Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My First in Peru

"Don't run there. They'll kidnap you." That was the word from two of my coworkers who had come here before me. Since being held for ransom is not being high on my list of life's enjoyable activities, I naturally took notice. I did some research and learned that there is a lot of crime in Lima, but mostly robberies and non-violent stuff. I talked to a runner who sat next to me on the plane, who had run here before with no problems, and who also said that the area around my hotel, the Hotel & Spa Golf Los Incas, is safe. Finally, I talked with the hotel folks, and they also said it was safe.

So armed with that information, and my own, "I don't not run" attitude, out I went for my first run this morning. It may not surprise you that the Hotel & Spa Golf Los Incas is near a golf course. It's actually built into a hillside overlooking the links. I can see the entire course from my 14th floor room.

The first thing I notice is the smog. Lima is on the coast, and is shielded by mountains to the east. It’s not unlike LA. And like LA, the smog is trapped by the surrounding mountains. Also like LA, but maybe more like Phoenix, it’s hot and dry here. It’s been in the 80s during the days and upper 60s and 70s at night. This morning it was probably well above 70. So that morning warmth is the second thing I notice.

I run down the hill to the road that loops around the golf course. I can’t see the course from here. It’s entirely walled in. Most of the neighborhoods on other side are walled in as well. So there isn’t much to see, other than the sidewalk, the road(s) and traffic, and some pedestrians. The pedestrians, surprisingly, include several other runners. And they don’t appear to be touristas either. This is good to see. I wave and say, buenas dias to the oncoming runners. Most respond in kind.

I only have to cross a couple streets during my loop around. I did run through one shopping area and around one traffic circle. I finish the loop in a bit over 26 minutes, so it must be about 3 miles – just about what I thought. I loop around again, and this time the traffic is much heavier. I do this one in 24 minutes, so it must be shorter than 3. I finish going back up the hill to the hotel, and then another couple miles going further up the hill from there before heading back down. I’m pretty hot and sweaty by the time I finish.

No kidnapping to report. In fact, it was pretty much an average old run, except for the pollution. I’m just happy to be able to run. Here's a link to the map of one loop:

Map

Later in the day I mentioned my running to some of my clients, and one lady told me about a race here in Lima. The conversation went like this:
Liliana (and/or others in the group): Do you run marathons?
Dan: Yes I do.
Liliana: There’s going to be a marathon here in Lima on the 3rd of May.
Dan: The 3rd of May? I’ll still be here. I’m going to do it. Are you?
Liliana: I may. Some of my friends are doing it. It is for, how do you say it? Women’s rights.
Dan: Do you have to be a woman to run it, or can men run too?
Liliana (and everyone else): Lots of raucous laughter. (I hadn’t intended it to be a joke.) Yes, men can run too. There are two categories: runners and those who aren’t serious runners.
Dan: Oh, you mean walkers? It takes a long time to walk a marathon.
Liliana: Yes, five kilometers is a long way.
Dan: Oh. You mean it’s one of those 5K marathons?
Liliana: Yes.
Dan (a little dejected): I guess I’ll probably run anyway.

This conversation could have happened in the U.S. 25 years ago – before everybody and their mother started running the 42.2K type marathons. It may be fun anyway. If I do run the race, you’ll hear about it.

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