Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guate City 21K Recap

I have now completed 5 half marathons in my life time.  Add that to the list of things that ten years ago I would not have thought possible. 

The Guatemala City 21K (half marathon) is a huge event.  The race registration is capped at 8,500 people, and registration was already full and closed nearly three months before the race.  Luckily, because of Annette’s forethought and persuasion, a rather large group of us all registered before the race was full. 

So that, of course, meant a summer of training.  There were hiccups along the way for each of us, I think, ranging from mild injuries to decreased motivation to train while traveling.  Days before the race, a friend asked me my goal time, and all I could do was shrug at him and say, “I honestly have no idea what I can do with this one…my training has been so erratic.  We’ll just see how it goes.” 

The morning of the race came, and a group of six of us found ourselves clad in running gear and ready to take on the challenge.  The race site was crowded, because while only 8,500 people are allowed to register, thousands more run the race without a number or a timing chip.  There was an attempt at order, queues erected to funnel people in to corrals based on their past finishing times, with an open corral at the end for all those with no racing bibs.  But all the extra lines almost seemed to cause more chaos as people pushed to funnel past checkpoints reach their designated area.  The atmosphere, though, was positive.

As the race began and Amy and I shuffled our way forward to reach the starting line, I felt a rush of excitement.  The weather was perfect, the course would be flat, and I knew the adrenaline of passing so many people at the start would keep me moving.

Start of the race.  Photo from

Amy tore ahead, and for the first 3 kilometers, I did my best to keep pace with her.  However, I kept nervously glancing down at my gps watch, aware that we were moving at a pace of about 8:40min per mile…a much faster pace than I felt I could expect to maintain throughout the entire race.  So, I let her get ahead, and I slowed down.  I couldn’t bring myself to slow to my normal 10min/mile pace, though.  Running a 9 minute mile felt good, so I silently told myself that if, halfway through the race, I crashed and burned and had to drag myself across the finish, I would have learned my lesson about starting a race too fast. 

Prior to the race, I had asked Carrie (who had run the race before) whether I could expect there to be much music and entertainment on the sidelines, or whether I should bring along an ipod.  She’d recommended bringing music, as she didn’t remember there being much to distract from her boredom with the run.  However, this turned out not to be the case.  I did bring music along, but I kept the volume turned down so I could only hear it when it was moderately quiet around me.  I was only really able to hear about two full songs on my entire run, because so often my ears were overloaded with drumlines, marching bands, or stereos blasting energizing melodies towards the runners. 

So I stayed energized, and kept my pace high, and 10 miles into the 13 mile race, I was on pace to finish the race in under two hours…a feat that has been a silent goal of mine (silent because it didn’t seem achievable) for years now.  I slowed down a bit in the last three miles as exhaustion threatened me, but I gave the last mile’s push my all, knowing that I would be within a minute or two of the two hour mark. 

It was one of the hardest miles I have ever run, and it took a huge amount of willpower to keep running and not slow to a walk, but I did it.  I didn’t quite make 2 hours (I was less than a minute over it), but I came close enough to be ecstatic about my progress. 

Finishing a race always brings a fantastic feeling of accomplishment.  Finishing it in the presence of your close friends and thousands of other athletes is icing on the cake.  Sunday was a day well spent, and after the race, we rewarded ourselves by going out to lunch and then enjoying the rest of the afternoon.  I couldn’t have asked for a better day. 

Before and after the race

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