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Ian and Allison Coggan review the Funchal Half Marathon


Race:  Funchal Half Marathon, Madeira

When: Sunday, January 19, 2020


What's the route like? It’s a race around the coastline of this beautiful island. They say it’s flat but our quads told a different story the day afterwards. There are more than a few  long, gradual climbs that you do more than once and the sharp downhill about eight miles is definitely one to watch. But it’s a wonderful route and the perfect way to explore part of the island. Who needs an open-top bus when you can run round the place? It’s an out-and-back so you end up seeing the starting line four times which might not suit everyone. But there was music, stilt walkers and jugglers along the route and you run through the heart of the tourist area so there’s plenty to see to make your mind off the miles. Once you’ve completed the downhill, you’re in the heart of Funchal and you wind your way through the lovely town onto the seafront for another loop. You need to run past the finish line at 11 miles which can be a bit demoralising when you see the people who have already finished. But the beauty of the island, known as a paradise of flowers with its spectacular mountains and valleys, helps you refocus with enough determination to get to the finish line.

Weather: Even in January, it’s hot. It was 23 degrees on the day but felt much hotter to us because we had come from a British winter so weren’t used to the heat. We carried our own drink bottles and used the water stations every 3k or so to pour cups over our heads. We ran together for the first nine miles but then the heat got a bit much for Cog and he was happier to run at his own pace.

Crew: The marshals are a bit thin on the ground and, at times, it was difficult to know where to go. But it was really well organized, given three races were taking place at the same time. Everyone was so friendly and the helpers at the water stations were great. There’s nice support from local and holiday-makers along the route too, as well as great camaraderie between the runners.

Worst bit: The portaloos. OMG. Just be glad the ones over here flush.

Best bit: The entire experience of our first international race. We lined up alongside Germans, Dutch, French, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Italian runners. There were British runners from Portsmouth, Bristol and Norwich. It was a true festival of running. An unforgettable run - and an unforgettable experience.

How did you do? It’s not a half marathon to pick if you’re looking for a PB. Sometimes, it’s about savouring the occasion rather than the time or pace and this was definitely one of those days. We were both well short of our half marathon PBs but, really, who cares when you’re lucky enough to race in another part of the world? Allison 2:10:54 Cog: 2:18:35

Goodie bag: You get your t-shirt and a banana the day before at the expo and your medal once you cross the finish line. There’s a really good range of food and drink at the end, from watermelon and orange slices to water and coke.

Would I do it again? Definitely. We’re just waiting for the date to be announced for next year to book our flights and accommodation.

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