Wednesday, September 11, 2013

El Reto Powerade

Last week I threatened to write another blog, and unlike my threats to discipline my daughter, I’m actually going to follow through on this one.  This week, I wanted to write about my most recent half marathon, which took place in Costa Rica about a month ago.  In professional running, you can sometimes find a competition that turns into something more than a race.  It becomes one of your life highlights – something you’ll eventually tell your kids about some day.  These experiences are extremely important for runners that don’t make Olympic teams because without them, your running tale is pretty much: “I ran a lot when I was younger, was really skinny, and ignored personal hygiene occasionally.”  These highlights come in many forms.  They can either be a PR, a victory, or some other set of unforgettable circumstances.  Everyone who runs knows what I’m talking about because everyone has had at least one of these experiences.  It’s why we keep running.

This past month, I took part in one of those lifetime highlight races.  The event was the Reto Powerade Half Marathon, and it took place in the capital of Costa Rica.  I was initially approached to run this race because a friend, Jeff Egglestein, was invited but instead chose to run some race in Russia (World Marathon Champs).  His gain turned out to be mine as well since I jumped immediately at the chance to race down south.  My wife then threatened to leave me if I didn’t take her along so the table was set for a nice Burrell outing to Costa Rica. 

I knew this race was different when I arrived at a pre-race press conference and was swarmed by folks in the media wanting an interview.  You could tell immediately that the public was interested in the elite race.  Now I’ve run in some huge races in the States with outstanding elite fields.  Races with long histories and importance in the communities that hold them.  Races with substantial buzz surrounding the event.  This was different.  The headline story of the Reto Powerade was on the potential winners of the race, whereas the headlines of U.S. races are centered on the event itself – the competitive race is a nice side story, but most participants and spectators aren’t really interested in who wins.  I’m not saying one is better than the other, but as a professional runner, the “cheeseball” in me enjoyed being the story of the race.  It was a ton of fun to live in the shoes of what I imagine a soccer or basketball player lives.  Where people don’t just enjoy you being out there.  They want you to win.

My initial impressions were confirmed during the race.  Throughout the 13.1 miles, I was accompanied by cars, bikes, motorcycles, and a helicopter all with cameras filming each step.  It was pretty amazing.  The downside was of course was being constantly filmed while having Tourrette Syndrome (a disorder I have that is characterized by involuntary facial tics).  When you have Tourettes, you eventually make some really strange looking faces and all of my great expressions were captured by Costa Rican media.  I ended up winning the race in a modest time (which I’m not going to divulge), and spent the next hour taking pictures with other finishers of the race.  Again, I can’t describe how fun it was to be treated like an actual athlete. 

After the race, my wife and I spent another week in the country with the elite coordinator and took pictures like this.  

It was definitely enough to keep me motivated to run for at least another year or so.  And for any Costa Rican runners that are reading this: You guys are simply the best.  I can’t wait to get back down there and run with you again.  Puravida.  

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