Sunday, December 6th, 2009 - Barbados Esplanade, near the Hilton hotel:
Today was race day. Dave and I woke up at 2:30 am and caught a cab at 3 for Sophie and Eliz’s hotel. The girls, who are volunteers living in Maruca, Guyana (Region 2), have been staying in a two room suite at the Hilton with Eliz’s mother and sister. Since their hotel is so close to the starting/finish line, Dave and I packed bags for the day and headed there to begin our prep.
Breakfast: Cliff bar and a banana, with water and poweraid.
Five of us racing: Dave, Sophie, & Eliz running the marathon at 4:30am. Eliz’s sister, Melisa, and me running the half at 5am
It was cool out at those early hours and I felt the same rush of excited anticipation as I used to running cross country in high school. We were all yapping at each other, explaining our strategies, what we had to look out for, who we were going to run with, what pains we may get, how training was easy and this would be hard. We really felt like a team. Right before the marathon began, we bumped into another Peace Corps volunteer from Dallas, Tx, named Alyssa. She is serving in Grenada. She claimed she took one look at us and had this crazy thought that we were volunteers, just like us.
I excused myself, popped two Ibuprofen before my start and made sure I stretched out long and easy. Then, everyone’s day began with the firing of a gun. The best runners out front and everyone else shuffling behind. There were close to 90 runners crossing the starting line – much less than I anticipated.
Exactly thirty minutes after gun one, the half marathon began. It was still dark as night out and I crossed the line with 140+ runners. Melissa and I started well and soon separated from each other to fit into our own comfortable paces.
There weren’t many spectators, maybe 100 or 150, and apart from the occasional cheering every so many meters and the occasional chit chat with a fellow runner, it was quiet. I brought no watch and no pedometer with me, making it sort of a mystery aside from my own estimates of distance and time. I was alone and it was peaceful. I tried this energy goo, which I snacked on half way through the race. Imagine eating a fat gummy sphere with tons of vitamins, sugar, and other stuff to give you a boost. A gummy bear on ‘roids, if you will. The ocean was to my left for the first half, then my right on my way back. The race course started in the Esplanade and traveled north on the West coast of the island.
The sites wear pleasant, the beach was beckoning. The runners were great to run with, pass up, or let pass. The cars and buses, for the most part, let us alone. Although, Sophie mentioned almost getting hit by a giant blue bus and being misdirected
My finish time: 2 hours, and 12 minutes. After receiving my finishing medal and a trip to the table with energy drinks and fruit, I walked the 5 meters to the beach. I took off my shoes, walked into turquoise water, and announced to myself that my vacation had begun.
After both races finished, we all returned to the Hilton. Dave, Sophie, and I were nominated to be in charge of making the ice bath. This meant that we went down the hall with all the room’s trash cans – empty of course – and all the empty plastic bags we had near us. What it must have looked like to the hotel staff as three skinny kids in running outfits ran a bucket brigade of ice into a room: hobbling back and forth on sore legs and feet in anticipation of a very cold 10 minutes to follow.
Yes, it was uncomfortable. But not for very long, because after about three minutes everything below my waist was pretty much numb.
We all spent the remainder of the day at the Hilton beach. We stuffed our faces with American food because we missed it so much. I slipped into a different mindset (dare I say, “American”?) because I am a product of my environment, no matter how much I tell myself I’m not. Nevertheless, I kept my recorder turned on during lunch to take it all in:
Smells that were new to me:
- sweet (maybe flowers, maybe air freshener, maybe just the absence of sewage and trash)
- food, burgers & fries
- the leather seats of a luxury car
- salty ocean spray
Things that visually caught my attention:
- Fat Babies (like, so fat that they are beyond chubby and have become chunky). I watched one chubby baby for ten minutes, mesmerized by his size and his inability to crawl around with ease.
- Pink, sunburned bodies (i.e. white folks who forget they are vacationing so near to the equator). Some of them were grossly fat… or should I say Obese with a capital O? You don’t see them here in Guyana.
- Dark, leathery, over-tanned white folks who look like they could be in a movie entitled, “The Lounge Chair Lizard-People,” I suppose that’s a gross blanket statement, but I really don’t care.