M&MRC Cruce Story #5: Where is the finish?!

There’s total glee in your mind and body once you start going downhill after a long climb. It infects your humour, your comments, your vision, your pace. Knowing you’ve done the ‘hard bit’, you become confident, fast and jolly.

Leaving the snow behind was a little sad: neither of us had ever had a running/trekking experience quite like it. And once we had got a rhythm going with our ‘trainer skiing’, it had been great. But now we were back to steep and narrow rocky paths with intercepting streams gushing between the rocks. Still, our trainers were already wet, so getting in there to fill up our water bottles with some fresh stuff wasn’t exactly a chore. The sun was still blaring and now we had the volcanoes Lanin and Villarrica in front of us, glaring majestically.

After some pretty steep downhill sections, we hit the tree line again. The paths widened into what must be river beds in spring and ski runs in winter. In full-on summer, they were simply wide, stony roads for us to run. The pleasure was immense. We were passing people. We were moving fast and with every curve the forest got thicker and we got lower and lower.

I lost my flag. In a toilet stop in some prickly trees, I lost my flag. I didn’t realise until another runner asked where I was from, which meant there was no flag flying behind me to tell her. One of those spiny branches had nabbed it. A British flag with my name on it will lie stuck in those trees on that volcano for a while to come. That’s an OK feeling.

More downhills followed and we ran a lot. We started to recognise parts of the path we knew we would rejoin at some point to get back across the bridge. How many hours had that been ago?

“We’ve been going 8 hours,” Maria shouted. We must be there soon.

“Do you recognise this?” we asked each other, running through trees laying across the forest floor which had been cut through so 1,500 runners could pass. We didn’t. Turns out we had volcano amnesia.

“We’re here! Here’s the bridge!” We ground to a halt. Where was the timer chip? Where was the woman on a stool? A little confused, we thought maybe we were too late. But, surely they would have a proper finishing line?

We meandered across the bridge, wanting to dive straight in to the river’s beautiful green waters below. Turning the corner, we strode up the hill we had shuffled down earlier that day, excited and nervous. Then we saw a hand in the air, it was linked to a body. One more kilometre to go! Keep going, this way!

Onwards we ran, taking a fresh route back through the forest, which we also knew took us away from the camp. What were they doing? More tortuous turns? Ahead of us we saw an arch; another lady was standing under it, directing us to the right. Just 500m to go. We turned right and saw a hill. Our legs were jelly like from all the downhills. Come on then, quick march. At the top there was another turn to the left and straight ahead stood a policeman in the middle of the road, stopping the few cars there were to let us pass.

We were back on the flat and started running again. Across the road, those magic words: 100 metres to go! We went as directed. Where? Where was the finish line? Now go through the car park and turn right. We kept going. This was a cruel trick. A little girl stood at the next corner, with her arm out, guiding us right again. Where was it, though? Nearly there, we were told. Where? Where is nearly there?

A couple more twists and turns through the trees and we finally saw it. Holding hands we burst past a couple we had met on the boat and pipped them to the post. It felt incredible. Day one was over. How it had even started we couldn’t remember. Volcano amnesia lets you forget the pain and just remember the joy. And this was pure joy. With drinks in our hands (of the non-alcoholic variety) we chatted with other finishers at the bar: the bar being the patch of grass in the middle of this Chilean forest which was our finish line.

It had taken us 8 hours and 20 minutes to get there. We couldn’t imagine getting to the next bar would take that long.

Could it?



About Laura Alonso

We run. We travel. And to combine both is a beautiful thing. "Runners just do it. They go for the finish line even though someone else has reached it first."

Posted on March 5, 2012, in Cruce Story and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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