Wednesday, 4 December 2013

17th November, 2013
Cuba Marathon. Run Forest Run!

Early this year Llyris decided to run 21kms in the Cuba Marathon whilst on holiday.  I nick-named her Forest, as she got it in her curly head to start running in her 50’s. (Oops, age slip!).

Logistics made it difficult to apply on-line, fortunately she was able to register at the sports centre in Havana the day before the race. Llyris had committed to run, and not wanting to disappoint her traveling fan club who had followed her around Cuba, she paid her £65 unaware that the heat and humidity would make it a very difficult run.

There was an Italian couple staying at the hotel who had come specifically to run. Together they joined the other estimated 3,000 runners at 6am. At the time of registration Llyris was the only South African entrant and mentioned that her country's flag was absent at the start. It was with great pride that the flag was flying high on the day!

The race started at 7am. The physically disabled led the way, men and women in wheelchairs and on crutches made a stout effort in what was to be a challenging race.
The race was split into 5 and 10kms, half and full marathons. The route was a loop from Old Havana, along the Malecon, past the Cohiba Hotel, Zoo, City sports centre and Revolution Square.

At 6am on the way to the Marathon the heat and humidity were already at a high. Walking along the Paseo de Marti Boulevard the birds were just waking up, and careful not to get shat on, Llyris and her friends hurried under the tree lined avenue.

After the first two k’s of the race Llyris was already feeling exhausted and unsure whether she would make the next 19kms. There was no water available, and already suffering from the heat and humidity, she managed to beg water from a distribution lorry. Thereafter, water was available every km plus infrequent portable sprays to cool down the runners.

Wearing a shirt with the SA flag and 'South Africa' clearly embolden on her back she received some cheering, with shouts of 'Nelson Mandela' and 'South Africa'! Llyris walked some of the distance preserving energy, making sure that she finished and did not dehydrate. Her avid fans stood by waving her SA flag swimming shorts, sorry that they had not brought a proper flag along. Other supporters from Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Italy were better organized.

In typical Cuban style horse carriages, buses spewing out carbon monoxide, vintage cars and bicycles weaved their way around the runners.

Seeing Rob wave her SA shorts in the air one km before the end was an exhilarating feeling. She had been planning this trip and Marathon for months and she had finally finished! Runners were led through a tunnel where medical examiners questioned them about their state of health.

At the venue the day before Llyris struck up a conversation with a local young runner. Through garbled conversation she promised him her shoes after the race. It is incredible to see the condition of the shoes these runners manage to complete these gruelling events. Even more incredible is how they manage to sniff you out among a seething mass, determined for you to fulfil your promise. Him and a few others! Communication can be difficult and Llyris was offered a package filled with sculpted gifts by rural folk from Camaguey, for no reason at all!
Llyris' time was 2 hours 38 mins 51 seconds as opposed to her average of 2 hours 20 mins. This was not an easy race, but an excellent achievement in an exotic location. Medals were handed out at registration supposedly to avoid confusion the end.

We returned to the hotel, a hot shower and a visit to a serene waterfall at Soroa 70kms  outside of Havana.


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