With my marathon in Quito (www.maratondequito.com) looming I headed to the countries capital, full of hope and determination at something resembling success. I'm happy to say this was achieved, completing the marathon at an altitude of 2,800m with only two-weeks training, taking in the sights and delights of La Parque Carolina, around which most of the marathon was run. My time wasn't great, finishing in five hours and nineteen minutes, a full fifty minutes slower than Oprah Winfreys last marathon. Regardless, I think it still counts as one of my greatest achievements. Being the first placed European across the line would have been nice too, but the closing stages saw me overtaken, annoyingly, by a couple of German hippies.
Things could have certainly got a lot worse. I arrived a couple of days early to find my normal hostel like many others closed down due to tax irregularities. Luckily accommodation was found and after a viewing of Donnie Darko, nothing was going to dent my high levels of confidence, even random men carrying copious amounts of women’s handbags shouting obscenities at me in English, while drinking in the La Mariscal ('Gringo Landia') John Lennon bar.
A rash of schoolboy errors made the whole occasion slightly more difficult than expected, failing to notice the 5.30am start time and the small fact that Ecuador is moving into its dry season which normally means blustery conditions at the very best. The temptation of street food also proved irresistible and I believe amongst others it was the fresh honeycomb I chomped through that led to severe stomach pains and other issues I’m not prepared to discuss, upon waking at 4am on race day.
My most serious hypochondriac complaints had subsided by the time I lined up at the start in Quito's old town, the magnificent Iglesia de San Francisco lighting up the dark morning sky behind me. Even the demoralising moment of an attendant denying me free Gatorade after not believing a body such as mine was actually taking part in the race wasn't going to disturb my concentration. Being named third on the list of the 800 odd runners, I knew an impossible battle was ahead of me to keep this position by the finish.
The first fifteen kilometres went by very smoothly; in fact I was still on for the Holy Grail, a time under four hours. From then onwards my speed and performance rapidly deteriorated. I could easily blame my dodgy stomach, the blazing twenty-four degree morning sun, the effects of altitude or the most probable reason, lack of training for this painful demise.
The second time I was lapped by the leaders on the four lap circuit I made my Ecuadorian TV running debut, not particularly for the right reasons though. After realising I was in the leader’s direct path I tried to move out of the way. The idiot only decided to go the same way, falling over my almost stationery body, just managing to keep his feet, dropping from first to third in the process. From the icy 'get out of my way you podgy, fat-bottomed amateur' glare I received from him I have a feeling he wasn't best to pleased with my racing etiquette. I hung my head in shame, but only after letting out a cheeky grin to the disappearing TV camera. I'm happy to say this incident had no influence on the final result outcome as he stormed back to take the US$6,000 first prize.
In fact so slow I’d become that even the volunteers manning the drinking stations decided they weren’t prepared to hang around to pack-up, leaving a final 9km 'death walk' to the finish. Normally a 'death walk' refers to someone who is stranded in the desert and sets off looking for help without an adequate water supply. I'm sure you will agree with me, that at this point I was in a very comparable, almost identical situation. With the sun beating down, stomach cramps, a headache from the lack of fluids and a worrying amount of giddiness (yeah, I’m exaggerating ag