Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Of the Medio Maraton Las Rosas

Your correspondent's dedication to aerobic exercise while in Guatemala has been a bit spotty. Guatemala isn't really an ideal location for running or biking, although that doesn't seem to stop some small portion of Guatemalans who are out running or biking in full regalia as if they were doing the Boston Marathon or the Tour de France, except on busy highways with no shoulders and clouds of diesel fumes everywhere. As such, there are occasional tests of athletic skill, such as the recently contested "Las Rosas" half marathon in Antigua.

Several co-workers of The Lovely Katherine decided that this would be a fantastic team-building opportunity to do the half marathon together, allowing everyone to participate by walking if they wished. Your correspondent agreed to participate as well, under some delusion that such a goal would motivate him to actually get some exercise to run the race. That delusion dispelled after a month of no training of any significance, your correspondent decided to go ahead and walk the race with the rest of the group.

It turns out that the idea that one might want to walk in a half-marathon race is foreign to many Guatemalans. The race started in a tight pack that took a while to thin out, so even the people who hoped to be running couldn't. But before long the runners sped ahead, putting some distance between themselves and the walking participants. And by "walking participants," I mean The Lovely Katherine, about six of her co-workers, and your correspondent. Through the early going, we enjoyed a symphony of honking horns as cars grew frustrated that the race route was still closed despite the fact that there didn't seem to be any runners on it. Before long, the gap between us and the main pack grew too great to ignore, and they reopened roads to traffic and we moved to the shoulder. A healthy crowd had turned out along many populated sections of the route, and reactions to our efforts were mixed. The majority of observers cheered us on, clapping and yelling "animo!" In the early going, some observers offered kind encouragement, saying "You've just started - you can keep running!" Others were more direct, with "cheers" such as "What are you doing?" or "You already lost!" One kindly woman listening to a radio report told us that we should take the shortcut to the town square, lopping off the last six or seven miles of the race, because the winners were just about to get to the finish line anyway.

Your correspondent will admit that he just about died of embarrassment in many of these stretches. Fortunately, the enthusiasm of the staff photographer for wandering through some of Antigua's outlying neighborhoods in a large group with a mostly understanding crowd won the day. We carried on through the full 13 miles, minus a couple short shortcuts, and returned to the main square to find that they had long since disassembled the finish line timer.

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