We holidayed in Santiago de Compostela in Aug 2018 to kick off George's year abroad. Now it's a known thing to do at least the last 100km+ of the Camino pilgrimage, finishing there -- but nobody seemed to have done the totally obvious thing of running it in one day as an ultramarathon. So that's what I did.
Stats: about 114 km (71 miles) covered in 13 hours 16 mins according to my GPS watch (including a couple of route mishaps), including brief stops.
Note: I'm not religious, and this was no pilgrimage for me -- just a sporting challenge using a famous route. The Camino is a deeply spiritual experience for many, and I was anxious not to detract from that. So I made no pretence about being a pilgrim, and didn't want the religious compostela certificate.
A complete review of the day, and an appendix about navigation, kit and nutrition:
Click here to open video at https://youtu.be/mvalU5JUmus
The French Way from Lugo is the most popular, and the shortest. But getting there by public transport would have been too slow for me. Instead I chose the Via de la Plata (Silver Way) from Ourense. That way I could catch an early high-speed, non-stop train from Santiago in the morning and get back to the family in time for supper. Almost.
I found a couple of .gpx files for the route from Ourense which agreed well with each other. I tweaked those a bit (using http://bikehike.co.uk) to more accurately match the map paths, and followed it on the map screen of my Garmin 935 watch. I also added waypoints so I knew when towns and bars would be coming up soon. But it turned out those .gpx files were outdated -- that route was now cut by a high-speed railway, and later on hit a highway which now had an impossibly high, steep cutting. So I had to make some diversions and crash through some woods, adding time and some unwanted kilometres to my trip. Hence you should not follow my route, and I am not putting it up here as a download!
Both times I ran into trouble, I had ignored a yellow camino arrow. So the waymarked route would have been fine. At the same time, I would not have wanted to run without the GPS track -- quite a few times I missed subtle route turns, and without my watch showing me quickly that I was off-route, I could have run many extra km if I'd not realised, had to backtrack, and (maybe) find those turns the second time around. I didn't find a detailed 'official' map of the current route, but that's what I really needed in advance.
So here's how my day went:
I carried just a small OMM Ultra 8 rucksack with a couple of Salomon 500ml softflasks (floppy plastic bottles) which lodged neatly in the side pockets. I carried all the food I got through -- cereal bars and sweets -- but was carrying too much really. I could have bought more as I went along as there were quite a few shops (but big gaps between them sometimes). In total I ate four (rather small now) Snickers bars, two ~200g bags of sweets and maybe 3 cereal bars en route; but on the train I had a big choc chip brioche loaf, so I started well stoked up. I brought back at least half a dozen cereal bars and another bag of sweets in surplus. Gradually eating a bag of sweets one at a time as one runs along can be quite a good distraction when the going gets tough...
I bought water whenever I got my passport stamped (see below) as a courtesy, and refilled my bottles then. There were also quite a few fountains and taps available, some marked potable and some not. Even when not, I drenched my hair and top to keep cool using that water too.
I was also carrying a tiny backup phone, first aid kit, plenty of cash and a credit card in case I had to drop out, and a completely unnecessary (for that hot dry day) waterproof coat and head-torch. I'd also downloaded my route onto my main phone as a navigation backup, using the MAPS.ME offline mapping app.
Looking at Google Maps, you'd think most of it was on road. And quite a bit was. But actually there were some pretty rough rocky paths and lots of stony or slightly sandy tracks. This made it slower than I was expecting (before I ran into problems using an outdated route).
It was also much hillier than I appreciated beforehand; my watch logged 8530' (2600 metres) of ascent, and my quadriceps were pretty nuked by about half way through, which made the descents for the last chunk pretty excrutiating and slow.
I am not religious, and was anxious not to offend any religious sensibilities, but understood I could get a non-religious "certificate of distance" as a souvenir. That meant starting out with a blank Pilgrim's Passport and getting it stamped at plenty of places en route to prove I'd been there, which was a bit of a hassle, but part of the experience too.
I bought the blank passport from the Pilgrims' Office close to the cathedral in Santiago and took it back to get my certificate the day after my run. But they wouldn't give me a Certificate of Distance! Even though I had ticked the boxes to say I was a tourist (not religious), I was told it wasn't a proper "peregrination" (pilgrimage!) doing it in just one day. But I did get a "Welcome Certificate" which I understand one also only gets from completing the 100+ km anyway. If I'd known, I could have waited a few days before going in, as only the first stamp (from Ourense railway station) was dated -- but I'd also marked up my passport with the start and finish times by then in any case. Ah well, I still got a free souvenir certificate with the novelty of my first name in Latin.
See https://oficinadelperegrino.com for official details.
As I mentioned above, you should NOT follow my route! But if you have a Strava or Garmin account, here is my logged activity: