Guanajuato Night Run 2024

Saturday night I did one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was called the “Buff Urban Race Guanajuato,” and it was a night race that twisted and turned around, up and down the narrow, winding streets of GTO.

I only registered on Friday, and by the time I did, all the 8K run slots were filled, so I was forced to choose the only other option, a 13K run. It was a daunting proposition because I can’t tell you the last time I’ve run 13 kilometers all at one time, and these were no ordinary kilometers. Very little of the race was flat, and by the end, the runners of the 13K would have to have climbed a total elevation of 767 meters, or 2,500 feet. I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete the full 13K, but I thought, “What the hell? What’s the worst that can happen?” I told myself there’d be no shame if I bailed, or just ended after the 8K finish.

I had been training, after all, in preparation for a long bike tour I’m planning this summer. And because I don’t have a bike here, I’ve been doing a ton of climbing, up and down the very steep and very long callejones (alleys) of Guanajuato. My house sits on one, after all, so it’s been super convenient, and super challenging, to just step out my front door and start walking. I’ve felt a bit like Rocky, and like Rocky, I continue to build up my strength and stamina and feel like I can charge up the steep stairs and inclines a little faster each time. Altitude is also a thing here, with Guanajuato sitting at 6,725 feet above sea level and me being used to near sea level living in Minneapolis and Frankfurt. I wondered if I’d be able to keep up with the locals who’ve been living at this altitude all their lives.

The race was magical. It started in the center of Guanajuato, and with around 3,000 total participants, the place was clogged and electric by the time we started running. The 8kers went off at 7:00 followed by us 13K folks at 7:20. Darkness had started to settle over the city, but there was enough visibility that I refrained from turning on my headlamp right away. Almost immediately we started up and then down, and then up and down again. Because it was the start of the race, and because some of the callejones are extremely narrow, there was often a log jam during the first kilometer or so, making running difficult and passing people nearly impossible.

I had a bunch of friends supporting me, which felt great. Bear, Kathy, France, Sylvie, Raquel, and Jette among others – all friends I’ve made thanks to our time together at Escuela Mexicana. And tons of locals were out in full force cheering all of us on. The most common chants were “Vamos!” and “Ánimo!” and the one I loved the most because I felt a little like Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008 was “Si se puede!” Because the run went directly through the tight neighborhoods of Guanajuato, people gathered on front steps, on tiny terraces or shouted down from their balconies. A mariachi band played music in one of the plazas, and many families positioned speakers in windows to blare out motivation tunes. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Gun ‘N Roses, “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger” and the Mission Impossible theme song. I loved it.

Midway through the race I was super proud that I was able to keep up and even pass a lot of other runners. I was trying to pace myself, but at times I couldn’t help taking off like a jackrabbit to pass whomever was within striking distance. It seemed like my passing skills were far better suited for the ascents, rather than the descents. The locals approached downslopes and staircases like mountain goats, nimbly skipping down one after the other. I was cautious heading downward. I pictured catching my foot on an edge, tumbling head over heels and ending up with a bloodied face or a broken bone and the unwanted experience of a Mexican emergency room. Caution, on the downslopes, was my strategy.

I finished after 2 hours and 4 minutes, 242nd out of the 590 runners that started the 13K and 22nd out of 51 runners in my age category, which I think were guys 50-59. Not too shabby. Initially I didn’t know if I’d actually finish the darn thing, so to end up in the middle of the pack felt like quite the accomplishment.

At the finish, I was greeted by France, Sylvie and Jette. I posed for some pictures, then dove into line to get my post-race treats. Oranges, electrolyte drinks, and tamales. Frickin’ tamales! At the end of a running race in Mexico runners get freakin’ tamales. It was so awesome. I could’ve eaten about a dozen of those damn things. Then it was time to refuel even more, heading to the Vanilla Bar for pizza and beer, joined by friends, Bear and Kathy. With a stomach stuffed full of pizza and a liter of Dos Equis, I then crawled my way back home, up one last callejón, and into bed – a bed that has never felt so good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *