Sunday, May 19, 2013

Born to Run - São Paulo

This morning I competed in my tenth 5K race. Most of them have been here in São Paulo. SP people love to run. Thousands and thousands show up for even the most uninteresting of race courses. This race is a series called Circuito Athenas (Athena Series) which starts with 5K/10K then has the next one in July with 5K/8K/16K distances and then finally ends in November with 5K/10K/21K distances.

This particular race is one of my favorites because it takes place on the express lanes of the Marginal, the nine-lane highway that runs from north to south, then east to west looping the city.  Along one side (the left in this photo) runs the train line and along the other are the local lanes of the highway. It somehow gives me a boost to feel that I've stopped cars so that I can run (well, me and 10,000 other people have stopped the cars...and then there's the police, and the transit folks...but the power is still there). For the second year in a row, my personal best has come during this race (shaved a whole second off this year!)

What drives me crazy in road races here is that you are supposed to line up and start according to your pace. In this shot you can see blue flags to the side that announce which group starts where. If you run under a five-minute kilometer, you are more towards the front. If you run 7-8 minute kilometers, you should start near the back. But inevitably, shortly after crossing the starting line (it took me 3 minutes to get there today), there is some group of folks walking (WALKING!!) five across having a nice chat. Usually, it's women. I have no problems with people walking a race. Just start at the back. The last time I did a women-only race I had to divert around (and ultimately crashed through) a gaggle of women talking about where they had bought inexpensive purses. This has never happened to me in US races. Today I even passed a supposedly "Top 300" runner (she had a special shirt) who must have finished at least 4 minutes behind me. Either she is confused or I need a new shirt.

Road races are fun but mostly oversubscribed here. In 2011 I ran a relay marathon with two friends in Bar Harbor, Maine. There were 1,000 participants. That was a great size--leading to an almost camaraderie as we passed each other (one person who passed me there asked me if I were from Team Brazil--I was--and that she had heard about our participation from the waitress the night before. The waitress is a friend of a friend). Here you would never ever find your friends. Except for meeting at the team tent before or after the race.

I run as a member of a team. There were 25 of us at this race and I happened to be the second to arrive back at the tent set up just for us in the parking lot. The top place finisher for our team was a guy named Antonio, 26 years old and one of the elite runners of São Paulo. He came in sixth place overall--yes, he was one of those guys that I see zooming to the finish line while I am on kilometer two. Turns out he lives in the "community" (a euphemism I have learned for an established favela or slum) where I taught English. So I gave him a ride home. One of the many coincidences of life--in this city of  13 or 17 or 20 million (depending on who you believe).

My favorite way to spend a half-hour on the Marginal--running! See you in July, Circuito Athenas!


  1. Hi, do you still live in SP? I'm going to be there the first weekend of April and was hoping that I'd be able to find a race to run in while I was there. Do you know of any then? Or where I could look for some? Thanks

    1. Here is the calendar of races around Brazil in April: Enjoy!