Sunday 11th of May 2014, the third Gran Carrera Atlética del dia de las Madres, the Oaxaca mothers day race. This would be my last race as a resident in Mexico and a tough run to finish in second place over the seven and a half kilometers. My most competitive race in Mexico to date and my best overall placing. Despite running (officially) unregistered and without a number, this was a great occasion and a fantastic day out in the Oaxacan sunshine.
The race started off in El Llano, a beautiful public park to the north of the historic center of the city. We stayed in las Mariposas hotel just round the corner so I was able to get up late for the start of the race. Since the race was for mothers day, there would be no registration for male runners who would run without numbers or official timing. This suited me as it meant we could relax the day before the race and turn up 20 minutes before the start without any hassle.
So, I could grab some breakfast and have something to drink before the start and not have to worry about finding a taxi or bus to the start. Just a five minute stroll and we’re there. Perfect.
There was a nice atmosphere round about the start area where I was happy to meet my friend Octaviano Robles who was there to cheer on some of the guys from his running club. While the ladies did their aerobic warm-up I bounced on my toes to warm up my calves.
I was happy to see a good few other male runners. I had been a bit worried that since the men couldn’t register that none might show, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. There was a good turnout all-round and even if all the best male runners in Oaxaca didn’t show up we still ended up with a good competitive race.
At the start there was plenty of time for photos and announcements before we would get going. It was nice to see so many runners turning out for the special occasion of mothers day. Some guys would be taking the opportunity to run with their mothers, and in some cases three or four generations of ladies would run together. The weather in Oaxaca was perfect for running. It felt like a nice way to say goodbye to before my big move on t0 China.
A lot of Oaxaca races start from the same corner of el Llano, so when the gun fired I was on familiar ground. I hadn’t pushed to the front at the start, but stuck to the side so I could jump onto the pavement. It took about a hundred meters before I could pass the crowds and pick up my pace. The next objective was to find my line on the road. The roads in Oaxaca are laid with brick and if you run on the thin line of bricks laid length-wise it feels like a smoother surface. You can also jump the pavement to cut corners to gain a slight advantage at the turns. Since the course only has two laps of five turns, I’m not so sure this gives you too much of an real advantage, but in a course with so many long straights, thinking about reaching the corners and turning them well can give you a psychological boost and something to focus on if nothing else.
On the way down to the first corner I concentrated on holding a steady pace and not over exerting too early-on. Sometimes if I fire off too early in a race I get an ache in my calves that can turn into fatigue in the later stages. Not this time. I felt like I was doing well to run efficiently and conserve my energy. At 1k when we hit the first corner I was delighted to have the leaders in site. I would stay within about 200 meters of the front runners right through the race and never lose sight of the vehicle keeping the road clear for anything more than 10 or 20 seconds, this would be the most competitive I’d been in a race in Mexico and it was really exciting.
The next stretch of the race took us down Avenue de la Independencia and two quick turns onto Boulevard Edwardo Vasconcelos. This is the hard part, a kilometer uphill and a real slog. The climb is about 40 meters and you can feel it in your legs. The problem is knowing how much effort to put into the climb. If you lay off too much you can fall behind and if you push too hard it can hurt your legs so you have to slow down later in the race. The trick is to get the balance right, and since it’s such a short race its hard to compensate later on if you get it wrong. The moment of truth is when you turn the corner at the top of the hill and you either float away or your legs feel like led and you fall behind.
I took the hill at around a 4:10 per k pace and it seemed to work well. I was gradually gaining ground on the runners in front but didn’t feel too bad at the top of the hill. At this point I had about five or six runners in front of me and they picked up the pace on the third kilometer. When we turned back onto Benito Juarez it was a slight downhill back towards el Llano and lap two.
Before I knew it I was in second place bearing down on first, then overtaken before moving back into second as the third place runner took the lead. This guy really seemed to be picking up the pace but I wanted to try and hold on. I always figure its best to concentrate on the runner in front because if I turn my head to look back I feel I can lose my form. The fifth kilometer down past el Llano was my fastest of the race with an average pace of 3:45 per k.
I let myself fall back just a bit before the second lap of the hill at Boulevard Edwardo Vasconcelos thinking I could make it up with my stamina on the climb. I kept pushing but couldn’t make up any ground. At the top of the hill the leader pushed off leaving me for dead. Fearing an challenge for second place I pulled a 3:33 per k pace for the last half kilometer but it still wasn’t enough to get me anywhere near the race leader. I still stormed over the line magnificently and it was a great result for my last race in Mexico.
I stuck around for the prize giving and race lottery which was great fun. It was nice to see so many people with their mothers and it made me miss my own mum back at home. I would have to Skype her soon after the race to let her know about my result. My mum is a runner herself and we always enjoy keeping up to date with each other’s races and training. It would be nice to train and run with her when I got back to England later in the Summer.
Later on I had a chat with the winner who was from Puebla working in Oaxaca. He said he had me in his sights from before the start of the second lap and knew how far I was behind him right up to the finish. He ran a good race.
It was a great day and I think I’ll always look back at running in Oaxaca with a lot of fondness. Over the five years I’ve lived in the state, it had gone from a few races every year to a race every few weeks and the small community of dedicated runners has grown into a real army. Long may it last.