Runner: Matt U
Location: Toluca, Mexico
Results – 20/264, 3:20.43
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- Very unique race for me, being a foreigner. All communication was in Spanish, we ran through some smaller towns on our way to the city center finish, and the vibe was not that of a typical race I traditionally run in the US.
- There was competition. There were Kenyans there and there were people that looked legit at the starting line. People were scoping each other out as we were warming up and I was excited to race.
- The altitude was a unique challenge. I’ve raced utlras in the mountains before, but I’ve never tried to race fast on roads at elevation. My watch said we were between 8,500’ and 9,000’ the entire race.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
- Not much of anything. They recommended getting to the start area at 5:30am for the 7am start. I didn’t bring enough clothes and was cold while waiting. The warm up run was a real warm up, as I was freezing before I started. Thankfully, they let me hang out on one of the buses that they were keeping drop bags in.
- This might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen at a race. There was lots of chatter in Spanish over the loudspeaker leading up to the start. I could understand some of it, particularly if I made an effort. As we were within 15 minutes of the start, I was not paying much attention. But then I heard counting, repeating over and over. And I notice that tons of people are standing around doing calisthenic drills, following the instructions of the woman on the microphone. We’re five minutes from the race starting and hundreds of people are doing leg kicks and stretches in unison. The kicker was that the song “The Final Countdown” was playing in the background throughout. I couldn’t help but smile!
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
- I tried to hold back. I tried to account for the altitude. I tried to smile and enjoy the experience. Fail, fail, and sort of fail. I didn’t hold back enough, 8,500+’ was more than I bargained for, and though I smiled and joined in the cheers of “vamos” and “animo”, I was thinking of various forms of the verb sufrir (to suffer) for much of the race.
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- If you don’t normally race at 8,700’, be extra cautious. 42k is a long way to go when you’re struggling to breath well.
- It was pretty in the sense that we ran through a couple smaller towns and finished in the big city center of Toluca. It was unique in this way and I enjoyed it. It also had some sections that we ran on busier, bigger roads. These weren’t bad in themselves and traffic was always kept separate, or at least far enough apart to feel safe. However, there were lots of moments when I could feel the pollution as I was breathing it in. Many of the busy road sections had cars backed up and the exhaust from buses and trucks was tough to deal with.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
- Not in the sense that it’s hilly. There was a total of 500’ of climbing in the entire race. The course was flat and would have been easy if you were used to running up high. There was one section of cobblestone road that was kind of tough to run on and it beat up my feet a little.
- Really well.
Competition – is there a strong field?
- I think the winning time was 2:25. That is fantastic given the altitude. There were a few Kenyan men and women vying for the top spots. The men’s and women’s winners each took home 60,000 pesos, and the prizes went 8 deep so it brought out good runners.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
- Sign up online was easy. They weren’t set up to receive non-Mexican credit cards, but I was able to pay using PayPal. The only hitch for me was that they seemed strict regarding packet pickup, and there was no way I could make it during the hours of the expo – the hours were normal, but I had a big exam the day before the race and couldn’t make it. I had to email for an exception, which was granted. The only thing that really made all this difficult was that it was all done in Spanish, and I still kind of suck at writing and communicating in Spanish!
- Every 2.5 kilometers. Water was in small bags, which may actually be better than cups. I took hardly anything though because early in the race, I wasn’t thirsty, and once I should have been taking food and drink, my chest and stomach were so tight that I couldn’t take anything down. Thankfully, at kilometer 12, there were portapotties. First time I’ve ever stopped to poop during a road marathon. No paper of course, had to sacrifice a glove, but very thankful for the aid station portapotty!
Weather and typical race conditions –
- It was in the 40s at the start and warmed up into the low 60s as the sun came up. Weather was perfect. No wind or rain. Sunny, but with cool temps.
- Nothing special needed for this race. Warm clothes for waiting at the start would be helpful because it’s a point to point course. They had drop bags they would shuttle to the finish for us.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
- There are plenty of places to see runners on this course. We were running on roads through towns and they city the entire way. I didn’t have any friends cheering me on in Toluca, Mexico though! Julie and Paavo were waiting for me at the finish line though. 🙂
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
- 4.5. Very pleased with the event and the experience. It’s not the best race I’ve run – the pollution sucked. Other than that, the race was great, despite my significant suffering. I would love to try again. I am confident I could race better the second time around, but as a heads up for anyone thinking about running this one, running this high without much experience racing that high, can be harder than expected!