Twelve weeks had come and gone so fast. In my spare time I had been training, running, getting read for the End of the World half marathon in Placencia, Belize. This country’s only half marathon/full marathon. I love to run, but I knew this island was not really designed for it, so I dedicated my exercise time to my other favorite, Crossfit, and ran but only once or twice each week. As the year went on though, I really wanted to train for a distance race. So, back in September, through impossible heat, then rain, through mud, and puddles the size of lakes I ran, tiptoed, and waded my way to my 13.1 mile (21 km) goal.
So the day before the race, we were up and off to what is the beginning of all trips, the ferry. Somehow we scored a big covered boat and I tried to sleep my way to Belize city.
It was then into a rental car for the three and a half hour drive south. Along the way we stopped in the tiny capital city of Belmopan and finally got to try the infamous Farmhouse Deli for lunch, and it did not disappoint! Best carrot cake in a long time for sure. I hear they are soon coming to San Pedro.
The drive down the peninsula into Placencia was also the route for the half marathon, a point to point course starting to the north and ending in the village to the south. Those running the full marathon would need to start in the village and turn around where I started, then run all the way back again. We checked into the hotel and settled in for the night.
My alarm went off at 3:55 am on race day. After eating the breakfast I brought along and double checking that I had everything I needed, I was getting out of the car at the start line before 5 am. Enough time to check in, use the porta potty, and warm up. My legs felt good. Nervously I stood in the dark amongst the strangers at the start line, this would be the fourteenth time that I had lined up for a race of this distance or longer, but still I had the jitters. Would it be hotter than I thought? Would there be enough water? Did I run fast enough in those speedwork sessions?
Then we were off. Immediately I was passed by the majority of the 167 runners in the race. I was tempted to chase, but of course I knew better. There was plenty of time for that. For now I needed to stick to my goal pace. I was not aiming for a personal best, I didn’t feel that I was in my best running shape. But I didn’t come to play either, I came to do the best I could without the wheels falling off by mile 9! Once the dawn broke I could start to see the views. I soon ran past a private community that looked nothing like the real Belize, houses worth more than entire communities. I then started to see the ocean on both sides of the peninsula with the sun rising on the left and little mountains behind the ocean on the right. After having trained on cobblestones and pot holed dirt roads and hard cement slab, the asphalt felt like soft heaven under my feet for the first time in a year.
Race Course Views
Slowly but surely I began to pass other runners. I often ran with two young Belizean guys that were near my pace. Without really knowing it, they helped me a lot by providing a mental distraction to the physical pain. Soon we were entering the gritty little community of Seine Bight. The kids were up early on a Sunday morning to cheer us on. I caught an american tourist from Denver there and stayed with her for a few minutes. It was still a little too early to push hard if I had to, plenty of miles left for that. She let me know she thought she was in 4th for the ladies and that made me 5th. She told me she went out hard to run as far as she could before the sun came up but now she was hurting. Then I pulled away and she didn’t follow.
I could see the guys that I was trying to keep up with just ahead, and keeping my same pace I overtook a young Belizean woman who had stayed far ahead of me for about 10 miles but was clearly slowing now in the heat. As we approached the air strip I was feeling good. The sign here cracked me up, luckily I did not have to pause for a takeoff!
“STOP. All vehicles must give way to aircraft landing and taking off.”
I also ran over at least twenty of these!
Soon I could see the finish line, I could hear “Go Sam!” and I sprinted to the end, finishing just a little faster than my goal with an official time of 1:53:15.
This race was not chip timed, it was done the old fashioned way by hand. So, we had an awards ceremony later after the full marathon finished and up until then the placings were a bit of a surprise. There was a little drama and a discrepancy and then the disqualification of a runner that had tried to cheat the system. When all was figured out I was awarded 3rd Overall Female. A result that I was very satisfied with. My legs told me that I had tried hard.
After the race was over, I had a little time to explore and experience Placencia. The village is an odd configuration of little shops, beach front hotels, and original homes. The views are spectacular and the people are friendly. I thought it was a great place to spend a weekend.
The following day, I woke up sore. I had plans though to see one of the last things in Belize that I wanted to do but had not, the Belize Zoo. We were in the car and headed back north. The Belize Zoo is a small zoo with a big heart. They have goals of education, conservation, recreation, and research. They house only species that live here in Belize and end up with a lot of injured or non-releasable wildlife that would otherwise have nowhere to go. The zoo and enclosures were heavy in plant life, most being full of natural trees, plants, and flowers. I got to see and learn about many of our most famous creatures.
Tapir, Belize’s National Animal
Keel-billed Toucan, Belize’s National Bird
The whole weekend was a great experience, but I had a clear favorite memory. As I sprinted to the finish line of the half marathon sweating and out of breath, the announcer yelled into the megaphone, “Samantha English, San Pedro” and for just a moment I was a Belizean representing my little town.
I couldn’t have been more proud!
The Smile Says it All!