Pros: beautiful 1-lap course following continuously the seaside; start and finish area in the beach, with separated area for marathoners; support in the last kilometre getting to the finish line.
Cons: no return buses offered from Reñaca to Viña del Mar, as they were available in the morning; runners´ fair in a subterranean parking lot of a commercial centre.
A long time without a marathon, since June. I was needing a break after an intense first half of the year, with 10 marathons, but I didn´t expect it so long. Summer meant holidays, but also moving to Chile for two months for working reasons. The expected calendar was altered, but marathon is global, and you can find them everywhere.
Viña del Mar was going to be the first marathon in Chilean soil. It is a touristic coastal spot, 2 hours by bus from capital Santiago. Arriving I go straight to pick my bib number and kit. I am surprised to find the runners´ fair in the parking lot of an otherwise massive commercial centre. To make things worse is not even closed for the occasion. Not very welcoming. Really, was there no better place? I get my number and go to pick my t-shirt in the third floor. Bag includes also a cap and running sleeves. After a quick lunch, I go to my hotel and spend the evening walking around.
The race includes also half marathon and 10k options. Start time for the longer distances is 8.00, with 10k scheduled at 8.40. The organisation offers free shuttle buses from Viña del Mar to Reñaca, the village that allocates the start and finish area. An early dinner based on pizza and is time to prepare things and go to sleep.
Unfortunately, the hotel is not on a quiet street and traffic doesn´t allow much sleep. Luckily, I had tried to compensate during the week. I get up at 5.10, take breakfast and then an Uber to the shuttle buses departure point. I arrive to Reñaca one hour before start. Day is dawning, and still feels cold, so I keep moving and delay getting undressed until the very last moment.
We are over 1000 runners for the full distance and more than 4000 for the half marathon, separated in the start area. We go punctual, with ideal temperature of around 11-12°C. After only a few metres both races join. The course is a big loop, that could be divided in 4 sections of approximately 10k. From Reñaca to an intermediate point between Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, and back following the same road. Arriving in Reñaca finishes the half marathon. The marathon continues in the other direction, until Concón and then back.
First 2-3 kilometres are a bit complicated as the number of runners is important. I try to accommodate my rhythm to cruising speed. I can see some pacers, but mostly for the half marathon, so I don´t try to keep with any of them. I am feeling well and maintain a regular 5 min/k speed. It is usually faster than last marathons, but I am comfortable.
Leaving behind Viña del Mar we get to the area with the worse pavement conditions. Keeping an eye on the road, kilometres go quickly. Shortly after the 10k we turn around and head back towards Reñaca and the half marathon. As we are leaving Viña, runners suddenly increase, as we join the last runners from the 10k distance. Some navigation skills are required until the halfway point, that I cross in 1.45, maintaining the speed. From that point onwards, is only marathon runners.
Maybe the most demanding part. Undulating terrain and empty roads. Waiting for the gel in the 25k I had only packed 4 gels (instead of the usual 5) and distributed them accordingly. It wasn´t in the 25, nor in the 26, but shortly after the 27 that we got it. Sure, I could have taken one of my own, but unsure as whether we would any, I had decided to wait a bit longer. Until the 25-26k I had maintained my pace, but I started slowing down. Maybe not the gel, because my longest training run in a long time hadn´t gone over that distance either.
Feeling determined I am not that far off from a good finish time. After the last turn around is just only getting back. Motivation at maximum level. I hydrate at every station as the sun is getting intense and eat occasional pieces of banana to get all the energy I can.
For the last 5k I give everything. Mostly downhill and with a lot of supporting people I allow myself to sprint to the finish line. Done. Chip time of 3.40.12, and position 301 over 1101 finishers. Just shy of a sub 3.40, when I was clocking a time closer to 3.30 at halfway point. Nevertheless, happy with the result.
I take my breath and drink enough. With no return transport options to Viña del Mar, nor Uber available, I still have a long walk of 6 kilometres to get back to my hotel.
A new country added to the marathon list, the 11th, for marathon 11 of the year.
Still a few weeks left in Chile, but one more marathon remaining. Next stop: Puerto Varas, in the south.