Sunday, September 30, 2012

Carrera contra el cáncer de mama (i.e. Chilean Race for the Cure)

Even if you don't speak spanish, you can probably guess what this event is for!

This past week, Caroline and I both noticed posters around the city promoting some sort of event "contra el cáncer de mama." Now, I'm no expert in spanish, but the bright pink ribbons and branding made it pretty easy to guess that this was some sort of Chilean "Race for the Cure." Caroline signed us up for the race, and this morning we ran it. But of course, part of the fun of being in a foreign country is that things that are simple at home become mini-adventures, and this was no exception!

The race was on Sunday morning, but our adventures actually began on Saturday. We were biking home past the race area and we saw all the tents being set up, so Caroline suggested that we try to get our bibs and chips. Lucky we did, because after asking around, we found out that you can ONLY get the kits on Saturday, and they were frustratingly located 8 metro stops away...and they were closing in 45 minutes! We rushed over, feeling VERY stressed, but luckily we got there on time. As a bonus, the race kits came with all sorts of free goodies: my bag had disposable razors, Caroline's had tampons (?) and both of us got sunscreen. Maybe this is a side effect of the race being sponsored by Avon.

OK, fast forward to this morning. We wake up early and bike over in cooooold weather, with a little rain even. Ugh, not promising. However, once we got to the race site, things got a lot more fun.
It's hard to see, but everyone is dancing and following along to the leader on stage. It was sort of like a giant zumba event.
We dropped our bags off at the bag check (this turns out to be a pivotal decision, as you will hear later!). Then we explored the race area and did some sort of Zumba dancing and stretching along with a zillion other people. The pink was everywhere!
The whole event seemed very nicely organized. There were even tents around the port-o-potties, separating them into caballeros and damas
And then we lined up and the race began!
Right before the start of the race. You can see the starting gates up ahead.
It was a 7k race that went around the Mapocho River. This is the main river that flows roughly from east to west through the city, snow melt coming down from the mountains. It sounds great, but it's actually the saddest river ever. It's brown because of the silt from the mountains, and it is extremely small and fast flowing. I'll try to get a photo up at some point.

The whole of Santiago slants downhill from east to west, so the first half of the race (going east) was all gently uphill, and the second half was all gently downhill. We made great time on the second half, and we were passing people a lot, which always feels great :)

We tracked the run using an iPhone app called Strava, so you can see the map and our splits at this link:

After the race is when the real adventure began. We went to the hydration booth, where lots of volunteers were shouting "Gatorade" in spanish accents, and also grabbed some bananas and oranges. Then we went to the bag check tent, where there was already quite a line.
Stray (but well behaved and healthy) dogs are really common and friendly in Santiago. Here is one dog that was sleeping in the middle of a ton of people in the bag check line! There were also some dogs that ran the race with us, including one that we think did the whole thing :)
The line moved VERY slowly, so as time went on and we got closer to the front, people got more impatient and started pushing. When we got within about 5 people from the front, it was basically just a solid mob of people packed together, like the front rows of a concert. Everyone was just trying to push up to the front and get a volunteer to grab their claim ticket and give them their bag.

This was a bit of a squeeze at first, but not too bad. Caroline managed to push to the front and get her bag and get out. But after that, the press got much more extreme. I was completely smushed up against people in every direction around me, and many times one person would start falling over and we would all just push off of each other to keep upright. This one guy who had gotten his bag tried to push out through the crowd, and almost toppled a whole group of us (we were also trying not to step on another dog that was sleeping right near the front!).

Fortunately, everyone stayed in good spirits about this, and people were smiling and laughing about how crazy it was. One person told me (in English) that this was unusual for a race, and not the typical process. People started chanting and shouting just for the fun of it, and when a bag came up, everyone would repeat back the number to help the right person get up there to claim it. Finally, I got my bag and as I was squeezing my way out, I held it above my head for space. People saw me carrying it and cheered, honestly, cheered! I think people were just so happy that someone had succeeded, and it was fun to cheer for them.

The whole experience was a ton of fun, and we will definitely do this sort of thing again. Caroline has been looking online today and has found there are lots of road races, and many of them are even free! Sounds like a good way to keep active, see more of the city, and hopefully have some more adventures :)
After the race (and before the baggage claim line), so we are relaxed and happy

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