternoon: San Sebastian to Madrid via train
Monday Morning: Madrid to Barcelona via train
Thursday: Barcelona to San Sebastian via train
Friday: San Sebastian
Saturday: San Sebastian to Barcelona via train
Sunday Morning: Barcelona to New York via Istanbul
San Sebastian is equidistant from Madrid or Barcelona, so I dragged myself on the train after the race solely because I was locked into a package "deal" and didn't want to forfeit a second night of hotel and train I had already bought. The blank notebook I packed into my backpack became a lifeline as I watched 14 hours of my short time in Spain through a sunny window. If I had known more, planned more, perhaps I would have done things much differently. My Airbnb host in San Sebastian told me about BlaBlaCar, a way to travel by car without having one in Europe, and I wondered if this might have simplified my trip. Travel requires and cultivates an attitude of openness, and flexibility in any case, however, and for this trip it meant finding the headspace to write and absorb as I passively passed through towns I would never explore from the ground. In part, the pages I wrote have inspired this blog!