Trail Running: My first 27km
Running has become increasingly popular in the last decade or so. Just 7 years ago, when I would go for a run in Lima (Peru) people looked at me funny. Today, you see runners everywhere in the parks, the boardwalks, or the nearby hills. Although I started running short distances about a decade ago, I never really wanted or had as an objective to run a half marathon, never mind a full one. I ran because it made me feel good and it got my heart pumping, but it was not really more than that to me. I never really enjoyed it per se either, the treadmill was so boring and running in the streets seemed uninteresting after a while. Then, I started running along trails and among mountains and loved it.
Especially since I moved to Peru, the Andes mountains have been my absolute favorite place to hike and go on short runs. When I refer to “short runs” I mean anything less than 18km. And I was always fine with that; it became my comfort zone and I did not necessarily want to run more since I still got fantastic views and breathtaking landscapes. And then, this year, after my husband being a little insisting, I decided to go a little further and run my first 27km.
The thing about running in the Andes mountains is that the altitude is a factor that does not always allow you to run at full force, it’s more like a fast trek. I have already written about breathing in altitude and given tips for hiking in altitude, and these certainly apply to running as well.
When you run in altitude, you must be aware of your breathing and heart rate as well as your body’s hydration. You do not necessarily realize how much you are sweating because it is very dry and if you forget to drink water, then your body can do into a break down and into dehydration. During the run, you must also make sure you are eating and getting some energy because you are burning many calories.
I signed up for the Ultra Trail Cordillera Blanca race and I did not feel as prepared as I should have been. I was still recovering from the tendon in my ankle that was hurting and was not running very much. I was going to the gym, I am generally very fit, and most importantly I am quite used to the altitude, but I definitely would have needed to run a long run a week before the race. However, it went very well and I came in 7th in the women’s category. During the race, I reached an altitude of 4650m above sea level! Personally, I think the hardest part of the race was not the altitude, nor the hiking upward; but rather the way back down. About 5km before the finish line, my mind was starting to play tricks on me. At every turn, I thought that the school and fence (my reference points to being close to the finish line) were going to appear, but they wouldn’t. I started walking for a while, then would jog again. I could feel that I was tired, no other runners were around me, and most of all, I was getting a little bored; all the stunning views and landscapes were behind me. At this point, all I wanted was to cross that finish line. And when I did, it was pure happiness and satisfaction.