Venga! Venga! - Page 7
Runners climb to the finish in Los Llanos. Photo by Chris Hunter.
At one juncture, I looked up to see a bunch of teenage boys hanging out the second-story windows of a house. In their hands, a hose spewed a fat stream of water toward the ground. They called out, before dousing me in cold water that felt divine. I let out a whoop, waving and yelling, “Gracias!” Their cheers echoed behind me as the course snaked into a dense, banana-tree orchard.
Soon, I popped out on steep, downhill asphalt. The afternoon sun, now at its peak, radiated off the black tarmac. I had been guzzling water and popping electrolyte pills like candy, and still felt parched and exhausted. The hard pavement jarred my joints, pain searing through my muscles with each step. Hot tears welled up in my eyes at a sudden awareness of my bodily pain.
I prattled away to the banana trees, because there was no one else around to listen to my complaining.
And yet, I was grateful to fare better than so many around me. In the final few kilometers—all pavement, all exposed, nearly all uphill—I saw several runners collapse, crying out and writhing in pain, whisked away on stretchers by race medics.
I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why do we put ourselves through these sorts of things?” Soon, though, the crowds in Los Llanos answered my question.