I’ve told this story a couple hundred times and it still blows my mind on how crazy this run was.
It was in July 2012, it was to be my second run for Team Diabetes and I had chosen to run my first, and last, marathon at the Rio de Janeiro Marathon event. The fund raising was a great success as I raised just over $7,000 for the Canadian Diabetes Association, my training was exhausting but I was ready for the race, and my wife was joining me on the journey. What’s the worst that could happen?
Well, it all started with the departure flight from Toronto Pearson Airport… we had got to our gate on time, met some other runners who were members of Team Diabetes, and the excitement was building up for everyone involved. There had been reports of severe thunderstorms in the Southern United States and we were to have a connecting flight in Atlanta before heading to Rio.
First sign that this trip was going to be a disaster was when the flight crew was 30 minutes late to their plane. There had been some sort of mix-up with the crews from other planes and rearrangement of schedules. Alright, these things happen, let’s get this show on the road.
As I mentioned already, there were severe thunderstorms happening in the Southern United States that night and as a result it delayed our landing in Atlanta by 20 minutes… just in time to watch our connecting flight to Rio leave without us on the plane. Best part of missing the connecting flight was hearing that we had to wait 24 hours in Atlanta for the next flight!
Once we finally got on the connecting flight the next day – the airline provided accommodations and meal vouchers, and eventually after much arguing and complaining, travel vouchers – we landed in Rio. The problem was we were to run the next day, so not too much time to see some of the race course in advance or get accustomed to the climate.
So, it’s the morning of the race and it starts at 8 a.m., I had been up some parts of the night dealing with stomach issues as a result of what I had eaten the night before but was still being positive. I made my way down to the lobby breakfast to grab a small bite and some water and then saw the rain… it was coming down hard and the wind was strong.
The group members loaded up in to the bus that would drive us to the start line and as we were driving the weather was calming down a bit; it was still raining, but not as bad as it had been. We all thought this was great! A little bit of rain would help against the heat while running and hopefully make for a solid run.
Right after the first kilometre everything went downwards and fast! The heavy rain and strong winds came back furiously, it felt like I was running in to a monsoon! At around the five kilometre mark running past Ipanema Beach, a local man had came out of nowhere (I figured he had been on the beach partying the night before) and was running right next to me… in sandals… speaking Brazilian (mentioned in an earlier post about not knowing the native languages!)… smelt like booze… and was having a great time! I could not stop laughing as he tried to talk to me and I kept telling him “I have no idea what you’re saying!” Needless to say, he kept up with me for a kilometre and then faded off on to the beach laughing the whole time.
I’ll avoid the dehydration and exhaustion I was having at the halfway point as it was easily overcome by convincing myself I was okay to carry on… I’m stubborn like that.
Just before the 30 kilometre mark of the course you run up in to the Favelas of Rio, which is the slum area of Rio, and as I was reaching the top of the roadway I noticed a number of police, ambulance, and fire trucks. At first I thought someone on the race course had been severely hurt, but it turns out it was just a local who had decided to spend the night at the bottom of the escarpment that faces the ocean and was being beaten by the large waves. As I was passing the emergency vehicles I saw the man being pulled over the rail and he looked like hell! It freaked me out.
As I made my way down the other side of the roadway hill that was a two-lane road with one lane blocked off for runners and the other lane for traffic coming up the hill, a taxi driver passed me going down… I thought to myself that is was kind of weird to see him going down and the signs clearly saying not to. About 20 metres in front of me I could see traffic coming up the hill and knew something bad was about to happen. The taxi driver hit a motorcyclist head-on and the cyclist flew over the taxi! I was stunned. I ran faster to the cyclist to see if he was okay and as I got close to him he bounced up off the pavement and ran at the taxi driver screaming. It was insane what was happening, but I couldn’t stay as I was already behind my pace time by about 30 minutes.
When I passed the 30 kilometre mark my wife was there cheering me on and encouraging me to finish strong. She’s great!
I finished the race in just under six hours, 5 hours 55 minutes to be precise, and was pretty much the last person to cross the line as they were beginning to pack up! I was about one-and-a-half hours behind my projected pace, I was exhausted, I was dehydrated, I was stunned at the crazy events that had happened along the way, but most of all I was finished and extremely happy!
Every race experience is different and they are all fun. This one was a little surreal at times, but I would never want to do it differently.