Running with the Peruvians

I have a confession to make. I’ve been unfaithful. Two-timing. Strayed from a perfectly functioning relationship. I look beside me at 4.30 am and there’s a man, thirty years my senior. And I’m struggling to keep his pace.

Which is precisely 5:13 min/km on a half marathon. After the first 10k of our 21k training run, I fall behind my running buddy. Since the outlandish school hours forced me to cheat on my old running group ‘Miraflores Runners’, I’ve started my mornings with delegates from ‘Corre Perú’, which has a radically different approach to training.

Because getting from A to B is never as simple as getting from A to B. For the past few weeks I have been a slave to my sports watches (I can’t decide between Polar M400 and Garmin Forerunner. It’s me, the person who can’t choose on which continent to live!) to help me follow the detailed data tables specifying my speed zones for each workout. These are supposed to achieve me a respectable finishing time for the Lima Marathon in May. I did run my 10k PB sparked by the words of the Cuban coach Daniel Gorina that too many of us are “conservative”. Not as in Katie Hopkins – although there are too many of her as well – but as in conservative energy savers during a race; like you had any further use for your body parts after the finish line. If you’ve never during your career pledged to give “your 110%”, nor had the pleasure of working with someone who does, we need to have a chat, because I want your job. This boast has never made much sense to me – until last month. Now the cliché could even be quantified (04:20min/km)! Never mind Academia Gorina was only really asking us to give our 98% – less catchy for management consultants, but on a 10k you will enjoy the taste of blood in your mouth all the same. “If you abandon the training, you abandon the training – as long as you give it ALL you got.” (Minus the 2 per cent…)

This is completely opposite to the Protestant take on life of ‘to the bitter end, no matter what or how long it takes’. As for everything delivered while dressed in lycra, I started considering how I might apply this new piece of wisdom as a metaphor to other areas of my life, say, relationships. (But Hazel Davis already makes the case for drinking absinthe in the street here.)

While deviating from the macabre data tables by going too slow or too fast is parallel to making excuses to the speed camera, a failed run with Miraflores Runners would probably just be a run that you didn’t enjoy. Or a run without any group selfies. (My FB friends can appreciate the success rate in this regard.)

While I do need to challenge myself, I feel at home with this philosophy. In Peru I have discovered that endurance running is not about the solitary but the solidarity. The running equivalent of ‘we’re all in this together’ – as Adrharanand Finn describes in his thoroughly enjoyable best-seller Running with the Kenyans:

“In a group it is easier. It can feel as though the group is running, not you. As though the movement around you has picked you up and is carrying you along. The switching back and fort of legs focusing the mind, synchronising it, setting a rhythm for your body to follow. As soon as you become detached from the group, its power evaporates and it feels harder to run.”

If this camaraderie, training in high altitudes, ‘reverence for running’ and, in some cases, escape from poverty lie behind the success of Kenyan runners, it’s not surprising that there are Peruvian runners hot on the non-cushioned heels of the nation of champions. On Sunday, the pint-sized 28-year-old Inés Melchor made a new national 42.2km record nowhere else but in neighbouring Chile – a sweet Peruvian victory that is spurring high hopes for an Olympic gold in Rio next year.

So I will conclude with a wisdom that I’m happy sell to the highest paying political party candidate to use in the next elections, without having to travel 6,000 miles to the ancient land of the Inka empire:

“We’re all in this together – 110%.”

Even if last weekend I couldn’t keep up, and got lost from my literally young at heart running partner. It’s a good time for a dose of Finnish pessimism, and remind myself that despite having the ugliest feet in the world, I don’t currently count ‘Olympic hope’ among my occupations, but rather, am a 30-something mum, with a degree in sociology, a certificate in project management and one or two other weaknesses. Who cares about my (running) achievements or failures – or to the point, can tell one from another, apart from me? And I can always load my expectations and unrealised dreams on the cute shoulders of the next generation. While also reminding her – if something ain’t working for you, it really is ok to leave. (Except the vegetables.) But the face says she might not be doing that any time soon.

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Playas Del Sur where DD gets covered in pink and comes third.

Sharing the page with Inés Melchor, DD with the Miraflores Runners in yesterday's Libero.

Sharing the page with Inés Melchor, DD with the Miraflores Runners in yesterday’s Libero.

La ciudad blanca - or five white kilometres organised by the local borough of Miraflores.

La ciudad blanca – or five white kilometres organised by the local borough of Miraflores.

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