December 21, 2010

Running across the Andes

“How bad could it be?”
With this, Anne convinced me to enter Cruce de los Andes, a 100-kilometer footrace from Argentina to Chile. Does it matter that I’d never run half that far? Anne is the same friend who pushed me to travel solo throughout South America in 1998. Of course, I had wanted it badly, but the idea just seemed too big then. When I dithered, she pushed. “So what? If you don’t like it, just come back.”
I did return, but it took two years. Anne had been onto something.
So, we are the ideal team for a partner-run race. One plods and plans while the other rips the cord. With Anne, I know that there is no whimping out. It doesn’t matter that we live a continent away and reunite only every few years. Together we have backcountry skied, run and raced. We have braved roadside saloons in New Mexico.
This is the thing about pushing your limits. It’s all the better to grab a big idea. A beautiful metaphor, fodder to chew on when hailstones start flying in the second hour of your training run (as did yesterday).
For centuries, the Andes equalled an impasse, a fat, forested wall running the whole length of a continent. Over the centuries, missions and armies struck failure trying to find a route across them. Of course, everything is different now. I’ve hiked them and flown over them. But it seems altogether different to meet the Andes on their own terms, start to finish, like the first explorers did. On foot.
This is the 10th running of the Cruce, a lakes district race with a route that changes every year. In 2011, it starts on February 4th near San Martin de los Andes, Argentina, climbs above tree line, hugs some 2000-meter ridge tops, and finally drops into Chile via Icalma Pass two days later.
A  big, beautiful what if. But how do two everyday runners get there? 


Anonymous said...

With kutzpah, a good attitude, a belief in oneself, and a 30-mile run or two as training.

I'm planning to do an ultra next year (but I'll start with a modest 50 km race). I'm sure if you just build up your base mileage and do a couple of long runs (but nothing longer than 3 hrs, I've heard) you'll do great! You're tough.

-Julia (remember me? from Emerson?)

Stephanie Harrison said...

Carolyn, you're my hero. I was thinking of you--and how you can manage in strange countries with a few hard candies--when I was stranded in Turkana country alone and without a ride. All's well that ends well, I guess. For both of us!