THE Málaga Marathon is a sunny extravaganza of distance running.

At 9am on Sunday December 10, I embarked on my third in this Costa del Sol hotspot.

It should have been the fourth, but last year’s was cancelled when southern Spain’s worst rainstorm for 25 years poured down on race morning.

This year the weather could not have been more different: 15C (59F) rising to about 19C (66F), a crucial few degrees warmer than my previous runs in 2013 and 2014.

Add to that a blazing sun glaring down like a searchlight on the gleaming Mediterranean, plus a strong north-west wind, and you have testing conditions for 26.2 miles, or 42.2 kilometres as our European cousins measure the ‘maratón’.

I joined 3,400 others, many from outside España, for the ‘salida’, or start, at the Paseo del Parque, near the picturesque ‘puerto’, or port.

We headed west towards the city centre along Alameda Principal and Avenue Andalucia before turning south to hit the coast road at 6k, east to reach the port at 8k and along past the Malagueta beach fringing the Med, which stretches 81 miles away to north Africa over the hazy horizon. 

There was some shade from the sun as we ran past buildings, but most of the course was wide open to it, pushing up the body temperature to levels that sapped the energy.

At 16k we turned around to go back through the city centre to 27k, where we went north into wind coming from the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountain range. Fatigue was setting in.

Is this the sort of activity you should be indulging in a month before your 65th birthday, I ponder briefly as I put one foot inexorably in front of the other. Why the devil not, my mind answers defiantly. You’re only as old as you feel, and I certainly don’t fancy jacking in the marathons yet!

True, I’ve slowed up over the years, from a personal best of three hours one minute 30 seconds at the 1983 Inverclyde race to what I expect today to be about four hours in my 46th marathon.

I had hoped for 3-45, but in the middle of September I strained a gluetal muscle and that, my friends, is literally a pain in the bum, putting me out of action for three weeks, curtailing training and affecting me today.

But sterling support was at hand from the 600 volunteers and many other Malagueños on the streets shouting ‘ánimo’, (good luck or keep going), ‘vamos’ (go, go!) and ‘muy bien’ (very good). That’s what you need when you start to wilt in the heat. 

It may have been sub-zero at home, but here in the largest city in the far south of Europe (with a population of around 570,000) it was waving palm trees, screeching parrots, brilliantly coloured flowers and sun, sun, sun. 

The Málaga FC stadium was a morale-boosting sight at 38k, and 2k later I crossed the Plaza de la Merced, which features a statue of Málaga-born painter and sculptor Picasso, and continued on past the colossal Cathedral as the excitement and anticipation intensified.

We approached the ‘meta’ or finish, through twists and turns, down the mobbed Calle Larios — which has a fabulous computer-choreographed Christmas lights musical spectacular twice every evening — and then, thankfully, into the home stretch along the Paseo del Parque between cheering crowds on either side.

I crossed the line on a welcoming blue mat in a happily relieved 4-18-15 in 1,812th place.

My slowest marathon and, all things considered, the toughest so far.

Now, what about the next one?