Late in November 2008, I heard that Cancun was hosting their annual marathon in early December 2008. Since I only found out about it two weeks beforehand, there was no way that I could prepare for it. However, it did give me approximately a year to prepare for the 2009 Cancun marathon.
In early January, I began lacing up my shoes and gradually started to build my mileage (kilometrage?) in preparation. Since December 2009 was so far away, I decided I needed something sooner to keep me motivated. I picked up a copy of Runner’s World Mexico edition to see what other races were available. Based more on the date of the race (over 2 months before the anticipated Cancun marathon) than anything else, I randomly chose to run the Maraton Independencia in Leon, Guanajuato on September 20, 2009.
For previous marathons, I relied on Hal Higdon’s 18 week beginner’s training program. Having crossed the finish line 6 times using that program, I decided to stick with it. It’s focused more on slowly increasing mileage with the goal of finishing than on setting new Personal Records (PRs). Considering I had put on 15 pounds in my 3 year hiatus from running, just getting back into shape and crossing the finish line would be good enough.
Little did I know that running in the hot and humid summer months in Playa del Carmen would be such a brutal experience. I had to wake up at 5am on Saturday mornings, to get my mileage in before the sun rose. Like clockwork, my pace dropped a minute or more once the sun was above the treeline. On my 18 mile training run, I consumed 5 liters (over a gallon) of fluids to stay hydrated.
To make matters worse, when I started researching Leon to make travel arrangements, I realized that the city is located at 6,000 feet elevation. At elevation, the air is thinner, meaning I would have to work harder to get the oxygen I need to run. Wow, stupid newbie planning mistake on my part. Oh well, what could I do?
As the weeks went by, I finally had a brilliant idea. Instead of worrying about my training conditions, the thin air at 6,000 ft elevation, et cetera, why not just run it for fun? After all, this was going to be my first international marathon in a new city. Hey, I could even take a camera with and do some sight-seeing along the way. Now that sounds like fun!
So, without further ado, here is a bit of a running tour of Leon, Guanajuato.
The race started at 7 A.M. It was in the upper 50s (10C) and dark.
My early race photos did not turn out well due to the low lighting conditions. About 30 minutes into the race, the day was finally beginning.
Marathons attract men and women, all shapes and sizes, and a variety of ages. This guy’s shirt proudly proclaims “Old Guys Rule.” Nice!
Being the 5th largest city in Mexico (population approx. 3 million), Leon has a fairly elaborate bus sytem. Here is one of their bus stops on Lopez Mateos Avenue.
Ah… mountains. Coming from the flatlands of Chicago, mountains have always fascinated me. Although this race was run in the mountains, the route was mostly flat. Since my training was done on flat terrain, I was really thankful for this.
Leon is a very bike friendly city. They have lanes devoted to bike traffic on many roadways. Very progressive – I’m so jealous! I’d ride my bike more often in Playa if I wasn’t so worried about being hit by a car or car door.
Here’s looking at you, kid. That’s Libby taking a photo of me taking a photo of her. Although she thinks I’m insane for running marathons, she is always there to cheer me on. Thanks, babe!
This was one of the cooler parts of the race. I’m not sure if this was an expressway or bypass.
Ah, if city streets were always this serene.
I was a bit worried about the frequency of the water and Gatorade stations. To my surprise, the aid stations were plentiful – located approximately 1 to 1.5 miles apart. Excellent job, race planners!
Some of the stations were just tables with people holding out cups. Others had music and entertainers to keep us going. The announcer at this booth made some comment about me taking photos… I’m glad I amused them!
The course had numerous back-and-forths, which was a nice touch. It’s nice to see the other runners on the course.
There were many spectators who came out to cheer for the runners. I always try to scream a thank you to the people cheering me on – it’s greatly appreciated!
Too bad this guy wasn’t running the race. And no, I did not stop at Carl’s Jr for a burger!
One of the more elaborate aid stations.
Uhhh, which way are we going? Should I follow these guys? I think they’re lost.
A quick check of the map confirms we are headed in the right direction and only have a few miles to go.
In addition to the aid stations, many families were showing their support by providing water, juices, fruits and candy.
By the way, for any runners who have difficulty drinking out of a cup while running, please note: biting the corner off a baggie and trying to suck the water out of it is a lot more challenging. Quit your whining!
I love beer. Therefore, I couldn’t refuse when someone offered me one just before mile 23. My legs are hurting a bit, so it helps to deaden the pain. Too bad the buzz lasted about 15 seconds.
Woooooo, that beer is going to my head. How much further? Ah, just passed the 23 mile mark. My pace is 10:43? Wow, maybe I should have left the camera at home and skipped that beer. Nah!!
The home stretch. I believe I passed 50 people during the last 2 miles.
Ah, victory is mine! Time was 4 hours, 17 minutes, 12 seconds. Yes, the time in this photo says 4:17:53, but this race was chipped, so my time started when I crossed the start line and finished when I passed the finish line. Technology rocks!
Some kids help their mother to the finish line.
Here’s me enjoying my celebratory Victoria (“Victory”) beer. What a day.
All in all, I think the race was a huge success. The weather was perfect, the course was nice (and flat), and the race was very well organized. I’m a bit confused why my GPS watch said that I ran 26.52 miles, but it doesn’t really matter.
It’s about 8 weeks until the Cancun marathon, and I’ve really started to kick my training into high gear. I can’t wait!!
You can view all the pictures from the race in the album Leon Marathon 2009.