Sunday, November 2, 2008

31st Carreira Pedestre Popular Camino De Santiago

On our first night in Santiago I came across a flyer for a run to take place the following morning. I figured it might be fun to at least run part of the race. What I didn’t fully realize is that was one of the biggest public running events in all of Spain with almost 7,000 participants. The town completely shut down that Sunday morning- the route would wind its way through the entire town, covering 12.5 kilometers in total. As the masses gathered at the starting line, it was clear that this was a huge event. I stood back a ways from the starting area to admire the crowd and could feel the buildup of energy as the race was about to begin. . And what an experience it turned out to be... It took a few minutes after the gun went off to finally get through the starting gate and start running, and as I looked around, I could see countless waves of participants moving in unison, many of whom were talking, cheering or just smiling. After a few kilometers, the mass of runners began to quiet down and disperse a bit and people began to find their paces. As I was not running for a time, I decided to just soak it all in and enjoy this incredibly unique tour of Santiago. People were lined up along the streets cheering us along and I was quickly caught up in the excitement. I picked up my pace and decided that I was going to finish this after all – who knows when I might get a chance like this again. As we started working our way into the “casco antiguo”, I started to recognize some of the streets. To my pleasant surprise we were suddenly headed right past the plaza where our apartment was located and as I looked up I could see Casey standing on the balcony. “Hola Casey-cita!”, I shouted and waved as we passed by and I could see the thrilled look on her face when she recognized me and shouted, “Daddy!!!!!!!” and promptly ran inside to get her brothers. The crowds began to swell as the streets narrowed, and soon we were in the heart of old town, heading through the historic city center. I got goosebumps as we passed the last kilometer towards the finish line at the Praza do Obradoiro with everyone screaming and cheering. It was an exhilarating experience to finish in the main plaza. As I learned the following day, several top runners described the race as, “El ultimo es el kilometro mas bello del mundo” (the finish is the most beautiful kilometer in the world). The paper also stated that over 50,000 people had lined up to watch the race and cheer the participants. So much for a simple Sunday jog through town! Footnote: Interestingly, of the top 5 men and women finishers, all were from Africa - predominantly Kenya. David Kilel, the men’s winner clocked in at a stunning 34:47 (almost a half an hour faster than me!), and 3 of the men finished under 35 minutes. Also, after the main race, there was a kid’s run. Kellen and Christian wanted to participate, so we waited outside our apartment for the majority of the serious runners to pass by and then jumped on the course for a bit. As the kids turned the corner and saw the cheering crowds, they got very shy and decided to stop running. We pulled off the course and jogged a few blocks down a much quieter side street until they got tired. Casey on the other hand, was not to be shown up by “her boys”. On our return, she decided to give it a try and we headed off together holding hands. Unlike the boys, she was spurred on by the cheering crowds and probably made it 1 km, before I finally decided that the limelight should be focused properly on the final finishers and not on this very cute 4 year old “imposter” who had hardly broken a sweat!