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The Most Inspirational Marathon We Never Ran

I challenge all of us to live a life when where we can look this cool at 88...and run a half marathon!!!

“Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.”

On Saturday Skott and I woke up just before 6am in order to catch the first boat taking the 30 minute ride over to our neighbouring town, Panajachel. Earlier in the month we had seen advertisements for the very first Lake Atitlan Half Marathon. Normally, I would have loved to run the race but we didn’t get a lot of running in during our time in Thailand (too busy being beach bums I suppose). 21km without proper training is a little much for me so we decided to lend a hand and volunteer instead.

I never would have thought that handing out water could be as rewarding and inspirational as running the race itself. In fact, I have to say that our experience in Panajachel was one of the coolest volunteer jobs I’ve ever taken on. Our water team was a little inexperienced so Skott took over and helped instruct everyone how to set the tent up & get ready. It rained pretty much the entire 4 hours we were there but we had found some garbage bags at a store near the dock so we were prepared.

When our first runners started coming through we asked one of the Guatemalan volunteers how to cheer in Spanish. They gave us three words: “Animo!”, “Vamos!” and “Bueno amigos!” I double checked that the first one was not a swear as it was unfamiliar to me, but once I was sure, I proceeded to shout these out every time a group of runners came through for water. We had some music playing at the tent as well and I couldn’t help but practice a few salsa steps to stay warm. All of our shenanigans at the tent were funny enough that some curious Guatemalan neighbours even came out to watch us for a couple hours.

I hadn’t anticipated that marathon running would be popular here in Guatemala but it definitely is. They have many larger races throughout the year in different cities. We had 200 runners this weekend so that was definitely impressive for the very first event in such a small community.

All of the runners were a ton of fun to watch, but two participants in particular stole our hearts. The first was our oldest runner, an 88 year old man who ran with his fedora and a cane. The guy looked pretty darn fit and he finished the race despite some pretty nasty hills on the course. The second was a man who was completing the race in a wheel chair. He didn’t have a fancy racing chair, so the hills were extremely difficult to get up. He had a whole team following him in a vehicle to make sure he had clearance from the traffic and it was great to see so much support behind him.

After we packed up the water station, we drove back into town and got to witness the man in the wheel chair take on the biggest hill in the course. It was so steep that his chair couldn’t make it up so his team held his chair while he got out and proceeded to use his hands to walk up the rest of the hill. I literally had tears rolling down my face…I was amazed by his strength and his insistance on completing the race solely with his own strength. We arrived into town just in time to see him cross the finish line and he was met by a crowd of people applauding! I don’t think anyone who witnessed his feat left without feeling a whole new sense of inspiration.

It’s difficult to capture all of the adrenaline and inspiration that Skott and I felt on Saturday, but here are a few photos to share our day with you…

This was one hilly route!!!

Ready to roll despite the rain

Like my skirt?

Taking a break with our curious neighbours at the water station

Skott hands out water to our 88 year old superstar

I will never forget seeing this man climb to the top of the hill using his hands only.

Home stretch!!!!

Lorenzo, the boy who we are living with was immediately motivated to run the half marathon next year!

By the way…the man who won the half ran it in 1:07!!!!

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8 Responses to “The Most Inspirational Marathon We Never Ran”

  1. Jordan May 31, 2012 at 3:30 am #

    This is a great volunteer race recap! I hope to run a few races during my travels… Now I need to add volunteering for at least one to my agenda.
    Jordan recently posted..Firsts from Colombia

    • Skott June 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Was absolutely worth it to see a race from “the other side”! Most definitely recommend it…

  2. Eduardo Berduo June 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Thank’s for your help, I ran the 42K the sunday, and the support for the runners was amazing, thank you again!

  3. diane dreyfus June 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    loved this article on the Marathon.
    It was a blast for all of us who live here, too.
    come back next year we will try to fix the rain ..

    • Skott and Shawna June 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      Honestly – the rain only added to the environment – we had such a great time, a little rain was never going to spoil our fun. Next year, huh? Not a bad idea….

  4. Carlos January 31, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Wow! Can’t believe I didn’t see this before! I was born in Guatemala but live in Los Angeles now. Maratón Atitlán was my 7th and the most beautiful I have ever ran. Thanks for sharing your experience and thank you, especially, for your help and support. It makes a huge difference to have people cheering us up. I probably got water from you guys but don’t really remember you. Anyway, again, thank you very much and I hope you had a good time in my country. Carlos.

    • Skott and Shawna April 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

      Never a problem Carlos – the pleasure was truly ours!


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