Run like the wind

2 April 2007
3:03 PM

Marathon runners
Runners in the Santiago Marathon at the 5km marker.

Caitlin ran the Santiago half marathon yesterday, so we turned out to cheer for her. I don’t know much about being a marathon spectator, but Emily is a seasoned pro (OK, semi-pro, she’s cheered at the Chicago Marathon) so she and I teamed up and hit the course at 8:00am. We mapped the different race points on a map of the city buses and subway to select three different points where we could meet up with the runners.

As it turns out, marathons aren’t extremely popular in South America. Although there were many Chileans running, many of the participants were foreigners. My guess is that local reasoning goes something like this: “Run 26 miles? Sure! Wait—you’re saying there’s no soccer ball? Are you crazy? Count me out.” Even less popular is marathon spectating. Emily and I jumped the 305 city bus and saw Caitlin pass at the four-mile marker. It wasn’t hard for her to pick us out, though. Apart from the silent runners, we were the only people in sight. Not a single other individual was watching early in the course.

Marathon runners
Traffic on some main Santiago streets was paralyzed when runners reached key intersections.

Undeterred, we continued by walking five blocks and getting on the 405 bus to meet the runners at our next point. Our plan was mere seconds from succeeding. The bus that was about to pick us up was stopped at the intersection for 45 minutes as the 10K runners’ course shut down the road. In some places ten blocks worth of irate traffic was backed up while the race went on. So we skipped the next rendezvous point and tried to make a break for our next best public transportation route. The only hitch was that our options were closing one by one as the runners closed down more of the main artery, Amerigo Vespucio. Our only chance was to out-run the 10k runners to get to an available city bus.

That didn’t happen. If I were fast enough to outrun 10k runners, I would have been participating in the race, not watching it. During my brief, five-week stint as a runner in high school, my event was the 200 meter, not the 10,000. Luckily, we were able to catch the runners during the final section of the race. I found Caitlin and ran the last mile and a half of the course with her. I should do more running under those conditions. Running on fresh legs with people who have just completed 11 miles makes you feel pretty good about yourself. That way I didn’t have to deal with any of the fatigue, profuse sweating, or bleeding nipples that other people did. (I kid you not—bloody nipples is a common problem for men whose shirts cause chaffing).

Michelle, Natalie, and Roy were waiting at the finish line to cheer. Caitlin finished at just a minute under the time she predicted, although due to somewhat poor planning the marathon organizers had run out of medals. With the end of the race, public transportation had once again been opened and we took the subway home.