I think our participation in the 4th "International" Cochabamba Medio-Maraton (Half marathon) made it true to its name. We began preparing for the race by learning the word for safety pin "imperdible" and trying to buy them yesterday, as we got our race bibs sans pins. Success-we had pins, numbers, and a can-do attitude.
In our two weeks here so far, I have seen a grand total of 2 people running and gotten stared at by a lot more while running around the cobbled streets of Cochabamba. Quite a few more than that showed up today-more than 4000! The vast majority of them were rowdy high school students from all over the country. The tradition has become that whichever school enters the most students wins a computer-a huge win for many under-resourced schools. So kids came by the thousands, literally. Some of them riding Bolivia's famous all night buses to get to the Prado in Cochabamba for the 9am start. And what a start it was! People began showing up at 8 am and it was really nice to be able to walk from our house to the start. Roadside vendors were selling fried sausages, roast turkey, and just about anything you can imagine-but not what I would want to eat before a half marathon!
Race directors corraled the high school students behind us "elite" athletes, the Master's Division, and the military division. At promptly 9:00 (the first "meeting" I've had here that started on time!), the stampede started. We both took off WAY faster than normal in an attempt to not be trampled by the thousands of high school kids behind us. Several people around us fell, but we made it thru on our feet. The first loop was a 7km-the students race-and after that, it thinned out a bit. We both felt horrible-heavy legs, I was cramping badly, and counting the minutes.
People came out to watch, and brought with them bags of water, bottles of water, orange slices, and lime slices, along with lots of "se puede, se puede, daledaledaledales"-you can do it! gogogogogogo! Even the street dogs mostly left us alone, although Matt saw somebody get roughed up by one of them.
The altitude, the heat, and not having run more than 5 miles in the past 2 months left us both feeling SLOW. But...feeling that horrible paid off! I p.r.ed-running 8:34 pace for a 1:52 finish and Matt beat his brother Aaron's recent time (at altitude, ahem...) with a 1:32 finish! To top it off, we found by far the best pizza place in Cochabamba afterwards, which always makes up for a long run.