Yesterday I ran a race in La Plata, Argentina. It was my first race in a few months and my first one in the southern hemisphere.
While I have not been training for any particular distance, I have been running more regularly in the last 2 weeks since we got into our own house. I learned of this race just a week ago and was not sure I could still do a good 5 miles. I went out last Tuesday at an easy pace to test the distance. I enjoyed a nice casual 6 mile run and knew that a 5 mile race would be something I wanted to do. On Thursday I just did some shorter intervals. That was my specific pre-race training.
The race was held at a large fruit and vegetable market. I thought we would just start there and then run through the neighborhood. But we actually did the whole race right on the market grounds. They set up a 2 Km track that wound back and forth through the huge quonset hut type buildings. We did 4 laps. This was not my first time to do a multi-lap race, but this one doubled back on itself so often it was pretty easy to watch the front pack as they fought for position. The track allowed the runners to also be spectators.
The winner finished the race in 25:20. That is not a screaming fast pace, but at 5:06 per mile, that is a lot faster than I was running. The last runner finished in 54:46, which is still a very respectable 11:02 per mile. I remember when I started running that 11 minutes per mile was a goal to be achieved.
Not knowing the running community here, I was concerned when we got started that I would be the last runner. It seemed like there were some very serious competitors in the crowd. I was pleased when the race started to know that there were some people behind me and I passed a few on every lap of the course. I ended up in 127th place out of 152 runners.
My time was 45:03, which is a PR. I was in 11th place for the 40-44 year old men. With the exception of the first and last kilometers, which were my fastest and second fastest respectively, my split times were almost identical. They only varied by a few seconds from one Km to the next.
The race was held at 3:00 in the afternoon. That was an odd time. I am not sure if it was because the market area was busy until then or because they just wanted an afternoon race.
Because of the timing of the race I was able to stick around for the awards which I have rarely been able to do. The winners got a nice fruit and vegetable basket (plus some cash I think). These weren’t your typical little fruit baskets though. They were about 2 foot by 4 foot at their base and packed full of things for the winners. I guess that is one of the perks of having the race sponsored by the fruit and veggie market.
At the end of the race there were bananas and oranges available. In Mexico many of the races would have fruit after the race too. But there I almost always had to get my race bib marked in some way to show that I had already gotten my food. The concern (a very real one) is that not just the runners, but the spectators would come over and fill their pockets full of the “free” food. When people were not guarding the tables closely enough I have seen spectators filling up purses and bags of food that was reserved for the runners.
However, at the race yesterday you were free to take as much as you wanted and there was nothing to prevent a spectator from taking food from the runners. No one was loading up their pockets to feed their extended family. I also did not see any spectators taking from the food that was obviously for the runners. The difference between the way the food was handled here and in Mexico is a difference in mentality and level of respect for others.
I enjoyed my introduction to racing here in Argentina. I am afraid I won’t be able to do as much racing here as I did in Mexico though. Like Mexico, most of the races I have seen advertised are on Sunday. It is a rare treat to have a Saturday race. But in Mexico we would run races early to avoid the heat. That is not as much of a concern here. On Sundays in Mexico our church services started at 11 and most races were at 7 or 8 in the morning. It was easy to be done by 9 and cleaned up for church. Here in La Plata most of the races I have seen advertised start at 9 on Sundays and church starts at 10. I will take part in all the races I can, but I just won’t be able to race as much as I have in the past.