Running in Boquete is tough…

...but the views are incredible!

12 years ago in April, my brother Kirk talked me into running a marathon.  When we first discussed it, I couldn’t run even a mile without a walk break, but lots of changes can occur in 9 months ( if a baby can grow in that time, surely it’s enough time to prepare for what’s really just a longish run. Yeah, that’s what 26.2 miles is).  I followed a training plan, “talked” with Kirk via email about my progress almost every day, and  I was able to “run” the Disney marathon the following January.  My 12 minute pace was pretty much as slow as you can go and still call it “running”, but I did it —  26.2 miles. My family  was all there to see me finish — except for Kirk, who was excused of course, because he’d finished two and half hours earlier and understandably wanted to go home. I think my kids ( 13,11 and 9 at the time, who by the way, all did quite well in their first 5K the day before) might have been a little embarrassed because I wasn’t anywhere near mid pack even,  but that didn’t take away one bit from my sense of personal achievement! All in all, it was a fabulous experience.

Last year, my sister Lena tried to get all of her siblings (Kirk, me, and our youngest sister DD) enthused about doing the same thing again, and while I swear my heart was in it — my body just hasn’t cooperated — plantar fasciitis and shin splints have plagued me ever since.  Undoubtedly, it’s an age thing. 😦  But, I haven’t given up  —  I want to run another marathon.

Following my training plan here in Boquete is presenting some problems though. First, I have to increase my mileage slowly, to hopefully work around my injuries. Just as big of a problem is the terrain.  It’s not hilly here — it’s mountainous. Any run of more than 10 minutes or so involves significant ups and downs. Nothing short of legs of steel will get the job done.

This part is HARD - it must be at least a mile climb to get to this point!

But I don’t HAVE legs of steel! At this point, if I carefully select my route, I can eek out about 40 minutes of running with just smallish (comparatively) ups and downs.  On my long “run” days, I actually do a run/walk thing for about an hour and a half, tackling the steeper routes. I’m also incorporating some leg strengthening exercises that I got from a certain runner at University of Oregon, and the core exercises her teammate/ roommate gave me.  Even with those efforts, I’m a long, long way from a marathon, but nonetheless — 26.2 miles is still my goal.

An "easy" part of one our routes, although truthfully, none of it is that easy for me!

Mark, of course, runs circles around me. Literally — he runs in circles, around me, so he can keep running in spite of my slower speed and regular walk breaks on the more ambitious routes. He says he has no interest in running a marathon, but he will be ready for it long before I am.

We get some pretty strange looks when we run.  Just like in Bocas del Toro, little kids will start running after us, in their flip flops and crocs, laughing with us, I like to think, not at us.  Panamanian adults look a little disgusted sometimes — they don’t like to sweat even in the gym, and Mark and I …. well, whether or not we like sweating, we are generally drenched soon into the run. There’s also an occasional jaw drop, when people suddenly realize which direction we came from (way, way down). We don’t see many other runners here.  Just four, in fact, in 2 months — and one was like me — taking a walking break.

I will keep up my training, but for anyone paying attention — I’m probably not going to be ready in 9 months this time!

MARK SAYS:

Running in Boquete ain’t so tough…

Yeah right!  Valerie accurately and eloquently captured some of the obstacles that we encounter in our attempts to uncover new, challenging and picturesque routes.   However, she missed a couple that I find to be most demanding.
In much of this area the streets are well paved and many of our routes contain sidewalks that are actually intact.  However, the more we experiment with our routes the better the chances that we encounter more inhospitable terrain.  On a few of our excursions we have ended up on roads made of dirt and/or broken gravel with an abundance of jagged rocks which can make footing especially treacherous.
I have never been mistaken as a graceful and coordinated person.  The caps on my two front teeth, there since my pre-teen years, are a testament to that.  So, as I often lumber my way along the uneven surfaces of Boquete I am not overly concerned about the inclines, declines, pace or scenery.  No, I am primarily focused on keeping my footing and remaining upright!
One other impediment to my running aspirations here, unlike Valerie, is my concern for stray dogs.  I have been chased by dogs in the U.S.  Of course, I guess they weren’t really chasing me, with the intent of catching me, since they surely would have caught me if they were.  However, on several locations I absolutely did feel them nipping at my heels.
The number of stray dogs here in Boquete, while fewer than in Bocas, is still considerably more than in the U.S.  On a few occasions, an unhappy canine, or canines, has felt threatened when I have unknowingly entered their territory. Their posturing, in response to my intrusion, has been nothing short of menacing.  Again, if they wanted to catch me they could.
But, to this point their bark/growl has been worse than their bite.  It nonetheless does give me great pause whenever I turn down an unknown road.  However, the show must go on.  All in an effort to make sure that running remains one of our few pursuits where I am actually better than my wife!

(Note from Valerie: Here’s a photo of one of the dogs Mark is talking about…fierce looking, eh?!)

One of Boquete's vicious strays. 🙂

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