Experience Donosti Through Sport
16 December, 2015
Each November San Sebastián hosts what for me is the best footrace on the national circuit, the Behobia-San Sebastián classic. It covers the 20 kilometres separating the Irunese town of Behobia on the French border from the capital. It is a veritable sports festival which this year chalked up its 51st edition, with some 30,000 runners signed up.
I took part in the race, but not on foot, as I chose to do it on skates. Indeed, it has a skating section and also features a Behobia Txiki version for children up to the age of 13. The latter takes place the day before the main event. There is also a much shortened version for teenagers from 14 to 18 years known as the Behobia Gaztea which covers the final 4.4 km of the main race. Lastly, organisers provide a Behobia for runners with disabilities; so, all in all, it caters for everyone. For the main event your physical preparation should be thorough and you must book your number and accommodation well in advance. The race itself includes continual climbs, so it can turn out to be really tough if you start out running above your rhythm.
More Than Just the Behobia-San Sebastián Classic
In my last London post I encouraged you to discover cities by running them. For an urban race in Donosti I would recommend the route of “the three beaches”. Starting at El Peine de los Vientos, Chillida’s sculpture at Ondarreta, you traverse the Paseo de La Concha as far as La Zurriola beach, crossing the Bulevar and the Kursaal bridge. The same route is also suitable for roller or inline skating.
But, apart from running through the city, San Sebastián also lends itself to interacting with its environment through such activities as these:
Surfing at La Zurriola. Zurriola beach, in the district of Gros, attracts foreigners all year around. The international atmosphere stems from the quality of its waves. There you will come across the friends of Pukas who have spent years promoting surfing in the Basque Country. They now also have a school in Barcelona. If you’re going to surf there for the first time, please place yourself in the hands of an instructor, as it is not an easy beach.
Kayaking and SUP at La Concha. You can hire equipment for kayaking and stand up paddling at the same facilities in Club Fortuna on La Concha beach. From there you can paddle carefully to the island of Santa Clara in Donosti’s old harbour. La Concha is noticeably calmer than La Zurriola and affords some spectacular views over the whole bay.
Swimming at La Concha. If you fancy open waters and have a wetsuit, you can extend your swimming season. La Concha is a calm beach, as long as you stay within the bay. There are changerooms with lockers where you can shower and leave your clothes. The lockers operate with a magnet key which is easy to wear while you are swimming.
Mountain biking or hiking in the monte Ulía.Anyone who has run the Behobia will recall (for better or for worse) the final climb known as the Alto de Miracruz, which comes after the final descent down Ategorrieta avenue. There, on the right, after passing the Arzak restaurant, is the climb up to Ulía. You can drive to the upper picnic area or walk up. The mountain is full of footpaths and tracks, so you can have a delightful time mountain biking, running or simply walking. At the very least, you will enjoy the views and the promenade leading to Pasajes de San Pedro and the Trintxerpe fishermen’s quarter.
If by chance the weather lets you down and you have to resort to indoor sport, you can use the gym at the Club Atlético San Sebastián for doing your gym routine (cycling, running, lifting) or, if you are looking for something different, go up to the Pabellón del Club Fortuna Pío Baroja to practise your skills on their climbing wall, using either a rope and safety harness (sports climb) or just climbing shoes. The hall is provided with safety mattresses for low-height climbing.
As you see, it is well worth coming to San Sebastián to do sport, even if you aren’t competing. However, if you have the urge to compete, take note of the following dates and events (in chronological order, after Behobia) and start booking your ticket at Vueling to enjoy them.
San Sebastián Marathon – end of November.
Lilatón – the first week in March, coinciding with International Women’s Day. The race is open only to women.
Onditz Memorial Triathlon – and women’s Triathlon in June.
La Concha Swim Crossing – in September.
Cross de las tres playas – in October.
Text by Raúl Casañas
Images by Iaona Manolache, Pello Sosoro
16 December, 2015