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Experience Donosti Through Sport

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

 

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FULFIL YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS... BY TRAVELLING

Take up a sport, lose weight, stop smoking, learn English... Whatever your new year's resolution or wish, you'll achieve it. All you need to do is travel! And here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

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From the Heart of Tenerife

Tenerife as a destination has options for a variety of holidays in an enviable climate. Its 22°C mean annual temperature, which virtually blurs the borderline between summer and winter, is one of its major assets, but not its only one. Another is its scenery and natural surroundings, ranging from dense laurel forest (similar to the vegetation that covered Europe in the Tertiary Age, some 20 million years ago) to beaches, coves, charcos (natural pools) and – why not? – the Teide National Park.

Tenerife No Limits – Land Sports

Healthy lifestyles have caught on in recent times and Tenerife has acquired added value as a holiday resort also offering outdoor sport and activities. Indeed, Tenerife is practically one huge outdoor gym, open 365 days a year. Its climate, landscapes and natural setting makes it a veritable paradise for both professional and amateur sportspeople. In hardly half an hour you can go from working out at sea level to doing so at an altitude of 2,000 metres. Following is a rundown of some of the many possibilities for doing land sports and other activities in natural surroundings, apart from those in the sea or air:

Hiking. The island boasts some 1,500 kilometres of walking trails, both official ones and those pending approval. They traverse Tenerife’s 43 protected natural spaces, accounting for almost half (48%) the island’s surface area. Each trail is unique, distinct from the next. One of the most striking is the Gran Recorrido 131 (part of the E-7 long-distance footpath), which comes from the European continent and crosses the island from north to south, a route stretching 83 kilometres that runs through all kinds of landscape, including Mt Teide.

Caving. The island features Europe’s largest volcanic pipe, known as the Wind Cave. It is 27,000 years old and 17 kilometres long, if we add up the tunnels at all levels. The tour lasts about two hours and immerses the visitor in a fascinating, dark and mysterious realm.

Climbing. Tenerife is also a paradise for rock climbers, with its myriad volcanic rock faces to be scaled. There are options for everyone, from beginners to experts.

Mountain biking. Lovers of this sport can enjoy some 200 kilometres of bike trails crossing the island. Most of these paths run across the heights of Tenerife, but set primarily in the Corona Forestal Nature Park. This is a comprehensive network of trails, many of which have parking areas, transport and services at their start and finish.

Cycling. The island is covered by a broad road network in very good condition. Many of the roads go though areas with little traffic, well suited to cycling. You can cycle at altitudes of up to 2,000 metres, at the foot of Mt Teide, or at sea level. Hundreds of world-class cyclists come to Tenerife to train for such races as the Tour de France, the world championships and even the Olympic Games.

Tennis and paddle tennis. Over eleven sports complexes are available to enthusiasts of the racket and paddle on all types of surface – clay court, Plexicushion and synthetic. There are also ample facilities for playing pelota and squash.

Golf. Eight top-notch golf courses, designed by golfers of the calibre of Severiano Ballesteros and Dave Thomas, make this island one of the destinations to seriously consider for playing this sport.

Accessible sport. Here, too, there are facilities for playing accessible sport. The island is one of the training centres for local, national and international Paralympics, featuring such complexes as Tenerife Top Training.

If you’d like further information on all these sports and activities, or on accommodation and specialised schools and companies, check out the offerings at Tenerife No Limits.

And, to discover the island first-hand, you have to see it for yourself. Check out our flights here.

Text and images by Turismo de Tenerife

 

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Reach the Heights in Barcelona

Barcelona and sport have long been comfortable bedfellows. It was in the late eighties that Montserrat Caballé and good old Freddie Mercury took turns to sing to the city to the tune of “Barcelona, Barcelona, B-A-R-C-E-L-O-N-A-A-A”. The rhythm was taken up by the syncopated clapping of Los Manolos and a spectacular staging of the event that would ensure nobody ever forgot the Olympic capital of 1992. That was when the seed of sport was sown and, thanks to it being magnificently fertilised, we can now proudly proclaim that Barcelona has grown in tandem with sport. No one would dispute the city’s footballing hegemony, spearheaded by the likes of Barça and Espanyol. It is similarly cherished by skaters worldwide, having put the Fórum to good use. Further, the post-Olympic Barceloneta has become an increasingly more popular destination among surfers. The surrounding Collserola, and the Carretera de les Aigües, have grown into areas plied by hikers, runners, cyclists and strollers. Barcelona is also the mecca of marathon runners, triathletes and other enthusiasts of endurance sports.

