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La Behobia – A scenic half marathon to San Sebastián

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Of all the things I’ve done in Spain, La Behobia, has to be up there with the most rewarding if not the most enjoyable. The half-marathon, officially called Behobia-San Sebastián, is an extremely popular scenic run of 21 km through the Basque region of Guipúzcoa. It first started in 1919 and nowadays manages to attract people from all over Spain and beyond.

In Behobia

The starting point is the village of Behobia, a suburb of Irun, which sits on the French-Spanish border. I arrived here a couple of hours early and to pass time, took a walk across the small ‘international’ bridge of Endarlaza Hiribidea. This took me to the French village of Aldapa, a suburb of Hendaye, within just a minute. Whilst on the bridge, I saw houses on either side of this narrow stretch of the river Bidasoa facing each other. It seems strange to think that those who live here can wake up in the morning, open their windows and wave hello to their neighbours who live in a different country. Equally strange is Pheasant Island, which sits in the middle of the river, as it is a shared territory of both France and Spain.

Setting off and running uphill

Although as the race started I was within a crowd of thousands, throughout the run everyone picked up their own pace and the crowds dispersed to some degree. After 6 km, I started to ascend a hill, 80 metres high, called Alto de Gaintxurizketa. This is the steepest hill and most difficult part of La Behobia, and the ascent lasts for 2 km. Luckily and importantly, there are stalls all along the route providing runners with cups of cold water. I can tell you that never in my life has drinking water been so pleasurable.

The support from the crowds

Throughout the run, I passed a lot of quaint towns and villages of the Basque countryside, all filled with people chanting the word “ánimo” to cheer us runners on. I can honestly say this kind of support helps almost as much as the cold water. It’s especially needed towards the end when after 16 km, I had to start another steep ascent up Alto Miracruz. At 50 metres high it’s not as steep as the first big hill but after having run so much, it’s by no means easy. Once at the top though, the descent begins down one straight road, aligned with cheering crowds, towards San Sebastian – the finishing point at 21 km. This descent down Alcalde J. Elosegi Hiribidea was my personal moment of glory in La Behobia. I had somehow injured my foot and was in a lot of pain but knew the finish line was so close and the crowds wouldn’t let me forget that.

In San Sebastián

I crossed the Art Deco Zurriola Bridge and then the finish line on Boulevard Zumardia. Here all runners collect a medal for successfully completing the run and can pose for a professional photo in front of the sponsor board. I was now free to take it easy in what is, to my mind, the most charming coastal city in all of Spain. The rest of the day was mine to enjoy by chatting to other runners, ordering some Basque cuisine, having a well deserved beer and chilling by La Playa de la Concha, regarded by many as the best beach in Europe.

"Nothing, not even pain, lasts forever. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the end."

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The author

Adam L. Maloney

Adam L. Maloney

Adam is a Londoner who travelled to over 20 European countries and lived in both Portugal and Spain for several years. Adam is a fan of exploring intriguing neighbourhoods and meeting locals.

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