On Sunday, November 6, I ran the Porto Marathon in Porto, Portugal. This was a back-up marathon after testing positive for Covid two weeks prior, when I was meant to run the Amsterdam marathon. (Here’s a recap of my return to running after Covid.)
Porto was my 40th full marathon and my first since moving to London at the end of July. My first European marathon as a European resident! For a full list of the marathons that I have done, check out this page.
We flew direct into Porto from Heathrow on Friday, November 4th. We checked into our hotel, the InterContinental Hotel Porto and then walked to the expo. The expo was held at the Centro de Congressos da Alfandega do Porto on 4 and 5 of November, from 10:00 to 19:00.
Since we were there early afternoon on Friday, it was quite quiet and really easy to pick up my bib/packet and stroll through the rest of the exhibits. There wasn’t much Porto specific gear, so I didn’t end up buying anything.
After the expo, we had an early dinner (or was it lunch?) at a cute little place called Pregar. Next, we bought tickets to visit Livraria Lello “the most beautiful bookstore in the world,” which also has a Harry Potter connection if you’re into that. It’s such an instagrammable bookstore that yes, you have to buy a ticket to enter. Ticketed entry also helps keep things from being too packed; our ticket was for a particular time.
And it was worth a visit! It’s a stunning store.
Saturday, we slept in a bit; the sleep two nights before the race is a very important night for quality sleep! We knew we wanted to be back from a run before the hotel breakfast was over at 10 am, but otherwise, we weren’t in any rush.
We made our way down tons of stairs in the center of Porto to the coast for a shake-out run on flatter ground!
It was a beautiful morning, sunny and 63 degrees. Probably a little warm, but I wasn’t in Porto to chase PR weather, I was in Porto to chase the experience!
4.5 miles with some strides before making our way back up all the stairs.
After a great breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to explore Porto. We did quite a bit of walking, which isn’t ideal the day before a marathon. If this was a goal race where I was really focused on a particular time I might have cut back on the walking, but at the same time, I was in this new city in a new country; I wanted to see as much as I could!
I was still careful about what I was eating and was hydrating a lot, and no port wine for me until after the marathon, ha! I was not aware before visiting Porto that port wine isn’t technically port wine unless its from the Porto region!
Sunday morning, my alarm went off at 5:30 am. My plan was to catch a taxi to the start line at 6:30 for the 8 am start. The hotel concierge had told us it would only take 15-20 minutes to get to the start. Runners were encouraged to take the metro to the start, but it actually was a little confusing and a taxi seemed more reliable!
Fuel: I ate a plain bagel with peanut butter, a glass of nuun (both peanut butter and nuun are not easy to get in Europe, so these were both precious rations in my world!), a cup of coffee, and water.
The Right Fit: I wore Tracksmith Lane Five Short Tights (with 5 pockets for fuel), a lululemon Sculpt tank top (in bright orange so Dustin could spot me!) with my name in duct tape on the front (and it stayed on the whole sweaty race!), a Sweaty Betty stamina sports bra, a pair of New Balance 1080s (no racers for this girl for now!), Goodr sunglasses (which are sadly much more expensive in the U.K.!), and 5 Maurten gels for fuel tucked into my Tracksmith shorts.
It was raining from the time the taxi picked us up until right before the start of the race. I decided to switch from my hat that I was wearing to keep the rain out of my eyes to Goodr sunglasses at the last minute and I am so glad I did. And I am so glad Dustin was my sherpa at the start to take my discarded gear!
The start line was confusing; there were no bathrooms to be found near the start. We had to walk about 1/2 mile to a completely different staging area for the gear drop and bathrooms. While walking that way, we passed a few porta-potties that were actually still zip-tied shut. A few other runners were able to get them open, but only 2 of the 5 in the row were open. But since I was there, I waited for one of those vs. heading to the true staging area.
An interesting difference between most U.S. marathons and European ones is that a lot more ‘average’ runners warm-up before the marathon. There were people doing jumping jacks, drills, and running all around, and these were not elite athletes. Dustin noted the same thing at the Amsterdam marathon two weeks ago. It seems to me that most runners in the U.S. just use the first mile or so of the race to settle in and warm-up, don’t you think?
Around 7:40, I made my way into the starting corral. I was in group B. By that time, it was pretty sticky and humid in the crowded corrals. I knew it was going to be a warm race!
Promptly at 8 am, the race began.
Mile 1: 8:35
Mile 2: 8:23
Mile 3: 8:21
Mile 4: 8:30
Mile 5: 8:29
Mile 6: 8:40 – I was feeling great and smiling, smiling, smiling! (It really helps. Even later in the race where maybe I wasn’t feeling as great, I would tell myself to smile and I would feel better.)
