Nature Speaks on this 5K Trail Race

My husband and I competed in a trail running race this morning in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. We drove around the coastline from San Carlos to Miramar and then deviated into a neighborhood that abuts rugged volcanic mountains to reach the starting line. More than 200 runners soon gathered. My husband and I had registered for the 5K. Some competitors had opted for the 12 or 24-kilometer course. There was a slight fall chill in the air, which I welcomed. I’ve never enjoyed running in the heat.

Our friend, Veronica, had entered the 12 K. She stood out among the crowd in her bright orange compression socks. The longer races started first. Once Veronica was on her way, Chris and I stood in the group still left behind, waiting to hear when we would start. It’s always an adventure to compete in a race in another country. We know Spanish – sort of – but often miss a lot of what is being said in the announcements. Following others is easy to do, though, so when people drifted toward the starting line, we knew it was nearly time for us to hit the trail.

Just steps into the race, the beauty of the “Aguas Malas” course became apparent Jagged volcanic peaks projected up into the glowing orange, early morning sky. The mountains are decorated with grasses, yellow flowers, and various cacti, including the long-armed Cardon, reminiscent of the majestic Saguaro cactuses we have in Tucson. There was little time to savor my surroundings as the trail swerved upward over rocky terrain. One misstep and I’d be tasting rock and soil.

The beauty of my surroundings and the presence of the other runners energized me. I felt strong and athletic. My mind felt as crisp and clear as the morning air – free of drowsiness or negative mental chatter about aging. I heard the heavy huffing of other runners breathing nearby. Occasionally, on areas where the trail widened, a faster runner would gallop around me.

The trail was well-marked with yellow signs with black arrows. Now the numerous incidences of “amarillo” in the pre-race speech made sense. The first half of the race was mostly uphill. There were wider areas littered with rocks and narrow areas bracketed by high grasses, which obscured what was underfoot, making a stumble even more likely. The climbs were usually subtle enough that I only noticed them in the steepest sections when my lungs would gasp for air, my legs would feel heavy and I struggled not to stumble over the rocks. I couldn’t let my guard down for a second. This course was more technical than anything I’ve ever run before.

As my steps transported me higher, I caught glimpses of the brilliant blue sea between the peaks. The view was breathtaking. I wanted to stop and absorb the view. Instead, I ran upward to a turnaround point, where on the other side of a steep gully, I saw a line of runners ahead of me beginning their downward journey. I was nearly halfway through the race.

During the descent, the rising sun peeked through the jagged mountains, casting slats of lights along their flanks and gold plating the desert. Sweat began to bead on my skin as I exerted myself under the sun’s warm light. This part of the run trended downward, yet included many hills and valleys. I plodded onward, continuing to feel strong. I wondered if my husband had already finished. Minutes later, I could see the inflated arch that marked the finish line. I would be there soon.

I was still high up, surrounded by rugged desert yet, could see my destination below – the finish line backed by all the white buildings and tall palm trees in the town of Miramar. This downward trend allowed me to run fast, feeling powerful and athletic. The wind blew my hair and tickled my face, cooling my skin.

As I ran across the finish line, music blared and people cheered. Chris stood waiting for me with a smile on his face. We learned we’d both placed in the 50 and older category – Chris 3rd and me 2nd – and soon had our chance to step up on the podium to claim our medals. To me, the biggest victory was just being there – entering a race we’d never done before in a new setting and savoring the experience. It inspired me to keep on training and reminded me how much I enjoy moving my body and being outdoors.

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