Every now and then I take a look at myself in the mirror and decide I need to do some exercise. I don’t know what has happened to me over the years, it used to be that I could devour two or three bacon double cheeseburgers and not put on an ounce. Now, however, if I even look at a piece of asparagus sideways I gain fifteen pounds. What’s the deal?
So in my latest effort to drop a couple inches from the sagging waistline, I signed up for the 99Media Marathon held Sunday, November 30th here in Lima. When I put my name on the dotted line a month ago, my thought was that the half-marathon (21 km) would be a great motivation to go out, jog, and enjoy a healthy lifestyle (there’s nothing like the thought of imminent suffering to help motivate you to train!). Unfortunately for me, this was also the month that I discovered that you can buy a chocolate-chip cookie mix here in Lima, and I abashedly confess that I spent quite a few evenings over the last few weeks cooking about two cookies and stuffing my face with the rest of the raw dough like a naughty thirteen year old (eating raw cookie dough is an American tradition…one of our better ones really).
By the time my alarm went off at 6AM (I had to ensure that I had enough prep time for the 8:30 start), I was tipping the scales at 95 Kilos. Faced with the proposition of toting all that mass for 21 grueling KM, I wasn’t content.
However, there’s something about doing a running event with hundreds of other people that is simply good for the soul. The runners conglomerated at the Plaza de Armas in the center of Lima and stood around nervously, shooting each other’s pictures with portable cameras, and admiring the brilliant yellow shirts we had been given as part of our entry fee. There was a ton of positive energy in the air as people laughed, hydrated with Gatorade and water, and waited for the start.
Waited and wondered if we were in good enough physical shape to conquer such an event.
Some of us (ahem…cough…cough…ME!) knowing for a fact that we weren’t.
But the sense of trepidation is half of the fun of things like this and all those thoughts go out the window when the starting gun is fired. In that moment, like with any running race, you briefly enter that world where the only thing that matters is the road and the clock. The rest of the competitors sweep you along like the strong current of a river, and, even though you are running, it’s oddly relaxing as all the silly preoccupations that clutter your mind and bother you on a daily basis are pushed forcefully into the background.
If there’s one thing that stands out about the 99Media Marathon it’s this: boy did we get lucky on the weather! The overcast sky kept the sun off us and it was pleasantly cool as we trotted down Arequipa and took a right onto Jose Pardo. It’s only when you’re running that you realize how beautiful a place is, and Miraflores was out in full display along with all its wonderful inhabitants who were cheering us on exuberantly.
I never knew that all of Arequipa is a gradual downhill, so I was able to clip along at a surprising pace of 8:36 minutes per mile. At the end of Pardo, we took a left onto La Malecon de La Marina. It was only on the subsequent left that we took onto Avenida Larco, that the sad truth became clear to me: the last five miles of the race were to be a gradual uphill! My pace plummeted, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that my girlfriend handed me a bottle of Pilsen at the intersection of Arequipa and Javier Prado (the hand-off was by design by the way), the last mile or so would have been much more painful. As it was, I was spurred on by the exclamations of onlookers who said things like:
“Hey, that guy’s carrying a beer!”
“You’re going to have a heart attack!”
Or (my favorite)…
By the time I dragged myself to the finish line at the beautiful Parque de la Reserva (they have a series of magnificent water fountains there) 2:12 minutes had ticked by (and my beer was empty). Having resigned myself to the possibility that it might take me 3 hours, I was ecstatic with my time. I was also ecstatic with the organization of the event. The 99Media Marathon was put on by la Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima, Nike y Peru Runners, and the organizers did an excellent job with marking the course, halting traffic, and providing plenty of water stops. Putting on an event like this is a huge undertaking and I’d like to offer the organizers a huge thank you and congratulations for making this truly a world-class half-marathon.
As I was leaving the Parque de la Reserva, with my completion medal on proud display around my neck, I was handed a pamphlet for another upcoming 21K, La Clasica de Navidad, on the 14th of December (www.knk.com.pe). I’m definitely going to do it (I’m not giving up my cookie dough habit after all) and I hope to see all of you there!