University of Sao Paulo
I work for a company based in Brazil and they had me in Sao Paulo for most of the fall. I had scoured the international race websites and found a few races, but either the timing was wrong or the city was wrong. I could see traveling to Rio for a weekend, but I seriously doubted that I would make it to some 7:00 start after partying there. The Brazilians have been very accommodating. I speak no Portuguese and while Spanish is close to Portuguese, my Spanish is pretty bad too. Sure, I could fake my way getting a steak (or a beer), but anything complicated, even on the web, is a pretty tall order.
So I was running out of time, I had been in Brazil for two three-week sessions and no race. The final week I was at work on Tuesday and one of the local IT guys, Fernando, was going over some materials with the group. I noticed Fernando was wearing a Garmin as we reviewed data. During a break, I asked him about local running events. He assured me that there were events every weekend in Sao Paulo. We sat down and he pulled up Ativo.com (Active.com Brazilian style!) and we started looking at races. We ran out of time, so I kept looking after work. After digging through the websites , I finally found a full marathon, on December 17, my last Saturday in Brazil!! Oh bummer, it is already closed! Well, I had nothing to lose, so I typed out a very simple email asking the RD for a chance to run and copied it into Google Translate. I sent the email in both in English and Portuguese, fully confident that I would never hear anything.
Wednesday morning at work, I kept fighting the temptation to check my personal email. Even if the RD had seen my email, the odds were low that he already responded. So when I finally gave in at mid-morning, I was shocked to see that the RD had responded and in English! He was happy to let me join. I was in!
Back home, I am always looking at races and events and trying to find good races to run. I usually sign up way early for the races I really want to do and I usually am a little picky, I like to run my kind of race. Seems fair, entry fees being what they are. I don’t choose loop races at home. Going ‘round and ‘round in circles does not appeal to me. I like to think I am getting somewhere, I guess. From a race director stand point, loops are ideal. You can keep an eye on your runners, you can set up one or two awesomely stocked aid stations, no one can be in trouble out in the middle of no where…I completely understand. But, I also know, as a runner, some times you have to dig deep to push to the finish. However, if you could quit and just drop on a middle loop, it would be very easy to do. I also know some great runners who run loop courses and run them very well. So maybe there is more than meets the eye.
So, the Stoneman Marathon is a charity race. I found out later, the proceeds had helped more than 5000 needy kids. Very impressive! The course utilizes a long, narrow, man-made lake at the University of Sao Paulo that is set up for crew practice. Each loop is 4.6 k and you need nine laps to get the 42.2 k marathon distance. The race director had set up the race for a variety of distances to draw the largest group of runners. 5.4k, 10k, 14.6k, 19.2k, 23.8k, 28.4k 33k, 42.2k. When I signed up, the RD said there were a few in the marathon. Later it turned out three signed up and two finished.
It is tempting to think we are unique and the events we attend are one-of-a-kind. As I walked to the start line, I was reminded how similar we all. Two guys came across each other and started chatting in Portuguese, like old pals, who ran into each other unexpectedly. One asked the other how far he was running today, the reply: “Ses” (six k). The old pal: “Sol Ses??!” (…only six??!!) …and then they broke in the same old give and take that we all enjoy at races back in the US. I flashed on a conversation I had once with Richard Schick.
Me: “I am in for the half (marathon)”
Richard: “Half? Why are you wimping out?”
As I round the turn toward the what would be the eventual finish line, Diana and Christina are there cheering me. The next section contained a glade of trees, nice and shady, then the boathouse which was bustling with activity even in the early morning. Past the boathouse there was a tree, off by itself, right by our path. As I passed the tree, I could hear a bird scolding and dive bombing me. It is Spring South of the equator and all the birds are nesting. It was hard to believe the bird would dive bomb every runner on every lap, but I am pretty sure that is what happened.
The long back straight-a-way was the really test. Most of the day, this would be running into the