Running From Canada To Cabo

Tackling a half marathon in paradise

The morning of the Los Cabos Half Marathon started with a very early wake up call at our hotel, giving us enough time to get out to the Holiday Inn Express at km 3 for a 5:30 am shuttle to San Jose, where the starting line of the race awaited us.

The shuttle picked us up and we sat quietly during the drive up the coast, thinking about the day ahead and the temperature that would soon be blazing hot. As we passed Squid Roe on the way out of town, there were still holdovers from the night before dancing up a storm under the laser lights. We arrived in San Jose at 6 am to a surprisingly cool breeze and a still pitch damn black pre-dawn sky. We stood in the town square watching the race crew go through final setup and start line prep. As the sun began its slow rise, the flapping Mexican flag was pierced with light. It was almost time!

I had begun training for the half in December, exactly 10 weeks before the race. This wasn’t my first time visiting Los Cabos (we’ve been coming here since 2001), but it would be my first time racing here.

cabocanadarun.JPGPacking for the trip this year meant making some additional room in the suitcase for race necessities: extra shoes, my lucky running hat and my Road I.D. band (kind of like a medical alert bracelet for runners). I also made a trip to the Running Room beforehand for a new smartphone arm band and ultrathin moisture wicking socks, since this would be the steamiest asphalt I’d ever run on.

Training in sub-zero temperatures back home in Hamilton, Ontario for what would ultimately be a run in 80+ degree weather was daunting. Adding further despair was an ill-timed fall on the ice four weeks before race day, effectively dialing my training down to nothing in the final days before the run. But a decent fitness level and determination kept me feeling positive, and I was boosted by two good distance runs after arriving in Cabo.

It’s no surprise that running through the downtown streets of Cabo and along Medano Beach would get me in the right frame of mind. One thing was clear during these two runs: it’s hot in Cabo. I knew I’d need to be sure to hydrate more than I would normally in other races.

And now, here I was, waiting for the starting pistol. Before it was fired, we stood in the corrals while the national anthem played. The anthem ended and a roar came through the crowd. Next came the pinging of timing chips going off as 2,400 runners crossed the starting line mats.

About a mile and a half in, I knew the day was heating up. I searched for shade along the course as much as possible, to shield myself from the growing heat. I expected a mostly flat course, but it turned out to be rolling hills, including some in the second half of the race that made me wonder if I’d be able to maintain my planned pace. I made use of five of the eight water stations set up along the course. They were each a welcome oasis, staffed with smiling volunteers and full cups of water.

Crossing the finish line in Plaza Mijares is a memory burned into my memory. My official finishing time was 2 hours and 4 minutes. Good enough for 348th place out of the 876 racers. It was a time I was proud of. A bottle of Powerade and a bottle of water greeted every finisher; I needed that! My bottles were empty in minutes. Race organizers provided a great experience. From race number pick up the day before, to the party at the finish, the event was fun, safe and very well organized. I had the chance to chat with runners from Canada, the United States and Mexico, everyone sharing their own story about the path that led them to the race.

The Plaza was alive for the post race party – wine, beer and music – and it was the perfect end to a hard effort from everyone who ran. Brunch and a tour at Flora Farms was a finish line treat for my wife and I, before we returned by taxi to our resort Sandos Finisterra to enjoy the last three days of our week’s away.

This was a big goal that I’ve checked off my list. I already loved Cabo, but now I love it even more.