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Starting line with Mayor firing the gun
Turnout for the Benidorm half marathon this morning was fantastic - a total of 1992 runners took part (1593 men and 399 women) and the entire route was lined with spectators cheering and clapping them along. But the real icing on the cake has to be that a Brit won - Joe Bailey with an incredible time of 1 hr 10 minutes and 25 seconds - over 2 minutes faster than the next runner!

Crowds cheering a group along the Levante front
The Mayor, Agustin Navarro started the race - firing a starting pistol, suitably attired in a tracksuit.. The weather was perfect, sunny but with a slight breeze - I am led to believe that is good running weather, obviously not being an expert myself! As many of the roads were closed I ended up parking some distance away and it felt like I´d completed a marathon myself by the time I reached the start line.

4 of the Knowsley Harriers at the finish area
I was surprised at how many Brits had entered. I saw the names of many UK running clubs blazoned across the front of proud participants t-shirts - rightly so too and I spoke to some of them at the finish line. A group of ten came from Knowsley Harriers, a running club in Liverpool and two of them came in very fast, finishing with times of 1:20 and 1:21. They told me how well organised the Benidorm marathon is in comparison to many that they have entered.

Winner Joe on the last leg - way in front
All of the participants paid 15 euros to enter but each received a goodie bag and a medal, probably worth about that amount. At the finish line they had drink stations handing out energy drinks, coke and water and another stand with fresh fruit - orange quarters, bananas and apples. There was even a massage area where weary runners could go for a little relaxation and gentle treatment.

Another very proud group of ladies came from Ashby de la Zouch in the Midlands - for some it was their first time and they can´t wait to come back again next year. Twenty came from the club, five of which were female and they also commented on how well organised the event was.

With winner Joe
But the star of the entire event was without a doubt Brit Joe Bailey - he actually came second in last years marathon. I spoke to Joe and Stan Curran, President of his running club, the Salford Harriers before he took his place on the winners podium. In his hey day Stan was a professional runner and age has not deterred him - he was out today with the other 14 members that had flown over, but not quite as fast as Joe!

Joe trains up to 100 hours per week - slightly less in the hot summers (there´s a joke there somewhere....) 7 days per week. I asked him if he´d be out celebrating tonight and was rather shocked when he told me he and some of the lads hadn´t got in until the early hours last night... incredible, and yes was the answer to that question!

Stan with club hero Joe
The group all flew in on Thursday and are going back to Manchester on Tuesday morning, spending a few days relaxing here first, well earned I believe. I think that Joe definitely needs to find a sponsor - he´d be an asset to any organisation (he is flying back on Ryanair - maybe I´ll contact them!). He told me that he will be back again next year - hopefully repeating the success he has just achieved. Running is "just" a hobby for him - he actually works full time in an office so his dedication to the sport is incredible. At 25 years old he has many marathons ahead of him yet - especially if Stan is a benchmark to go by!

The second place for the ladies race was also taken by a Brit - Laura Nicoleta Ghelmez, pictured next to Joe on the podium with the red hair. Perhaps she may take a leaf out of Joe´s book and follow suit next year.... Gema Amor the Deputy Mayor gave out the winners cups and certificates.

Congratulations to all those that took part - the Brits are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to long distance running. Benidorm is becoming quite a destination for sports now with the Taekwon-Do championships and Base Jumping this year alone.

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