by Irina Echarry, photos: Caridad
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 21 — Each year in November, thousands of Cubans and foreign participants hit the streets in the “Marabana/Maracuba” marathons (running in events between 5 and 42 kms), regardless of their age, gender or ideology.
All that’s needed is the will and desire to go the distance – whether walking, jogging or running.
They usually take place over a weekend and this year Maracuba was on Saturday Nov. 19 and Marabana on Sunday the 20th.
There were lots of children among the participants, therefore there was no shortage of excitement; it was there in the laughter, shouts of support (and some that poked fun), comments and even the occasional vomiting from exhaustion as the competitors filed along.
As 12-year-old Jonathan put it, “I ran like a mad man. I couldn’t let my dad down. I promised him I wouldn’t.” The youngster crossed the finish line red, panting and gasping for air. He added, “I already knew the way; I ran the course several times in training.”
Patricia is a young food service and cooking student joins in the race when the bell sounds, but she has never participated officially in the run. As she explained:
“It’s because I’m afraid to make a fool of myself. When you register for the Marabana, in the half marathon or the marathon, you get a microchip that records your speed. But I’m not a fast runner, not even when running the shorter distance.
“For me, what I like is trying to see if I can make the distance, seeing how far I can go in the run. In the Maracuba I always do the four kilometer run, and last year in the Marabana I made it 6 km.
“This time I want to run farther, but speed doesn’t matter to me. Also, if I’m officially registered I’d have to show up and I come because I want to; when I think about it being an obligation then I don’t like it as much.”
Under the clouds, rain or shine, people are always ready to run. On Saturday’s Maracuba, which was taking place on Physical Culture and Sports Day, the sunshine and cloud cover alternated, but on Sunday the sun beamed steadily, scorching the Marabana runners who were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the event.
Along the way one could see the names of the UCI [Havana’s computer science university], representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, retired athletes and many other people with sweat-drenched bodies struggling to reach the finish line.
Rafael, seeming like an envoy from some cheering section, was clapping and shouting to spur the runners on. As he explained:
“I come every year. I don’t run because the truth is I just don’t have the endurance for it. But I participate by giving encouragement to the runners. I wish I could do like them, but my health doesn’t permit it; I have bone problems. I used to walk a little, but now I’m getting old and it’s kind of embarrassing.”
On this the 25th anniversary of the Marabana marathon, under a constant and sweltering sun, more than 2,600 runners turned out.
First place in the half marathon (21 kms) went to athlete Richard Perez, a specialist in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter run. His time of (1:04.52) in the Marabana half marathon was which was close to the 1:03:41 record.
Among women, the winner in the half marathon was hurdles athlete Milena Perez (1:28.19).
In the full marathon, first places went to Alexei Machado (2:28.04) and Yadira Gonzalez (3:14.40).
Those are the the results of the athletes, but without a doubt the greatest attraction is the popular participation by people of all ages who exercise daily and enjoy it.
The morning of the third weekend in November was one full of color, energy and vitality, even the police felt upbeat as they interacted with the public, joking and talking.
These events pull together large numbers of people who spontaneously turn out, but then — when everything is over — they have to return to dealing with hard-to-catch public transportation and trying to make food appear as if by magic in the kitchen.
See the full results on the Marabana official website.
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