But, just what is brewing in post-Olympic Barcelona? Might this be the right time to discover the city from above, and do so by climbing? Sharma Climbing, headed by the guru of world climbing, the Californian, Chris Sharma, opened in November in the 22@ / Poblenou area. Sharma is world famous for having opened up impossible climbing routes. In the photo we see him climbing the Bon Combat line at the Cova de L’Ocell in Sant Miquel del Fai, a 9b/+ rating said to be the toughest in the world, as shown in this video. Sharma is one of the leading promoters of psicobloc (deep water soloing). In spite of his top-notch skills, Sharma’s Barcelona climbing wall is accessible to all-comers, with a preponderance of easy and medium-difficulty routes, as his goal is to foster the learning process and encourage newcomers to take up this sport. The venue is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with súper jueves late closing at 1 a.m. on Thursdays. Facilities include changing rooms with showers, enabling you to slip out occasionally from work if you start getting the climbing bug. If you need to sleep over, the Barceló Atenea Mar hotel is just a few minutes’ walk away and you can also go running along the esplanade.

Climbing is a world of its own and climbing walls are just part of it. So, if you’re eager to test your skills in the outdoors by climbing on bare rock, the city offers two readily available options, both for beginners and experts. The Costas de Garraf, just 30 kilometres from Barcelona, feature some 90 short routes for all climbing levels, with incredible views over the sea, including the Pas de la Mala dona (in the photo). The second area is Montserrat, also a climbing “sanctuary”, located just 65 km from Barcelona. It has an infinite number of lines – most of them long ones – requiring more techniques than in Garraf. They include routes near the Monastery, in two major areas – Gorros and La Plantació. For more detailed information on climbing in Montserrat, I advise you to read el coleccionista de vías.

Starting to feel the bug, aren’t you? Well, I hope you aren’t easily fazed. If your time is not at a premium or you want to engage in other activities apart from climbing, here are some pointers to procuring the right equipment.

Cycling: you can hire both road and mountain bikes at Orbea Campus Barcelona. For mountain biking, you should head for Collserola and, for road cycling, the best thing is to pedal up the Arrabassada and then go back down via the Forat del Vent, as this is an easy route with little traffic.

Skating: At Inercia you can hire longboards, skates and even inline skates. The store is just 300 metres from the Arco de Triunfo, a pedestrian promenade which is ideal for building up your confidence on the board. From there, I recommend taking the following route: go down the bicycle lane that crosses the Paseo de Picasso, skirt around the Zoo and continue as far as the Calle Marina, where you connect up with the Paseo Marítimo (esplanade). Together with the Fórum area, this is the easiest and safest spot to skate in Barcelona.

SUP, surfing, sailing and other water sports: There are loads of options to choose from, but for starters you can go to the Nautical School, Pukas Barcelona or Surf Box Barcelona.

Swimming: For open-water swimming, head for the Barceló Atenea Mar – which is also where the Garmin Barcelona Triathlon usually starts from – where swimming groups are organised. If you prefer to swim in a pool, the Picornell swimming pools are accessible and you don’t need to be a member to get in.

Running: if you’re an asphalt junky, a good option is to run along the Paseo Marítimo. It is usually jam packed with people so, if you want to avoid crowds, you could go running on Montjuïc or along the Carretera de les Aigües in Collserola.

Barcelona is a climbing destination and a city married to sport, a place worth returning to time and again. Start booking your flight here for this year.

 

Text by Raúl Casañas

Images by Chris Sharma, Alexia JMC, Ginés Díaz, Ionana Manolache

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