This article has two purposes. Firstly to allow me to keep track of all the useful links and race info I've accumulated, and secondly in case anyone else wants some tips for running on holiday.
My parents have lived on the island for 8 years. I've been there between 2 and 4 times a year since then. So I know it fairly well, and over the last few years I've been finding out more about the local running scene. Ryanair fly there now (I've found returns for under £60 which is amazing - I used to pay nearly £300 for flights) so it's a great time to visit.
First of all training routes. Assuming you're staying in a resort there's usually somewhere to run along the sea - from Puerto Rico to Amadores, the Paseo Costa Canarias in the Playa del Ingles/San Augustin area and so on. Mogan is a big more tricky because the coast is more rugged and it's a choice between the main road and running inland. A run on the sand from Playa del Ingles to Faro Maspalomas can also be fun, but hard work (take water!) - go over the dunes if you're hardcore.
If you venture into the mountains there is loads of fantastic scenery to run around (I like Tamadaba, and the area between Pico de los Nieves and Caldera del Marteles). In Las Palmas you've got the Playa de las Canteras area, the path along the coast seems to head out alongside the motorway a bit further west too, or the Avenida Maritima alonng the eastern shoreline. Both flat, traffic free, and relatively long. Off the beaten path for most tourists, I run round Arinaga and the el Cabron marine reserve a fair amount, and another road run I keep meaning to try but never get round to doing is running up the Barranco de Guayadeque and back, starting near Aguimes.
I haven't found a good map of Gran Canaria yet. If you're sticking to the roads round resorts that's not such an issue, but in the mountains it's likely to be more of an issue. The best I've found is the Kompass map (available in German from Amazon, but it's only 1:50,000 and doesn't really give the level of detail that I was hoping for. Maps of specific areas are available from Active Canaria (on whom more later), I've never used them but they might be worth a look. Link (roll over me to see where I go)
Actually, while I'm on the subject I'll cover it now. I've never used Active Canaria, but looking through their website they *should* know their stuff - certainly the races Allan has done, and his mapping work, indicate that he must know the area pretty well. And it's all in English which is always useful! But €40 for a day trip going for a guided run seems pricey to me. I guess if you factor in the cost of car hire it might not be so bad (and given my comments on maps above it's useful to have someone who knows the route!), but if you'd rather just have some free advice (including contacts for accommodation/flights/transfers etc) feel free to ask me questions. The link is www.activecanaria.com and Allan has a blog at Link (roll over me to see where I go)
Races. I'll deal with the biggies first.
Gran Canaria half/marathon/5k. This is towards the end of January, and it's a fast, flat course, loads of it along the seafront and beside Las Canteras beach. The race has had its teething troubles over the past 2 years but it has a lot of support within the Canarian government, and the intention is to make it a major European city marathon, filling a perceived gap in the calendar over winter, taking advantage of the climate. It's good value for money, and increasingly well supported, although on the 2nd lap of the marathon it can feel a bit lonely after the half marathoners drop off. As with many Canarian races, details aren't announced until relatively close to the race - there is a date for the 2011 race on the website, but in mid October I haven't been able to find a link to enter it. I try to get out there most years, so I'll probably see you there. www.grancanariamaraton.com
There are also at least three "big" off road races of marathon distance or (significantly) longer - Transgrancanaria Link (roll over me to see where I go), the Ultratrail Challenge www.burbujita.com, and K42 Link (roll over me to see where I go)
The only one of these I've done is the Challenge, and it's received a fair amount of criticism for the way it was organised this year, particularly the 175k where a number of competitors weren't allowed to finish for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Let me know if you want any info on this one. Transgrancan has been running for several years and is well thought of, and the K42 is an international series that again I haven't heard any complaints about.
(If you're into the "running across the island" thing, also consider Transvulcania in La Palma and Cruzatenerife in... wait for it... Tenerife)
If you speak Spanish, some of the best websites I've found to find out about these races and other off road/mountain races are www.arinaga.net, www.rungosay.ning.com and www.bichillorunner.com
At the other end of the spectrum, one sort of race I really enjoy in GC is the local "fiesta" race. I've done these in Telde, Arucas and Vecindario, and usually enjoy them. They range from 1 mile (Vecindario/Aguimes) to about 5k (Arucas/Telde). A word of warning though - where the main race is 5k, the womens race is often 3k. What usually happens is that you find out a date and a town, and you turn up hunting for it. An hour or so before the time you've been given they spring into life and you realise that there's a full programme of races from the kids up to the adults, with the senior races being the last ones - depending how many earlier races and how long they are this could be 2 - 3 hours later than you thought (and not always at exactly the time on the schedule).
Registration is usually free, on the day. Give your name, date of birth and get a number. Wait until your race is called. Run it. Hope for free chocolate and churros (Arucas) or donuts (Telde) at the end. And if you're a woman, chances are you'll win a trophy, especially if you're a vet. Women in Gran Canaria don't really run, and typically women will make up 10% of the field of any race. These races are run separately anyway, so you'll probably be racing against a load of stick thin kids in bikinis who are in a different age category, and a handful of seniors/vets, of whom there are rarely more than 3 in each age category. And you usually get trophies for the first three. Result! (Says the current Vecindario mile senior ladies champion...)
Good fun, and because it's free and on the day, with short races (and kids from 2/3 upwards can take part) it's not going to be a huge commitment during a holiday. Turn up if you fancy it, don't if you don't.
The issue is finding out about them. Vecindario and Aguimes are consecutive weekends in October. Telde is November. Arucas is around Christmas. They all tie in to saints days, but I'm not religious enough to work it out. What I usually do is to look on a couple of club websites - www.caigc.org and www.carucat.org which have calendars and usually at least give a hint of what's going on.
I've left a gap in the middle for 10ks and stuff. Unless you're booking a holiday last minute it's unlikely that you'll be able to plan around these. Spanish races seem to be organised and publicised relatively late by English standards. The Carucat and CAI websites are likely to list them, but not necessarily too far in advance. www.toptimecanarias.com is the local chip timing company, but events usually go on there *after* the event not before it. Link (roll over me to see where I go) also lists some events, although that's more a tri website.
Ah yes, tri. Possibly bigger than running alone in some ways, but that's a whole different article...