Running Through Fire - Page 3
Several countries and more than a few states were represented at the 2013 Fuego y Agua races. Photo by Guillermo Brenes Bolanos.
Early in the race, before the sun rose, Clark felt a little too culturally integrated.
“Are you kidding me?” he said, in disbelief that the lead pack was now being guided by several islanders on horseback to a missed turn. They had veered off-course, traversing a beach on the island’s south side until it dead-ended. James’ early surge—made more impressive by his lack of headlamp—had been nullified.
“Running in the dark in the lead was hard as none of the blue markers was visible,” says James. He later learned glowsticks and reflective tape had been stolen from the course. “I almost stepped on a sleeping dog and had teeth on my legs when it woke up. I was also stopped by a local law enforcement official who was asking me where I was running to and wanted money to let me continue.”
“Unfortunately the locals do not always understand what is going on and remove our glowsticks and flagging,” says Stephens. “In this race, we have 23 villages, farms, private lands and two national parks to mark and control course. This is not your average backyard race with course markings every few feet. This is Nicaragua and things are wilder.”
As the lead pack retreated in search of the course, there was no sign of Diboun, Sean Meissner or the Courys; it appeared they had caught the turn, which was drawn into a tree halfway across the beach.
The trail then began to climb on singletrack; James and Clark were off to chase the new leaders, dodging feral dogs and winding through through acres of banana fields and past tiny farm houses on the strip of land connecting the volcanoes.
“Running through the villages, we witnessed the real poverty on the island, but the kids’ joy was amazing,” says James. “This was no big-city marathon; no one cheered for us along the route. Most gave us odd looks of curiosity.”
Reaching the island’s north side, runners covered a flat, expansive beach, the sun rising over the water on their left and the massive green wall of Maderas, jutting into the clouds, looming ahead.
As we ran this section, Lindermuller turned to me. “We climb soon,” he said.