Panama City, Panama 2014
A week ago I ran those 42km/26.2 miles again but this time at home (my current expat home) for an all new experience. I ran the Panama International Marathon as my first 42km road race outside of the US.
Five weeks ago I ran the New York City (NYC) Marathon knowing I also wanted to attempted the upcoming marathon in Panama. I didn´t train to run 2 marathons of 26.2 miles in a row and wasn´t sure I could handle it so I had to feel out the situation before committing but I really wanted to run locally. It took about 3 days after NYC Marathon for my legs to feel more or less good despite them having felt the worst after this last marathon (NYC). By week two I was running with a twitch in my hamstring that went away with lots of stretching. The decision to run remained up in the air until the day before due to a lot of my doubts needing to be resolved.
What shoes do I wear?
– I spent the first week back from NYC freaking out that the shoes I wanted were not in stock, I wasn’t comfy in a new model of shoes and that I needed to know NOW what I would use so I could break them in. My current shoes were too worn out with nearly 260 miles on them.
Would the race start on time?
Races hardly ever begin on time in Panama and here it’s especially important because of the sun and heat during the day which is strong at 7 am and sometimes earlier. So to run 42k would be horrible if the race began late!!! I needed that 5 am start confirmation.
Was the distance actually 42k?
I’ve run many races said to be one distance but in the end they are shorter or longer. Imagine running extra in such a mental game with the sun, yikes, or shorter you’d feel shorthanded and mad that you really didn’t achieve 42k. A few months ago I ran a 21k race and it was shorter, at least that’s what the watch said…not cool if you want a better time because then it’s a lie.
Would there be enough hydration?
Very, very important in this distance during and after. To say I’ve ran in races in Panama where only 1 hr after water is out and people are still finishing is a horror story! So I was worried and thinking about using my Camelback.
Would there be spectators cheering?
I really worried I’d be alone most of the way because the marathons I’ve run previously were bigger (more well known races), I had family or friends along the course, or locally there was just a culture of going out to cheer for runners who participate. I thought that with the distance it would be necessary to have someone there waiting and cheering just in case it was needed mentally.
In the end Panama really surprised me in so many ways and I’m more than happy…I’m grateful, to have decided to run my first international marathon here at home (my new home).
I decided to choose as shoes the Zoom Elite 7 my favorite from Nike that I had also used in NYC and Pegasus 31 to complement in training so that I didn’t wear the Elites out more than necessary! I asked local athletes who had run the marathon in previous years about other doubts and this helped calm my nerves even more…very much needed was confidence that all would be fine.
Athletes confirmed that it would start on time, there is plenty of water on the course and finally that I would be a proud marathoner for completing 42k :). One athlete even confirmed for me that the marathon was just a normal marathon, he said, you need gels, to bring sunglasses, and to watch out for the hill at km 37….you know normal stuff.
The only thing missing was my support group and boy did they show up. Friday before the race I´d announced at work that I would run it and asked for support. I received overwhelming cheers rooting for me and on race day the best of the best cheers were provided by my lovely coworkers and even some friends.
I also asked Nike athletes to support me. Some runners said they would be doing the relay and will definitely support and those not running said they would make an effort to be there for me.
Knowing it’s an international marathon but small in comparison I didn’t really think it would hold up to it’s name, but it sure did. Some 22 counties were represented, mind you many are local foreigners…but still. From expo to race day I met people from Japan, Cuba, Colombia, Ethiopia, USA and Costa Rica. Having them run made it feel like all really was like my other US international marathons. I was completely satisfied with the plan to run the Panama International Marathon!
I arrived walking to the site at 4 am. Almost no one was there…I thought did it get cancelled? All other marathons I’ve been to you arrive at least 1.5 hrs early to stretch, find the start point, eat the last bit and most importantly go to the bathroom…which can have horribly long lines!! Runners slowly did show up, just not quite that early.
At 5am runners were excited and you felt the vibe as we headed out! It was oddly a bit foggy aka high humidity for the first hour or so. By mile 9 my body was ready to run, felt great, nice pace, strong. The route went along the city over the new highway along Casco Antiguo (CC3), to causeway, below Cerro Ancon, out to the Panama Canal and into a little of the jungle headed to Gamboa, a very cool historic route that I was proud to be running (it has since changed though to mainly inner city). So representative of Panama and so historical (like going back in time). Out past the Miraflores Locks of the canal we did a turn around and on the return unfortunately I had to stop because no one told the train that there was an important race! I lost 2 minutes waiting for it to pass but it wouldn’t matter, my goal was to finish although always nice to have a PR.
Well remember that I asked for cheers. The whole route was filled with Go Tarae cheers! So many cheers that I was beyond surprised. I heard ¨Go Tarae¨ from the athletes, running friends, passing cars and even people I’ve never met nor knew they knew my name. I had people on bikes offering gatorade, salt pills, anything really. The best supporters ever! Now this just need to bring the culture to all others and not just this running expat!
Two highlights stand out for me: On the return into the city four newly sponsored Nike athletes (who are not runners per se) jumped out of the crowd with huge signs and water and surprised me. They definitely brought a huge smile to my face if not almost tears. This was at mile 22 and is when the race started to get exciting!
Cheers didn’t stop there, on my last 2 km I was greeted by coworkers who also had signs and were just amazing. As I passed they set off on foot behind me with the signs and all were yelling my name until the finishline. All I recall were the sound of my coworkers steps trying to keep up- a valiant and amazing effort to say the least! In fact, this was so inspiring and luckily captured on photo that the owner of the company printed the photo and placed it on a huge wall in the office!
Unfortunately, also at this point I had gotten passed by a girl and was now focusing on trying to kickstart some jets but failed as my training the past month had no speed work…I was just maintaining legs.
I managed to get closer and finished taking 4th with 3:15, only 30 second behind 3rd (the top female finished in 3:10). If not for the train I might have reached my 3:10 goal and a higher place but I really didn’t care. I am happy for my finisher medal, my amazing Go T Go supporters, the international experience and that the top 3 women were actually moms because in Panama they celebrate Mother’s Day the next day! At 4th place I did win some money too so that was an additional excitement to the race day.
I could not have asked for more from this experience and I am just truly grateful to Panama for it’s support and for an excellent race surpassing all expectations.
December 7, 2014, 42k, Maratón Internacional de Panamá
*legs felt fine upon finish, so fine I think I should do 42k more often…but the hamstrings do need more stretching. Now to rest for real.
More blogs about my crazy life in Panama: