The Valencian local police are also putting their trainers on
Invisible to many, but essential so that we can celebrate different races every year. We’re not talking about the bib-wearing organisers or the safety fences that mark the course. We’re talking about the Valencian local police. In addition to trying to offer runners the best conditions for participating in the race, some are also runners themselves. A mixture of passions that makes sharing the hobby with work difficult, but it’s impossible to stop a group of police officers that need to have running in their lives.
Jaime García is the chief intendent of the Valencian local police and has been organizing and coordinating the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon for 15 years, almost half of the editions of the marathon that have been celebrated in the city. With a long track record of high-quality events in the city, Jaime says that “the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon is the most complex exercise that the Local Police have to deal with in the whole year”. There are more than 400 members of the force that are situated along the 42 kilometres in order to maintain a high level of safety at as many points as possible. “For the marathon there are more than double the number of officers than provide a normal public service, like for example, the Ofrenda de Flores in las Fallas”.
Sharing work and passion for a hobby is not always easy, and it’s not something you have to remind Enrique Villodo, member of the local Valencian police force who, in many editions has wanted to participate in the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon, but has had to stay on the other side of the barrier. The local police’s objective, and the reason they are present at the race, is to “prevent any vehicles from hitting a runner because they had misinterpreted a sign or because there is some problem with the signs”.
The Police staff confess that the hardest job for them is when there is some change, even a small one, by SD Correcaminos, the event’s organizers, along with the Valencian local council. “They try to perfect the route to improve the runners’ times, but this also causes us problems because we have to redesign the organisation of all of the police units, which can take us between 6 or 7 months to do”.
Organising a marathon in a city like Valencia is very complicated because: “Valencia is a city that is split by the river and to cross from one side to the other you have to use one of the bridges; in some years up to 7 or 8 bridges are closed and some drivers that don’t understand this”. However the effort put in by the police, Correcaminos, and the citizens of Valencia have made the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon and half-marathon possible, which in recognition has received the silver badge from the International Athletics Fereration (La Federación Internacional de Atletismo or IAAF), an award that only 26 other races in the whole world have been awarded as evidence of the quality of their organization.
Nonetheless, many Valencians living in the city who are inconvenienced by the road closures caused by the races that are organized all over Valencia City. The police – who are often at the receiving end of their anger – ask these citizens to “Understand that sport in a city, or a society, is fundamental for development and cohesion. We ask them to have a little more patience and empathy”.
Within the Police force there are also many members who, once they take their uniform and boots off, don their running trainers and disappear off into the horizon. Gemma Rubio, Patricia López, Alfonso Martínez and Enrique Villodo are only a small group within the local police force that need to run nearly every day. “Many times quite a few police officers go out in a group. It complements our work. When we work in the marathon, we often see ourselves reflected in the runner and we put ourselves in their shoes because we like sport. Most people understand the fact that much of the city is shut down for the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon, as long as we keep them well informed. And on the subject of sport, although we can’t run it, we do identify with it as we like sport, but it’s our turn to work and that’s what we must do”, confesses Gemma Rubio.
Their passion for their hobby has even led them to go out running at 6am. And the most surprising thing is that they aren’t the only runners you can find out, for example in the old river bed, at that time. As complete running enthusiasts they weren’t able to resist the new 5k running circuit: “The new circuit is perfect because it separates us from the cyclists. It’s fantastic. The pathway is perfect because it is made of court clay and the river goes on for many kilometres which gives you a huge route, and the river is great for running. I know very few cities like this, and as they are going to extend it, even better”, said Enrique Villodo, who has 11 marathons and more than 30 half-marathons under his belt.
The thing that stands out For Patricia López is that “the river goes around the whole city so anybody can access it. The city has gained a lot with sport and running”. In addition, the incorporation of more and more women to running and sport is “a good corporate image and also good for the social representation of women” says chief intendent García.
“There are more women than men in the river”, affirms Gemma Rubio. “There are a lot more of us. Before some went to the gym, but not now. A few years ago there were more men, and even groups of men, and me, the girl”. And Alfonso Martínez can corroborate this: “Now, in the group of parents that I’m, most are women”. Its significant proof that the sport is rapidly growing and this has caused a huge increase in the number of female athletes in public.
The way people run has also changed a lot so that now it’s almost essential to go out running wearing a brightly coloured technical t-shirt. “At the beginning it seemed like we were going out wearing fancy-dress, but now it’s rare to go out wearing something discreet. The clothing has changed a lot, because before we went out wearing cotton t-shirts and now almost everyone has 7-8 technical t-shirts at home”, says Patricia López.
If you are in the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia marathon you’re already running and training, “You live the idiosyncrasies of runners and also that of police work, which is valued when there are problems or there is a lack of police coordination. We are lucky to see it from within and from the outside” assures Villedo. But in the end what’s important is the participant. In one way or another. And continuing to run. And the Police want a city that maintains the pace of the race.