On Top of the World … at the End of the World.

I was super stoked to come to Patagonia to run a marathon. But, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect outside of lacing up my shoes, putting one foot in front of the other, and pumping my arms.

Here are a  few gems from the journey; pictures make a stronger case for a Chilean adventure than my words ever could.

Just how far is it from the U.S. Mainland to Chile? So far United Airlines actually serves you a hot meal.
But, when you’ve got a 17 hour layover and don’t feel like sleeping in an airport that *may* smell like cattle…. you convince a non-English-speaking taxi driver to go west until you hit the water. Which according to Google Maps will take you roughly a day and 5 hours to walk. Don’t ask about the setting. I hadn’t slept.
So, our hopes that we’d be able to waltz in to a hotel that boasts the largest swimming pool in the world, were dashed when an armed guard turned us away, EMPHATICALLY. I guess after 18 hours of transit, we didn’t look like Americans. Because everyone knows that all Americans have to do in order to gain admittance across the globe is to flash a passport and throw around some pesos, right?

Instead, we told the confused taxi driver to head back to the only restaurant we remembered passing: the Bora Bora.
This is the Bora Bora’s good side. The side facing the street sells chicklets and admission to the bathroom. But can you beat the view?
While I still haven’t learned how many pesos equal the dollar, I have learned that 1 pot of “Relax” tea translates into 4 trips here…

I thought they were ripping me off until I learned that I was stressing over 50 cents. And to be fair, I did monopolize a chair for 5 hours, hogging this incredible view. So, all’s fair in love and banos.
I know that in the Instagram age, we see breathtaking views of nature all the time, but this isn’t filtered and my picture is too small. But, these waves are the shiniest, glossiest, crests of water I’ve ever laid eyes on. What’s more, it was a local spot, no one was trying to sell me anything; fellow beach-admirers weren’t even interested in English-speaking tourists. This was just a coastal town where Chileans come to visit when the southern hemisphere emerges from winter, and the promise of spring dances in the air.

But beware… a day at the beach without sleep means that anything goes. Which turns out can be a pretty slippery slope. By the end of the day I was essentially wearing pajamas. Taxi-driver Juan didn’t seem to mind. He’d never been to the beach either, so he waited for 5 hours marveling alongside the touristas.
After dinner in Santiago and a return to our familiar haunt (the airport) we were headed down south. To what they call Fin del Mundo, the end of the world, Punta Arenas–look it up, friends, it’s seriously at the tip, as in neighbors with Antarctica.
So, after 3 hour flight from DC to Houston, a 10 hour flight from Houston to Santiago, we we caught another plane to Punta Arenas–the last dot you see on this crappy, out-of-focus map. Remember learning about the Magellan strait? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

I arrived at 3:15 am, took a bus to Cabo de Horno, (Cape Horn) the hotel where we’d be picked up 6 hours later to start the final leg of the trip. Given not many places are open at 4 am, I prayed Cabo de Horno would be kind to our weary bones. And it was.
We were able to crash here for 3.5 hours. I was happy to pay whatever they wanted for the breakfast buffet. It may have been 4:30 by the time we got from the airport to the hotel … and I probably felt like I was sleeping in a stranger’s living room, but I was thrilled to lay my head down.

A few hours later, we headed to Puerto Natales–it’s the mouth of the Torres del Paine National Park, and where I had to pick up my marathon race packet.
marathon-medal bib
On the way from Punta Arenas, we loaded up into a van with a few others headed to the marathon. By the time I stepped out, I was inspired.

Carlos was wearing a poncho. Every inch of clothing boasted he was from Mexico. I soon learned why. He flew in from Rio–as in he came from the Olympics. Wait, we’ve got Olympic athletes running this thing???!

Carlos was the guide for a Paralympic marathoner from Mexico–a man who suffered an accident. Acid scalded his arms, they had to be cut off. Acid splashed into his eyes; now he’s blind. The man ended up dropping out of the Olympic games and went home. Carlos hopped a plane to Chile and decided to run a marathon of his own. I wasn’t hurt when he passed me.

Our other van mates were Henry and Lynn-an incredible couple from the States who had already run a marathon on every continent, save this one (yes, they’d already done one on Antarctica). In their spare time, they’re medical doctors and professors. Lynn told me about a race in Philadelphia–you run an 8-mile loop as many times as you can in a 24-hour period. It’s good training, she says, for an ultra. After running through the night, you’ll have a better idea of how far you can push your body. P.S. she logged 93 miles. I’m going to find out more.

As our van wound around the last curve… we were finally here. 48 hours of transit, totally worth it. So worth it, we made the driver stop.
Destination was in sight, Rio Serrano, was only a mile away. And that hotel gave me the best shower and veggie burger I’ve ever had. Cry-worthy. Then I got to go to bed. I’ll never take that for granted again.
On the way to the marathon start line, we asked the driver to pull over. Can you believe this? It was gorgeous. And pretty much the scene for the duration of the 26.2 miles 42k that I’d run. What’s better than running a marathon with this finish line? Amazing, right? And somehow, this just doesn’t do it justice or capture the majesty of Patagonia.
This was the most physically punishing marathon I’ve ever run. But, it’s only my 8th, so I’m only comparing it to Honolulu, Marine Corps, and the DC and Arizona Rock and Roll courses. I wasn’t prepared for the hills. So, I was a bit disappointed with how slowly I was moving up them. It’s a great lesson to learn and I’ll be tweaking my training going forward.

Sorry for the small photos and hasty writing, I’m just kicking it in a lodge overlooking the mountains before beginning the arduous trek home.

Sigh. I have to go home.

One thought on “On Top of the World … at the End of the World.

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