Whatever my idea of a sabbatical was, it wasn’t getting up at 5.10 am on most days. Now that I’m used it, I consider sleeping ’til 6am on a Sunday a lie in. This has nothing to do with DD starting school, as it has with the pre-mid life crisis of once the runner-up of the fifth grade school trail running championship suddenly bestowed more spare than there are Youtube videos to watch. So she becomes completely outdoorsy.
I’m no speedy gonzales, but I’ve always loved running – even before I spent an hour a day reading the Runner’s Magazine. But me and trail running hit the rocky road when I became a single mother/management consultant. For the first couple of years especially, my nose would be running more often than my feet. I’d be reaching my maximum heart rate at the top of the escalators at King’s Cross.
As often happens with the taken-for-granted things in life, I realised how integral running was to my identity in a hospital bed. High as a kite from morphine the day after my spine surgery, I read ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ by Lance Armstrong, and googled swimming instructors in London. As if reading my thoughts, my neurologist (what, not everyone has their personal neurologist?) said the words that have followed me to South America: “You will be running soon again.”
And so I am – but in Lima rather than London. I’ve joined a local sports aficionado group Miraflores Runners led by a Peruvian elite distant runner. Mr Ricapa likes taking photos and making people get up at 5am. There are now so many unflattering #nomakeup shots of me on Facebook that cancer charities would probably return donations on seeing my account removed.
In the past month I’ve taken part in three of Lima’s big races. Toyota 21k, Maraton RPP and New Balance 15k. If you’ve clocked most of your miles in Europe, the first thing to note is the absence of fund raising, but you can take comfort in your nice new t-shirt in which you’ll be raising the awareness of car manufacturers/fast food chains. Someone’s got to burn the calories. The second thing to note is that the Maraton RPP is not a marathon. It’s a 21k. But, hey fifty percent margin of error- let’s not be so pedantic.
The third thing is the gender balance. As you walk to the race start area, you are greeted by (presumably) Argentinian models. You can’t miss them, because they are tall and blonde and their boobies that have more gel cushioning than my trainers, are at the eye level of the average height Peruvian man. Qualities that would make them excellent pacers, but despite the misleading clothing, they are not there to run. They have more important things to do. Like to be blonde.
So that’s the women done…
I’ve observed about 1 to 4 female-male ratio at the events. It’s great if your bowel is telling you that carb-loading before a race (you learnt about that in Runner’s World) is not for people who tend to load on carbs anyway. Welcome to your first public event ever where there are no 5-mile queues for the ladies’! On the other hand, this means Lima’s trees get watered extra well (before eventually dying of ammoniac). But most importantly, mind the machismo on the track! Some say that men are worse at pacing themselves. My guess is that they have been to South America. In which case they, like me, may have noticed the first aid treat someone at the 1km point.
The New Balance 15k is a nice fairly flat race and my favourite of the three: you can even win a trip to the Disney 21k, if you are wearing a new pair of NB trainers. AND you make your best friend happy when they will be carrying your chip as you’re recovering from a knee injury for breaking the runner’s rule #1: ‘do not try anything new the day of the race’.
So, Lima and its races. Are they worth it? I wouldn’t be booking flights… unless you want to tell your Facebook friends you finished a ‘marathon‘ in an hour, or you’re a woman and have a nervous gut like me. But if you happen to be in Lima and not that busy on a Sunday morning – as they say here: ‘alas y buen viento!’ (wings and good wind) You may see a race regular English bulldog El Biuf on skateboard enjoying just that.
But it seems that as with everything else, the most amazing things about Peru are found far outside the capital. We are currently booking flights to Tarapoto for the Amazon 21k Race in November. Trail run in the jungle – now that’s what I call a sabbatical.ASICS, Brooks, Nike, if you’re reading this, I will review your latest runners in exchange for a free sample. Who cares I have 100,500 fewer followers than El Biuf? I can write better than the bitch.