Mile 7: 8:30
Mile 8: 8:20- I found myself running by a girl whose bib had the American flag on it (like mine so I assumed she spoke English!) so I began chatting with her and we ended up running together for several miles and shared lots of marathon recommendations. It was lovely!
Mile 9: 8:41
Mile 10: 8:33
Mile 11: 8:00 – This was a bit aggressive for my sub 3:50 goal and probably didn’t do me any favors; in fact, a 3:50 was more like an 8:40 average, so I didn’t do a great job overall reigning myself in pace-wise. It’s so hard though when it feels so good at this point in the marathon.
Mile 12: 8:25
Mile 13: 8:35
Mile 14: 8:27
Mile 15: 8:36
Mile 16: 8:36
Mile 17: 8:51 – and, this is where I started to slow down. I still felt decent, but was it was no longer a walk in the park effort wise.
Mile 18: 8:56- 9’s felt okay, but I was working harder now. I noticed on my Garmin data that this is where my heart rate really increased. Dustin thinks I ‘panicked’ a little once I started working harder; his advice (for next time) was to keep pushing and not get “scared” by the harder effort, which is probably valid.
Mile 19: 9:02
Mile 20: 9:20
Mile 21: 9:38
Mile 22: 9:20 – uffda. A little more challenging at this point!
Mile 23: 10:07
Of course, the last miles (in this marathon, it was the last 4 that really got me) are the toughest. So many marathoners will say “I was totally on pace to PR, if not for the last 10k,” but it’s always the last 10k, isn’t it?
It’s a 20 mile warm-up to a 10k and I am the queen of a bad 10k, ha!
I think I saw Dustin one last time around this point and told him just to meet me at the finish. It wasn’t that I didn’t LOVE seeing him (it was such a treat to have him cheering for me along the course!), its just that I was ready to be done by mile 23. Mentally, it helped to think that the next time I saw him I’d be at the finish. 🙂
Mile 24: 10:00
Mile 25: 10:07
Mile 26: 10:40 – Eeks! I don’t think I walked, but was running pretty quite slowly (for me.) But I knew the finish was close and I just had to keep moving forward.
There were WAY too many balloon arches at the finish- false finishes, I’d say! I kept thinking I was at the actual finish and then I’d have to pass through another arch and another arch and then make a turn and even go up a hill at the finish. Evil! Ha!
Final time: 3:56:59
I completed my 40th full marathon. I kept it under 4 hours (just barely!) two weeks post-Covid.
And I had a blast. Thanks Porto!
I received my medal and a goodie bag with a finisher’s shirt. The goodie bag had a cold cola in it, which tasted so great!
I also drank some more Powerade and an apple juice. I was experiencing quite a bit of cramping in my feet, which I don’t think I’ve had before. I was pretty salt-covered so I know I had lost a lot of electrolytes, so that’s probably why I was so crampy. All the running on the cobblestone roads probably didn’t help either!
I had my phone in one of the many pockets on the Tracksmith shorts on airplane mode. I turned it on and Dustin had texted me to see where I was. He quickly found me. I ran into my American friend Angie as well and met her husband too. We chatted for a bit about the race and how we were happy to have stayed under four hours. It turns out that there were only three American women in the race, me, her, and one other older woman. So I was first American, ha! We joked that I should tell everyone I’m the Goldmerican. 🙂
Dustin and I walked further away from the finish area to call an uber to take us back to the hotel. The lovely concierge sent up a bucket of ice and a bag to the room for me, as well as a small bottle of Port and some snacks.
I quickly took a shower before we headed back out the door to find some food.
We had an amazing meal along the waterfront at a restaurant called Terreiro.
After lunch, we walked across the bridge to Gaia, where we caught a cable car down to the center of the town, (Gaia is a separate city from Porto.) In Gaia, we went to Quinta do Noval for a port tasting.
Then we walked (a significant distance and uphill!) to dinner at Vinum within the Graham’s port house. So, lots of eating and port post- marathon, plus a bit more sight-seeing and walking.
I was proud of myself for making it until about 10 pm Sunday night before crashing!
Monday morning we wandered around a bit more in Porto before heading to the airport to make our way back to London.
It was a full weekend in Porto, but I’d call it a success! I’m proud of this one and really enjoyed and loved Porto. Running a marathon is such a fun way to see a new city.
What’s next? I think we are going to run the Vienna marathon in April. I decided when we moved here that I wouldn’t continue using my coach; she took me through the Porto race, but we have now parted ways (amicably of course! I have nothing but positive things to say about her.) I am going to come up with my own plan for Vienna.
Well, this was a long one! Thanks for reading and following along on my running journey. I’m thankful to have you here. Please continue to come back!