Venga! Venga! - Page 8
The author (left) with colleague Gina Lucrezi before the race. Photo by Chris Hunter.
In the final, flat kilometer through town, the spectators’ roaring fervor flooded me with equal parts determination and joy—the thunderous applause, the cries of “Champion!” as I ran by, the wide-eyed kids outstretching their hands for high fives, the Spanish voice on the loudspeaker booming, “Yitka Winn, USA!”
At the finish, I looked around for Gina and Chris. I wanted desperately to talk to someone, exchange a hug, recount the gritty details. But a few kilometers back, I’d seen Chris barefoot, shirtless and grinning under a banana tree with his camera clicking away, and he was likely still there. Gina, I imagined, had gone back to our hotel to shower.
I hobbled aimlessly amidst the crowd in my socks, unsure what to do next. Ultimately, I plopped down in a kiddie pool of ice-cold water at the finish line—a thoughtful provision from the race organizers—to cheer other runners.
As runners I’d leapfrogged with all day crossed the finish, they’d light up, embracing me, offering the traditional Spanish two kisses, one on each cheek. When my trekking-pole angel, whose name I later learned was Orlando, crossed the line, I leapt up to hug him—and return his pole. Together we laughed, babbling away euphorically in our own languages.
Ultimately, Transvulcania didn’t seem so different from the races I’d run back home. Steeper, yes, more spectators, yes, and still no porta-a-potties at the finish—but even with a language barrier as daunting as the race’s elevation profile, La Palma had made me feel as though I belonged.