In The Way

Running My First Half “Maya Maraton”

I still don’t know what time I finished with. I know that it was somewhere around 2 hours and 30 minutes, which is pretty slow. That’s around an average of 11 minutes a mile if you do the math. Thankfully the distances here are measured in kilometres, so my fancy shmancy medalion says “Maya Maraton Internacional, 21K, Amatitlan, Octubre 2011.

The race was quite interesting considering I didn’t do a whole lot of training for it. I mean, I trained, just not anywhere as intensively as I should have or could have. According to the marathon wikipedia page, it’s good to train for a few months before a marathon, but I just Started running a little over a month ago.

The inspiration for running came mostly from this summer when Valerie and I met many different runners, most noticably Joe of Canada who has run 26 marathons, and Kyle in South Dakota who is an ultra-runner, which means anything more than 50 miles in one day.

The race started at 7AM on Sunday morning and was at Lago De Amatitlan (Lake Amatitlan) which looks a little something like this. 

I went to bed around 9 PM on Saturday night, excited to wake up early for the race. When I walked over to Franz’s house to drive to the marathon it was still dark out. This is weird because I pretty much never walk around Antigua in the dark. Especially not alone because in these parts, and honestly, in most cities in the world, that’s just not a good habit. The other weird thing about walking to his house at 5AM was that there were virtually no people out. The city was beautifully quiet and serene, and I only saw a few people while on my way across the quant and quiet city.

At Franz’s house I reunited with Franz of Switzerland, his wife Leida of Guatemala, and his friend Victor of Guatemala. We drove up over a mountain and then down to the lake in his stick-shift white Land Rover, avoiding serious potholes. As with most of the times driving around the mountains and volcanoes around here, I become absolutely terrified in motor vehicles. I think a part of this is from bicycling slowly up mountains this summer, a part of this is from hearing on the news of people crashing off the sides of mountains regularly, and partly knowing that the roads here are a lot less stable and only one easy mistake could be fatal.

We arrived at the race about 15 minutes before it started which was enough time to get to the front, do a few jumping jacks and stretches, and take a silly picture of before the race.

Franz, Victor and I. I think that I was literally the whitest person at this run. Not the most incredible picture, but you get the idea!

The race started at a slow pace and I would estimate that there were around 1,200-1,500 people running. From the beginning the race was filled with excitement. Everyone was smiling and talking to each other towards the beginning and when we run by the main stage for the victors they were blasting, of course “Eye of the Tiger”. We zig-zagged through the city of Amatitlan, and by the time we were out of the city the mob of people running together had more or less dispersed into being a smaller line. Definitely not single file, but a smaller line definitely.

The race was certainly a fun and unique experience. I don’t think that it was quite like marathons in the States for a few reasons.

First of all, they don’t really close roads for marathons here. Once we got towards the half way point for the half marathon us runners were on the road competing with traffic. For the most part this was not a big deal, but at one point I was running behind one of their chicken buses here and it was fuming and fuming smoke straight into us runners longs. It reminded me a lot of this summer and the kind of relationship that we had with the big giant tourist buses headed 600 miles towards Yellowstone.

I also took about two breaks to walk for a few minutes, which probably added 10-15 minutes in my time. I figured it couldn’t be that big of a deal because whenever I was taking a break it was normally uphill and I was normally walking pretty fast. The second break of the trip happened when I was inhaling black smoke from a chicken bus in front of me. After playing games with the chicken bus I decided to just take a little break to let it get ahead of me so that I would not be breathing the smoke anymore.

The first break happened because in one part of the road about 3 miles in where the road was completely covered with water. So, the mob of people running suddenly became a single-file line running on the right side of the road in the grass and potentially hazardous chichicaste plant.

Shortly after this we passed what I think to be about the 1/3 mark of the race. At this point I learned that we were running to a certain point and then back to the starting line because the leaders of the half marathon passed us going the other way, practically sprinting. And these weren’t African guys with long legs. These were very short, very ripped, very intense indigenous mayan guys. Quite the inspiration!

The race was truly an unforgettable experience. There were stops about every 20 minutes where people were handing out gatorade in cups or water in little Salvivadora plastic bags. At one point there was a guy who gave me a sponge with ice-cold water in it. That felt so refreshing! I think I must have looked really tired, or perhaps my face was just red because the volunteer firefighters kept asking me if I was okay. Or maybe that’s just because I was running so slow. I didn’t realize how red I probably was until today when I was looking at the pictures that I have. One thing that I have noticed is that when I hang out long enough with other people who are not white that I slowly forget that I am a different skin color than them. Life’s different being a minority, definitely.

There were many people in their tin-roofed and dirt-floored homes outside saying “vamos vamos vamos vamos!” or “animo animo animo animo animo!” At the point where I was breaking from the chicken-bus experience I started back up again when a man passed me heading towards the halfway point where we all turned around to head back to the start who had a very serious limp shouted at me “Go go go go go go go!” in Ingles.

This picture was taken about 2 minutes after completing the run!

After finishing the race I noticed that many people who completed the race point their fingers and eyes at heaven at the finish, or put their hands up or that sort of thing. I didn’t really know that that’s what you’re supposed to do, so when I finished I was rather disoriented as to what was happening and where I needed to go.

These guys dragged me out of the crowd because they wanted a picture with me. I'm not sure why exactly, but I think the picture is unique! Yes, this picture is real!

The finish went well, I feel that I finished strong but about 10 or 15 minutes after I finished I started feeling quite lightheaded and tired, like I was going to pass out. As I write right now, I feel that I still have not fully recovered. I think in another couple of days I should be fine, but I still feel quite exhausted. It’s interesting too because last night it was extremely difficult to fall asleep. I don’t really understand that, but perhaps I just need to do some more reading up on the whole over-ground running culture. It seems a lot better supported than the cyclo-tourist culture.

I think that I shall do another half-marathon or smaller race in the future, I just am not sure when. For now I will probably stop the intense exercise because I get pretty good exercise just walking around Antigua, and I want to dedicate myself to studying and learning Spanish while I am here.


For a great blog post by Jenn that features me getting married in a Guatemalan Village, go here. 


To see a classy video of a Guatemalan clown making fun of Evan and I in Spanish, click here.  



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2 thoughts on “Running My First Half “Maya Maraton”

  1. What a great story.Please let this be the first of many runs.Any time u need advice please dont hesitate to contact me.I myself have started running again.Google Hash house harriers.they are a running organization world wide and i ran a 10k in guanzhou china with them.80 of us.most bizarre took us 2.5 hours to complete.

  2. hippylostintime on said:

    I have a couple friends who are “real” runners, and I’m simply blown away you did this on so little training! Nice entry, too. Love the firemen photo … they probably were just glad you didn’t die along the way, and wanted a good picture for their firehouse! Good luck with the Spanish study …. so fun to “travel” along side of you on this blog!! Thanks for your consistency …”Que la paz esté contigo.”


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