LEGENDARY explorer Ferdinand Magellan set off from the Spanish city of Seville in 1519 for the first sail around the world.
My mission in Seville a few days ago was slightly more modest — to run the city’s marathon.
Seville has the highest average summer temperatures in western Europe, as I discovered one July when you could have fried eggs on the pavement.
But for the maratón it was only 7oC with a chilly east wind as a record entry of 14,000 waited for the salida, or start, at 8.30am along the Avenue Carlos III.
Many of the city’s 700,000 Sevillanos cheered enthusiastically as we set off to Gloria Gaynor singing optimistically ‘I Will Survive’.
Ahead was a 26.2 mile tour around the centre of Spain’s fourth largest city and the capital of Andalucia.
This was my 45th marathon, first in Seville and sixth in Spain.
It was sunny and 21oC the day before, but today, mercifully, it was mainly cloudy and got up to just 14oC.
Seville is renowned for flamenco dancing, so, appropriately, at least two of the runners, a man and woman, wore the colourful gear.
The course, measured continental-style at 42.2 kilometres, is claimed to be the flattest in Europe and is ranked by the Spanish Athletics Federation as the second best in Spain behind Valencia, which I did in 2015.
This year, on its 33rd edition, Seville also received the International Association of Athletics’ Federation’s Silver Label status for the first time.
Just after 5k we crossed the mighty 408 mile Guadalquivir River over the Puente de S. Telmo bridge, passed the Torre del Oro, or ‘Tower of Gold’, a military watchtower erected in the 13th century to control access to the city, and then the 18th-century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring.
Crowds were large and vocal at various points as we ran along seemingly endless streets of apparently identical blocks of flats.
The most attractive scenery came towards the end, when tired legs needed it the most.
Around 34k we entered the Parque Maria Louisa, regarded as Seville’s top greenspace.
It was a relief from so many anonymous streets, and took us to the spectacular Plaza de España, a half-circle of buildings used as a filming location for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002).
We then passed Seville University, followed immediately by the ornate Alcázar, which featured in the TV series Game of Thrones. The oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, it was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The same distinction was given that year to the next landmark — the largest cathedral in the world.
Containing the tomb of explorer Christopher Columbus, it is literally a jaw-dropping structure that would take your breath away if you had any left to spare in a marathon.
There were many encouraging shouts of ‘animo’ and ‘venga’ — ‘keep going’. And several times I heard people reading my name on my number and calling ‘Er-eek muy bien’ (very good).
One outstanding building after another helped to wind up the excitement towards the meta, or finish, not too far ahead now in the 60,000 seat Olympic Stadium.
Applauding crowds mushroomed as I ran along a tram line, with fans on the raised station platform on my right. Fortunately, the trams were off.
Down the Avenida De La Constitucion, and suddenly the Puente de la Barqueta loomed welcomingly ahead, heralding the 40k mark and taking us back across the Guadalquivir.
Metre by metre the stadium inched closer. We entered through the south tunnel, emerging gloriously from the gloom on to the track amid crazy commentators, booming music and loud cheers as I summoned up a sprint around the thrilling final 300 metres.
A bright blue mat was laid over the track for the last few strides as I crossed the line in three hours 55 minutes and 9 seconds in 6,011th place.