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Leaings from running my first race

Today I completed my first road race, El Migrante 10K in Quito, Ecuador.

I’m not a runner, and I did no training prior to this race, apart from a few swimming sessions in the last months and riding a new bike for the last days to commute to my job. I did go on a diet where I lost about 20K and bounced back with 5K. And did I mention that Quito is about 3000 meters over the sea level? There was no real incentive for me to run this race. Or was it?

I ran the race to prove myself, and because on December 18, the United Nations celebrates the Inteational Migrants Day. It’s going to be 3 years since I left my home country to live and work in Ecuador. I’m incredibly grateful of the amazing opportunities I’ve had outside Venezuela, but it’s not easy to be an inmigrant.

Not just from the financial and professional points of views (which are difficult and painful and pose many challenges by itself) but from the individual point of view, from your personal life. You need to understand different cultures, exercise the exact mix of guts and cold blood, humble yourself and rethink your definitions of right, wrong, comfort zone and success. It’s tough.

My grandparents were Catalonian inmigrants that arrived into Venezuela due to the Civil War and then WWII in Europe. My other grand-grandparents were Italian inmigrants that spread across America, mainly in the US and Venezuela. My closest cousin moved to Spain. Two of my wife’s sisters have emigrated. Countless relatives have moved in the past years, and especially, most of my best friends (both venezuelan and especially ecuadorians) are inmigrants or have been living outside their home countries for quite a while now.

So they, and their families, in their home countries or elsewhere, are the reason I ran for today.

How does it feel to run your first road race? You feel proud. It’s satisfactory. It’s a very personal experience, and I’d advise anyone in reasonable good shape to go for it, as I was advised too.

What worked for me? Resting the day before (means a good sleep but also no physical exercise the day before), having a light meal two hours before the race (I had a whole wheat bun with white cheese and a slice of a turkey cold cut and a banana), drinking lots of water (the day before, the moing before — make sure you have a bathroom nearby and of course during the race) having a good warmup (I did everything I recalled from elementary school sports classes, except running — I did light jogging instead) but most importantly: find support from your friends, from your loved ones, find a reason to run for.

My run (for about an hour) was mentally divided in three clear stages. The first one, after the first kilometer or so: PAIN. My legs were buing, and while I didn’t want to abandon, I wouldn’t have minded an excuse to stop. After the first water stop, I really wanted to cry. I wouldn’t have stopped running, just cry along. I’m not sure why I wanted to cry, but I guess a few people in the sidewalk noticed it because I received 3-4 words of support from bystanders or policemen. And the third one, you probably know it: runner’s high.

When it kicked in, I was able to keep pace not only running but also breathing, I didn’t think any longer on anything but finishing the race, Cheering from people was now more notieable. On the last 100 meters I sprinted towards the finish line and then didn’t stop jogging, walking for 10 minutes or so. I was incredibly proud of finishing a 10K race with no specific preparation, moved solely by purpose. It’s a personal milestone.

Technically, I also started the race very slowly (light jogging, just as in a warmup) and it was downhill so it also prevented further pounding on my knees. The race had 3 uphill sections which were frustrating (didn’t know it) but entirely manageable by slowing down. I was conceed to ea myself a nice knee injury, but right now I only feel muscle pain on my left thigh. I will wait a few more days before assessing damages.

Other logistic details were important, running with a t-shirt, shorts, underwear, socks and shoes that are comfortable, securing my bib and chip, having a watch and carrying my stuff (basically a couple $10 bills and my ID card) under my wristband securely and comfortably, starting the race from the last spot and not knowing where the hell I was (as the zone was completely new to me) were also instrumental.

As I said, it was a very personal experience. I cared very little about others in the race, about my timing and pace, and didn’t look back. All the motivational stuff you’ll hear elsewhere related to you vs. others is crap. True, but crap. Yes, there are remarkable seniors and handicapped persons in the race, and if they can, you can too. Yes, there will always be persons behind you in the race. Yes, there are lots of others who abandon. This is true. But it’s also crap.

It’s only you vs. the road.

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