Monday, May 25, 2009

Running in Santiago de Chile

Hola! (Doing my best to assimilate).

As you may remember from an earlier post, I am on a school-work type thing in Santiago de Chile. In short, companies around the world hire Berkeley MBA students every year to consult on a variety of projects. Right now, we have people in places like Laos, Liberia, South Africa, Finland, Easter Island, Zambia,...., and, of course, here in Santiago. (If you want to read more, check out our class blog or this Wall Street Journal article).

On to the actual blog post. Anticipating this trip, I was very unsure of how much I would get to run down here. Unfamiliarity with South America in general and Santiago in particular fueled my concerns of potentially not being able to get in any miles (or very few). Fortunately, that has turned out to be not the case. There are several things I learned though.

No Runners
I have been here four full days now and live in a very busy neighborhood, however runners are basically non-existent (I can count the total number I have seen in four days on one hand...try that in any US city). People look at you like an alien when you're running. I have even had some schoolgirls mimic my running and giggle... None of that will stop me, of course.

Smog The air in this place is POLLUTED. There are no ifs and buts about it. Frankly, I have never seen anything like it. L.A. (which has the worst air pollution in the U.S.) is child's play compared to what's going on here. The smog has definitely caused me to slow down a bit, but it ain't gonna stop this runner.
This is a sunny day. I wish I were kidding.

Safety Not an issue. Whatsoever. I know plenty of US cities that are less safe to run in (comparing downtown areas). Atlanta is one of them.


In a city of seven million, there are an estimated one million stray dogs roaming the streets. For the most part, I have found them to be friendly (i.e. they won't attack, chase or bark). There was one exception, but I was crossing a construction site that probably wasn't supposed to be crossed. There, I had a couple of mean-looking doggies bark at me from about 100 yards. I yelled back, picked up a rock and got the heck out of there. Fortunately, they didn't follow.

Trails I have found trails! They are right near downtown, and I enjoyed some wonderful miles on them on Sunday. Of course, it's winter here, so it's still dark until I leave for work and dark when I get home. I won't be running them in the dark, since there are, well, no trail maps.

All in all, I am very happy that I get to run here, while my mileage will probably be moderate at best. That's better than no miles at all!

P.s. I have a very cool interview in store for you. Check back in a couple of days.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pacing at the Beautiful Santa Cruz Half-Marathon

With a little delay I am finally getting a chance my report on the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon. This one was all about the lady. She had trained hard for many months to get ready for this event, and I was anxious to see her do well here.

We decided to drive down the morning of the event, making for a very early wake-up call. Somewhere near San Jose, it was finally late enough (6 a.m.) to score some coffee at Starbucks (not quite Peet's, but who cares?). As we arrived in Santa Cruz, I was quietly reminiscing about my college days when I went on a much talked about bike trip along part of the California coast. I distinctly remember not wanting to leave Santa Cruz.

We got there early enough to get a great parking spot and quickly got our numbers, which we pinned on ultra style (folded). You got to represent, ya know? My job today would be to pace the lady and more importantly keep her company. I took a ton of pictures, which I will just let speak for themselves (that's 1,000 words each!).
not used to crowds anymore...they're like picture-worthy

trail > pavement

The Lady ran the race very consistently and finished very, very strong for a PR leaving me in the dust as we approached the finish line (she finished five or six places ahead of me! :)).

In all, this is a fantastic race, part of which is even run on a trail. It doesn't get much flatter than this around here and the beauty of the race definitely rivals some trail runs.

P.s. Lots of travel and finals are eating up my time, so the entries and reports are going to have to be much shorter than usual.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How Running Has Changed My Life

Over on, an interesting question was raised:

How's has running changed your life? I'm not talking about how it may have helped you improve your health, become more confident, or the like. Nope. I want to know if and when your love of running, in whatever form, has been a deciding factor in a major life decision. Did you choose your college because you could run on the cross country team? Have you ended a relationship... or gotten married because of running? Have you ever moved across town... or across the country to be closer to better running grounds? Ever taken or not taken a job based on how it would affect your running?

To answer this question I have to go all the way back to how I started running. (Trust me, this goes beyond me getting healthier, slimmer, nuttier, etc....just hear me out). As you may know, I attended college in Atlanta, GA, and my undergrad institution required that we take four PE classes. I chose to take, no, not running, but swimming.

At the beginning of the course, they made us all swim a work out and based on the results put us in particular lanes based on our skill level for the rest of the semester. I ended up in a lane with three ladies, one of whom struck my fancy. Eventually, I managed to ask her (completely out of breath, mind you, she was in better shape than me) what she liked doing in her free time. "Running," she said. "Me too!" I replied, which was a complete lie. Of course, I asked whether she wanted to go running together some time. Clearly, I wasn't fully in control of my senses, since I had never run more than one continuous mile in my life. Ever.

She wanted to go the next day, but I pushed back to the following week, immediately embarking on a ridiculous training regimen (one, two even three miles in one day) that left we sore, tired and exhausted for our date. She crushed me (get it?). I was hooked on the girl and running. All this happened almost nine years ago.

Later this summer, I will be getting married to girl "from swim class.'

This is how running changed my life.