I have never been a big fan of exercising. There are a million reasons why, and always plenty of excuses or other things to do, but the bottom line is, I don’t like it. Specifically running. I have tried to like running various times, and a few of those times I’ve come close. But usually after a few weeks or so I get bored (or injured) and decide it’s not for me.
A year ago, my friend Claire found a blog from a fellow English teacher in Spain about the Maratón del Vino, a race in Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s best wine regions. It sounded incredible: 10 kilometers (there was also a marathon and half marathon) of wine vineyards in a tiny Spanish town with the local people cheering you on. And the best part – she was gifted a bottle of wine for completing the race. Not winning, just completing. Claire and I love wine and began joking that we were going to do the race a year from that time. This joke was mentioned every few months, and then turned into a serious goal around April.
At this point, I think it’s important for you to know more about my history with running. Years ago I lived in Northampton, MA where every December there is a 5 kilometer Hot Chocolate Run to raise money for a wonderful cause. Northampton is a small place but the whole community comes out to support this event, despite the very chilly December weather. There is even a man who runs with a tuba every year and plays a few notes here and there. I’ve ran this race twice (both to support a good cause and for the mug of hot chocloate you receive at the end). I’ve ran one other 5k in my life on one of the most hot and humid New England summer days, and I only did it because some of my students at the time were quite encouraging and wanted me to run with them. It was a miserable 33 minutes.
And that’s all. Up until about a month ago, 5k was the most I had ever run in my life. So 10k was going to be a true challenge.
Claire and I came up with a training plan with the help of Jaime and another friend Nick who are both runners and also interested in free wine. The plan was 6 weeks of training to slowly build up to a point where we could “comfortably” run 10k. When I think of running, the word comfort is the last thing on my mind. But this was in the name of wine so I considered it worth it.
The long awaited weekend finally arrived and we were off to Aranda de Duero for the 3rd Annual Wine Marathon. We stayed in a very cute AirBNB in the middle of the town which made us feel at home. We were up super early on Saturday morning excited for the big race despite having tried a glass or two (or three) of the local wines the night before. The sun rises around 8:30am in Spain in the fall, so walking to the race, we actually got to see the sunrise. Just like any race, we had to arrive before a certain time to pick up our numbers. We thought we were running late, but luckily we’re in Spain, and time is more like a suggestion than a firm deadline. In fact, the person in charge of organizing everything showed up 15 minutes before the “closing time.” Upon receiving our numbers, t-shirts, fruit, local honey, water, and specialty bread from Aranda, we received our first bottle of wine. This was a huge surprise because we knew there would also be wine at the end. The day got a lot better.
Finally it was time to hit the starting line, but the race itself started 20 minutes late because the person responsible for leading the racers in a car in front was late to arrive. It was clear that everyone was there to have fun and not to take this race too seriously. We started in the center of town, and the local people that we saw buying their groceries or walking their dogs seemed confused by so much activity so early in the morning. Then we reached the wine vineyards. It was very quiet. No one was around and we even had to dodge a few cars on the dirt paths. The grapes had already been harvested for the season so the trees looked like they were settling in for a cold winter. We also saw a lot of sheep being herded by their shepherd and herding dogs. It was such a cool backdrop for a little morning exercise.
After a few selfies with those guys and some more photo breaks with the scenerary, we were back to running and finished in one hour and 9 minutes. I was ecstatic to have accomplished such a challenge considering what I said above. (As we crossed the finish line, The Circle of Life from The Lion king just happened to be blasting from the speakers. It was the icing on the cake). And that’s when we received our second bottle of wine, this one personalized with our names on the label.
We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying various bodegas around Aranda. We made a new friend waiting for the race to begin and she endied up staying an extra night and coming back to Madrid with us on Sunday. For lunch of Sunday we visited an Asador (typical restaurant of the region whose specialty is roasted lamb). It was the best way to end a fantastic weekend!
I try to make use each blog post I write as a reflection on the deeper meaning of the things I do. The moral of this one is quite clear to me. It is so important to have goals and to challenge yourself to do things you never thought possible. My friends and I have already talked about signing up for another race this fall, and I’m hoping that I have finally begun to enjoy running. Challenges are even more worth it when there is something sweet for you at the end. Cheers!