Born in Cordoba although he feels right at home in Malaga, at 43 years of age, Rafa is the second generation of a family that has been managing a Zurich branch since 1972. He is also a veteran runner who has run the Seville Marathon twice and also several half marathons. This year, he is really looking forward to running the Zurich Malaga Marathon.

You have been running for a long time. Why did you start?

I have played tennis and football and swum since I was small. Because it was instilled in me at home. I started running around 2005. Due to family and professional responsibilities, I found I had less and less time every day to fit training and matches for other sports into my schedule. So, I decided it was time to put on some running shoes and get out running whenever I could. And I got hooked.

You trained by running the Zurich Seville Marathon. What was the experience like?

It’s difficult to explain! I took it as a personal challenge. Everything about a marathon is different to any other sport. On the one hand, you are worried and concerned about what running 42 kilometres involves but, on the other, it is exciting to see how you make progress with your preparation as the day gets nearer. For me, each and every one of the runners that decide to take the challenge are winners. It is a very difficult race that brings out the best in each of us.

What did you learn from that first marathon? Tell us something you wouldn’t do again and something that you would because it worked.

I learnt something that everyone tells you, but you don’t understand until it happens to you: there are several races within a marathon. I realised that there 32/34 kilometres marks a before and after. You feel perfect, you’re enjoying yourself and suddenly you hit the “wall” and everything gets really difficult. I don’t ever want that to catch me by surprise again because it was really awful.

What I would definitely repeat is running the marathon in a group. Several friends and I took part together and we all managed to complete it, each with our own time, but with huge shared satisfaction. It is also wonderful to experience the whole weekend with your family so you can enjoy both the race and the city it is being held in. That gives you extra motivation.

How do you get ready for a marathon? Do you follow a diet?

There is one word that defines it perfectly: discipline. It’s really difficult to combine work, rest, family and so on with 2-hour training sessions, series and repetitions, the gym… You’re either methodical and keep your sights on your goal or it’s difficult to do.

With regards food, I am a healthy eater in general. I’m sure it would be better to follow a specific nutritional plan for tackling the marathon, but I prefer to eat as a always do. At the end of the day, I consider myself a running fan and I don’t want food to become another area of sacrifice.

This year, you’re running in Malaga. How are you finding that?

For people from Cordoba, Malaga is our second city because many of us have always spent our summer holidays here. So, I feel right at home and that is fantastic when you’re running a marathon. It helps runners a lot to feel support and if that cheer of encouragement just when you need it most comes from a friend, relative or colleague… it gives you even more motivation!

This is the first year for Zurich sponsoring the Malaga Marathon. What do you think of that?

I think it’s a great idea for Zurich to make such a decisive commitment to Malaga and to this sport. As a running fan, in love with this city, and a collaborator with Zurich, I’m proud to have the chance to run for my company and do so surrounded by those who are close to me.

And what would you say to people who aren’t from Malaga to encourage them to take part?

I love combining sport and tourism and the Zurich Malaga Marathon is the perfect excuse for spending a weekend in this city with your family and friends. Malaga is wonderful at the moment. It has improved hugely over the past few years. You just have to look at Muelle Uno, Calle Larios or the new museums that have opened up. If you add that to the great temperature we have here even in December… it’s sure to be a very special marathon!