Yes, you read it right. No, this isn’t the typical, mother-daughter, Jessica-and-Sue-have-been-training-for-months-together half marathon that I usually run. In reality, I didn’t put an ounce of planning in to run this half marathon. No, I haven’t been training for months. And no, I am not running it with my mom-or with people I know well for that matter. But nonetheless, it looks like I’m running a half marathon this weekend!
Now before you think I’ve gone crazy, you have to understand, it was an opportunity I just couldn’t say no to. Well, in the end.
The race is being held in La Ruta de los Siete Lagos (The Route of Seven Lakes), located in the southwestern part of Argentina in the region known as Patagonia. The race spans the entirety of La Ruta, 100 kilometers in total (about 62 miles) and is a team event. Each team is composed of 5 members, with team members running 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) apiece. The individual 20 kilometers is divided up into two parts: one 10-kilometer stretch is run in the morning, while the second 10 kilometers is run in the afternoon (which is my justification that it will hopefully be easier than the half marathons I have done in the past!).
But the reason I am going is not for the running (although I do enjoy a good half marathon). The area of La Ruta de los Siete Lagos is famously known as one of the most beautiful regions of Argentina. Apart from the obviously celebrated lakes, the route runs through spans of mountains, forest, and fields of wildflowers that, especially this time of year, will be in full bloom. Without a doubt, when I mention my desire to travel within Argentina, the porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) always recommend that I go to this region and rave about its beauty.
And the opportunity really just landed in my lap. Well, sort of. I am part of a running club with my university, UBA Corre, and have been going since August. Earlier in September, a team member, Carlos, had mentioned this race to me. I had been excited, perhaps more than anything to hear about this area of Argentina, but had brushed off the opportunity by thinking they would invite another Argentine instead of me. And then on Friday of last week, I got a Facebook message. “Hola Jessi, como estas? No se si te acordás de mi… (Hi Jess, how’re you? I don’t know if you remember me…)” inviting me to come to the race. Originally, I said I’m sorry, but no. I have a Truman Scholarship for graduate school due in less than a month and a midterm in a couple of weeks. Even though I knew it would be beautiful, I knew I needed to study.
And then I had coffee with my friend Kevin. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks, and we started off by talking about the little things-class, our level of Spanish, our activities, and how we were doing in general. And then we hit a nerve. Secretly, we had both been feeling really down lately. For me personally, it had been that I had been really missing my hometown friends, and was feeling like making friends with Argentines was much harder than I thought. And as we talked about it, Kevin started telling me about a blog he’d been reading. It was about a guy who had seemingly lost everything-his girlfriend of four years cheated on him, his small business had failed, and he was left broke, living in his parent’s basement. Through a lot of hard work, and endless amounts of motivation, he got himself back onto his feet-traveling for a living and finding the self confidence he had severely lacked.
And Kevin told me that the blog talked about excuses. It said that happiness comes from feeling a sense of control over one’s life, of taking responsibility for yourself and what is happening to you.
So as I left coffee with Kevin, feeling inspired, I realized that was exactly what I had done with this race-I had made excuses. I had said I didn’t have enough money, not enough time, and wasn’t in good enough running shape. And I realized what a big mistake I had made. Life is short, too precious to waste. Instead of finding excuses, I realized there was no better way I wanted to travel: by car (cheaper than a bus), with Argentines (a way to improve my Spanish?), and for a good reason (to run-something that I love). On top of it all, the race was in one beautiful locations in all of Argentina, a place I have been dying to see. And with a little bit of luck, and a lot of planning and hard work for getting my homework done when I returned, I knew I could make it work.
Luckily, I was still able to get a spot on the team.
So yes, call me crazy for signing up for a half marathon one week in advance. And call me crazy for going with people that I have met, but do not know well. Or instead consider it as the way I will incorporate a little bit of the much-needed spontaneity I am sometimes afraid to have in my life. Perhaps it will be a chance to learn to take advantage of an opportunity that was handed to me, because it doesn’t always happen that easily in real life.
Time to pack my bags! Wish me luck! (I’ll need it J)
From your “spontaneous” traveler,
PS: For you Spanish buffs and for some cool pictures, check out the race website!