Monday, October 23, 2006

TR Argentina

Oct 6-9/06

Race Results
Underground BA Marathon
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Oct 8/06
Marathon #273 – Country # 78

The idea for this trip/marathon began in a tent at 16,000 ft in the Himalayas last fall. My tent mate during the Everest Marathon was a runner from Buenos Aires, Argentina and we invited each other to visit our home country to run a marathon. Francisco informed me that there was a marathon in Buenos Aires as well as one he liked even better in the Patagonia region. When I returned home I started emailing him for more information and dates and soon a plan started to form. I could run the BA Marathon, then travel to Uruguay to run another marathon and country and finish with the Patagonia Marathon – all in one week in Oct!

Francisco offered to host and to travel with us (the sports manager and I). He also organized all the logistics (travel and hotels) necessary to run the three marathons. It would have been very difficult without his help. We flew to BA on Fri. so that we could have a few days to visit BA and recover from jet lag. There is only a one-hour time difference between FL and BA but all the AA flights are red-eyes and are 8 + hours long so you are very tired when you arrive in BA. Francisco met us at the airport and drove us to our hotel in downtown BA. Thankfully the hotel let us check in at 11 am so that we could nap for a few hours to prepare for a late night on the town. Francisco and his partner Mercedes invited us to a Tango Show. Even though we were tired, Fri night was the best night to go since the marathon was on Sun.

We ate a late dinner followed by a very entertaining show with many pairs of tango dancers and singers. The show finished at 1 am with a heart-wrenching rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina”. With difficulty we rose early to do a city tour in the morning. We had visited BA 10 years ago during our trip to Antarctica but wanted to familiarize ourselves again with the layout of the city. The tour visited the oldest and major sections of the city near the city center and included all the important tourist sites: Plaza de Mayo with the Pink house where Eva Peron excited the crowds from the balcony, La Boca – the old Italian section, Recoleta where all the mansions and embassies are located and Puerto Madero – the old port area along the Rio de la Plata (Plata River) where the old whare houses have been restored to modern shops and restaurants. After the tour we had our bearings of the city again and were able to explore on foot. Our hotel was conveniently located near Florida Street – one of the main shopping areas with lots of shops and restaurants so we could walk everywhere.

Sun Oct 8/06 had been the originally scheduled date for the BA Marathon. However the date was changed about two months before the race because of a schedule conflict with a soccer game (and everyone knows that soccer rules supreme in Argentina!). Both events planned to use the soccer stadium so the marathon was forced to postpone the date by three weeks. This change left many runners in a quandary. Francisco informed me that another international runner from Madrid, Spain was also arriving in BA for the original date so he and some fellow runners were organizing the ‘Underground BA Marathon’. It would be run on the originally scheduled date and on the actual marathon course and would be supported by the local runners.

Thus Francisco picked me up at 6:30 am on Sun and drove us to a park in Palmero near the stadium. The plan was to start at the 5 Km mark in the Park – run back to the start line at the stadium and then turn around and run the actual course. This would get us around the problem of trying to start and finish at the stadium with thousands of fans and cars trying to get to the stadium for the soccer game. As we drove into the park I noticed many ‘working’ girls on the sides of the roads displaying their merchandise at 6:30 am? Francisco explained that it was the final hours of their working night. I was hoping they would stay to cheer the race? There were about 20 runners waiting at the start line – Javier from Madrid and I were the only international runners – the rest were local runners. The runners presented Javier and I with running shirts for the race. We split into three groups at the start – the ‘fast’ group with Javier planned to run a 5min/Km (8 min/mile) pace so I joined a slower group running a 5:30 pace. Damn – the working girls had already departed so I didn’t get any offers to quit the race and do something more exciting!

Thankfully Mercedes ran the 1st Half with me because she was the only local runner in my group who spoke English. We followed the actual route of the BA marathon that took us through downtown BA. Each group had about 6 runners, a guide on a bike and a support car. I was concerned about traffic but it was light and our biker/guide (Walter) just parked his bike in the middle of the intersections and stopped the traffic – and they stopped? We passed the Half in 1:55 and I was happy because I just wanted to finish under 4 hours since we weren’t competing. Mercedes dropped out at that point and there wasn’t much conversation after that since nobody in my group spoke much English. Up to that point I had been mentally adding 5 Km to each distance marker to determine where we were in the marathon. Around 17 Km (of the actual route) they had decided to bypass about 5 Km of the actual route that went through Boca because of traffic concerns. However nobody informed me and when I next saw a distance marker it was 27 Km and I became confused? I was still adding 5Km to my distance but it didn’t make any sense with the overall time? I had no idea where I was and how much further I needed to run? Mercedes joined me again about 3:20 into the run and I was finally able to ask how much farther? She wasn’t sure because they had changed the finish line. I later realized that the distance markers after 27 Km were pretty close to the actual distance because we had bypassed 5 Km. But it sure messed with my mind during that run. When we passed 40Km in 3:45+ I began to worry if I would break 4 hours? But finally Mercedes told me that the finish line was close and I started to push to reach the finish line where several local runners had gathered to cheer us across the finish in 3:53:23.
Francisco and the local runners presented Javier and I with a special award that read “1st Maraton Clandestino de la Republica Argetina”. Javier said that he would cherish that award and marathon more than any of the ‘official’ marathons he had run because the logistics were harder and the memories were more pleasant because of all the wonderful support and friendship we received.

After a quick shower at the finish line the sports manager and I explored the beautiful city of Buenos Aires some more and enjoyed a great steak dinner in Puerto Madero – a steak dinner including appetizers and wine cost about $30 US! We still weren’t used to eating late – the restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:30/9 pm so we would go to bed on a full stomach at 11pm. And we had to meet Francisco early Mon morning for the next stage of the trip – a ferry to Uruguay!

Stay tuned!


Buenos Aires is a beautiful city that reminds you very much of a European city. It is safe and cheap to visit and the people are very friendly.
Since I ran most of the actual marathon course I can comment that it is a fast, flat course that passes most of the important tourist sites in the city. There is an active running community in BA.

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