Last Saturday the island hosted the thirtieth edition of this event with a record number of participants.
The oldest marathon in the Canary Islands has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, exceeding all expectations. The archipelago’s last marathon of the year was once again a date marked in red for lovers of running from all over Europe. In Lanzarote athletes found the perfect place to visit in the company of family, technical team or friends to experience a sports tourism destination that is a global benchmark, while at the same time enjoying a top competition with all the significance and history of Font Vella Lanzarote International Marathon.
After two years of waiting, the race’s reception could not have been better. The number of registered runners was well over 2,000, beating the Font Vella Lanzarote International Marathon’s own record and making it the event with the highest number of participants on the island. The figures are more than eloquent, with more than 40 different nationalities from five continents represented, positioning Lanzarote as the epicentre of world running after serving as the location of this important European competition, which can be held in the middle of December without any inconvenience, with the mercury never dropping below 18°C and at times exceeding 23°C, despite a small stretch of light rainfall that cooled the atmosphere mid-morning.
The great work carried out by the organisation has ensured that many of the athletes repeat every year, and that there is even a ‘magnet effect’, with more and more regular runners who come accompanied by family and friends with whom they also compete in a group. In addition, the different modalities of the Font Vella Lanzarote International Marathon allow the runners to experience the varied corners of the Lanzarote coast in a variety of ways, inviting athletes of any level to achieve their goals with this type of competition.
This was clear in the starring modality, the marathon itself, which started at 8 in the morning in the vicinity of the Sands Beach Resort Hotel in Costa Teguise. The runners getting ready to run the 42–kilometre course took in all ages, from youngsters to veterans, and featured the familiar faces of elite professionals and also athletes who have gradually taken up this discipline.
The atmosphere was sensational, and moments before the starting gun were equal parts anxiety and eagerness to start. This was understandable, especially considering that this was the return of one of the most international competitions in the Canary Islands after two years of absence.
Ciaran McGonagle’s 02:33:27 was enough for him to enjoy a thrilling race to remember. The Irishman took the gold after running much of the course as a dark horse, behind Italy’s Iacopo Brasi (02:34:24) and Portugal’s Digo Baena (02:34:34) who were fighting for the lead, although in the end they had to settle for a great second and third place, respectively. “I decided to run at my own pace, and I felt stronger and stronger”, said the new champion of the XXX Font Vella Lanzarote International Marathon, “the guys started to gain on me, but I was able to keep a steady pace and, in the end, I felt pretty good. Luckily, the others were tired and with a good pace I was able to finish first”.
Yvonne Van Vlerken from the Netherlands stopped the clock in the women’s category with a spectacular time of 02:55:59. “I’m delighted. I‘ve been coming here for 20 years and I‘m very grateful to the island. In fact, I get emotional talking about it because it‘s played an important role in my career as a triathlete, making me a very strong athlete and helping me to achieve my goals,” said a moved Van Vlerken, “I really enjoyed the marathon. This course isn’t so flat and normally there‘s quite a lot of wind, but today we were lucky despite the rain.“ She was followed by Ireland’s Nollaigh O’Neill (03:02:26) and Clarke Kennedy (03:03:40) to complete the podium.
The 21km half marathon was also very suspenseful, with several runners at the top swapping places for much of the race, although Ahmed El Mazaury soon broke away from the rest of the pack to finish in 01:07:13. Similarly, Great Britain’s Rachel Hodgkinson took the women’s gold medal with a great 01:18:24, after managing to put some distance between herself and the rest of the field.
The half marathon started at 10:30 am at the turning point of the marathon in Puerto del Carmen, where there were also images to remember with the runners themselves waiting for their start time, mixed with the rest of the fans present, joining in and cheering on the marathon competitors. Then it was their turn, and they took full advantage of it, with Carys Mai Hughes (01:19:18) coming in second, and the German Sindy Kermer (01:26:13), third in the women’s race. In the men’s half marathon, silver went to Italy’s Alessandro Zanga (1:09:59), while David O’Flaherty’s bronze (1:11:18) put the Irish flag back on the podium.
At 12 o’clock the starting gun sounded for the 10 km race which started from Arrecife and headed towards Costa Teguise. This course was once again one of the most acclaimed and the high speed of many of the runners led to some exciting duels. The Catalan Jaume Leiva repeated with an exciting new gold in the men’s category, after reaching the finish line at Sands Beach in 00:30:46; while the British Cherry Fowler did the same for the women, stopping the clock in 00:40:06. She was followed by Ali Hardie (00:40:09) and Joanne Stanfield (00:41:43), second and third for the women; and Marco Otten (00:31:10) and Tinguaro Quintero (00:32:27), respectively for the men.
As in earlier editions, this sporting spectacle could not take place without the wheelers modality and its 21 km of adapted running, especially since the competition coincided with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Jorge Madera (00:49:34), Joaquín García (00:57:20) and José Marichall Ivanosky (01:0243) made up the podium in that order.
At the trophy ceremony there was no lack of celebration for a special edition like this one. The numerous ovations were not only directed to the aforementioned winners, but also to the rest of the runners, celebrating the anniversary and return of the Font Vella International Marathon in style, an event which once again positioned Lanzarote on the world stage of quality sports tourism.