April 11, 2010

Running for All

I was walking to meet some friends for breakfast this morning and on the way noticed a crowd of runners milling about and apparently waiting for a race to start. I was puzzled to see a real mix of people, anywhere from what looked like serious athletes to middle aged matrons with a few extra pounds, elderly men, stylish young women, and young kids--all dressed in running gear and clearly raring to go.

I took a few shots and then asked this guy what it was all about. He told me it was a 15 km (approx. 9.3 miles) race, organized by Jefferson Perez (an Olympic medal winner from Cuenca) and that it was considered a fairly prestigious event, with runners coming from all over South America and other parts of the world. I figured the serious athletes would probably be running in front but what impressed me was that, from the looks of some of the runners, anyone could participate. It didn’t look to me like they had to meet rigorous criteria to participate and I thought that was just great.

Here are some runners stretching (and a little beefcake).

Once I had walked away I saw this guy coming up the street clearly headed for the race site, skipping along like a little kid, but with big strong strides, as a way to warm up. He looked pretty focused but I have to admit he looked quite comical.

And here are a few runners who appear to belong to a team, an Ecuadorean team I presume, because of the giant Ecuadorean flag-colored hand.

Once I got to the restaurant we saw that the race was being broadcast on TV. I tell you, anyone who runs here has to have some really fit lungs. Between the high altitude and the hilly terrain those lungs will get as serious a workout as anyone could wish.

Here's a shot, taken from Hoy, a local newspaper, of Byron Piedra, a native Cuencano, as he nears the finish line to win the race. He was followed by Patrick Nthiwa, from Kenya and another Ecuadorean, Miguel Almache, in third place. For the women, Alene Amare from Ethiopia took first place, Diana Landy (Ecuador) second, and Julia Rivera (Peru) third.

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