You know plenty of people who go running and they always recommend it. You constantly see guides and books written by athletes extolling the virtues of running. General races open to the public keep gaining more and more supporters. This popular sport is as easy to take up as tying your shoes. If you want to run in the Barcelona marathon but you don't feel ready, we've put together five routes to try for running beginners.
Duathlon world champion Roger Roca recommends starting with a flat place and alternating walking and jogging. We looked for a green, central area (away from carbon dioxide fumes) and the Parc de la Ciutadella immediately sprang to mind. It’s a simple route of a little over 2km (1.2 miles) that starts and ends at the Passeig Picasso entrance (it doesn’t go around the lake or pass by the Parliament, but if you want to run farther you can lengthen the route however you like). Be warned that if you decide to run on a Sunday at midday, the chunks of green map out a path full of moving obstacles.
For your second outing, challenge yourself with the simple Montjuïc circuit (you can get to it by cable car or on foot - a great way to warm up before starting). The route is 1.3km (just under a mile) and passes right by the castle moat. You can go round several times or, if you get bored, try your luck with the long route, which circles the perimeter of the castle and the museum, passing by the coast and the funicular stop. In total it's just under 2km (1.2 miles).
We've read the book, 'Barcelona corre. Rutes per viure la ciutat amb bon ritme' ('Barcelona runs. Routes to see the city at a good pace'), a guide with 23 routes and practical advice for runners. For proximity's sake, we chose number 5 (nicknamed 'The Forum for runners' by authors Pere Bosch and Núria Blanco). This option is 2.6km (1.6 miles) of Avinguda Diagonal, between C/Badajoz and C/Josep Pla, where you'll have to avoid benches and bicycles, not to mention other runners who have chosen this flat, comfortable terrain, possibly to avoid cramping.
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We chose another route from the book's suggestions for those who are running at night, formed by the 5.2km (3.2 miles) that separate Carretera de Collblanc from the Joanic metro station. You'll pass by Travessera de les Corts and Plaça Francesc Macià before ending the route in Gràcia, always travelling on well-lit streets with plenty of water fountains along the way.
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The weekend is when you've got time to take a little trip on Carretera de les Aigües, a destination with views that veteran and beginning runners alike can share. You can start or finish at Pla dels Maduixers or Plaça Mireia (in Espulgues de Llobregat). When you finish the whole 18km (11-mile) circuit, consider yourself ready to run in Barcelona's 10km (6.2-mile) Cursa de la Mercè the following September.
Roca points out that running in a group is the best option for beginners (he also mentions that it's a good idea to get a stress test before starting to exercise). If it's hard to control your breathing and strides and if you don't have the right tools for stretching, you can always join one of the groups that athletic stores like Runnersworld or Bikila and some gyms organise. 'You should go with someone who can get you oriented,' adds Roca. If you do decide to go with a group, you'll have to leave your iPod at home.