Running with Moai // Corriendo con los moai

Summing up Easter Island in one word: mystical. I spent four days seeing the small island in the middle of the Pacific and ran it coast to coast racing a marathon. VIEW RACE VIDEO HERE

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Why Easter Island?

Known as Rapa Nui, Easter Island is actually part of Chile. The only flights to the island arrive from Santiago, Chile and Tahiti. I was hoping to run a marathon during my exchange semester here in Chile, but the Santiago Marathon sold out before I could sign up, so I started searching for other options, and came across the Rapa Nui Marathon.  Immediately, I was intrigued. I had no idea that the island was accessible from Santiago, let alone would host a marathon. There was something really motivating to me about preparing to run a marathon where so few people have been, and where an ancient Polynesian culture lives on in the Rapa Nui people and moai (statues). Without thinking about it too much, I signed up, and began writing my training plan.

A Pre-Race Visitor

Just before leaving for the race, I was lucky to have Evan travel all the way from Michigan to visit me here in Chile. I went to Santiago to pick him up from the airport, and his trip immediately began with jumping right into Chilean life with meeting my host family.  Everyone was excited to meet him, and we had a great lunch all together at my home here in Valparaiso.  I had so much fun showing him where I have been living for the past four months- my university, climbing gym, daily running routes, and favorite restaurants.

Climbing Cajon del Maipo, Region Metropolitana

Climbing Cajon del Maipo, Region Metropolitana

Two days in the city was plenty, and so we headed to the mountains to meet up with Martin (one of the instructors from my NOLS mountaineering course) and his friends to climb. We had a great time sport climbing in two different spots in Cajon del Maipo, and we even did a multipitch route, which was a first for me! His eight day visit to Chile went by incredibly fast, and it was another hard goodbye at the airport. It was so nice to have all of the positive energy from his visit on my side as I got ready to leave for Easter Island- I definitely didn’t stress out about it as much as I otherwise would have!

Travel to the Island

With a 10:15am flight out of Santiago, I had to leave my house in Valparaiso around 6am. I almost missed the bus to Santiago, since there were almost no colectivos passing my neighborhood that early in the morning. I ran down the hill to the main street, where I was able to find a ride to make it just in time for the bus. Checking in for my flight, I laughed when I realized that the 20+ boxes of food near the bag drop were coming along on the flight as well. Vegetables, fruit, cheese, you name it- almost everything besides the foods they can grow locally- are shipped to the island on the daily commercial LAN airlines jet.

Trekking the island, making a new friend

I was greeted at the Isla de Pascua airport by Marcelo, the owner of Kaimanna Inn, with a traditional necklace of fresh flowers. He said that there was one more person coming to our hotel also on the same flight. Little did I know that the woman I was about to meet would become part of my favorite memories from my time on the island. Ana Carla is a 60 year old runner from Italy but lives in Santiago. I quickly learned that she had also arrived for the race and was signed up for the 21k half marathon. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can do anything you want!” I remember her telling me this in Spanish as we sat down to drink a jugo natural (fresh juice) after the 6 hour flight. Since we were both traveling alone and staying at the same hotel, we had a great time getting to know each other touring around the island and keeping each other company at meals. The next day, I hadn’t really planned what I wanted to do yet- but I gladly accepted her offer to go hike Orongo, the volcano closest to Hanga Roa. It was just a four hour round trip hike from the hotel, and was completely worth it! Later that night, we went to a traditional Rapa Nui show of music and dance that was just for marathon participants. Everyone playing music and dancing was clearly radiating with passion for their culture, wanting to show our group of tourist-runners what Rapa Nui music was all about, making it a truly invigorating experience. Our last day before the race included visiting the moai statues along the coast and hanging out at the beautiful Anakena beach. I could go on about the mystery of the moai, but in short, there are hundreds of them on the island, facing inward to protect the islanders. Each statue is said to be for a particular family ancestor and played an important role in Rapa Nui spirituality.

Trekking Orongo with Ana Carla

Trekking Orongo with Ana Carla

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Rapa Nui music and dance show

Race Day

I woke up feeling anything but ready to run a marathon- headache, stomach pain, and cramps. No. This can NOT happen right now. Not today, I thought. After complaining about it to my family via facebook messenger, I did my best to forget about it. I had worked for months preparing for this day, and was determined to enjoy my race. We headed to the local church for a pre-race mass, which was one of the most beautiful religious services I have been to.  Participating in mass that was both in Rapa Nui language and Spanish was incredible. The women wore elaborate flowers in their hair, and the priest was vested with a bird feather hat. We went straight from the church to the start line.  The energy at the start line of this race was enough to make me forget all about the pain I had woken up with. It was show time! 11257189_885741801461650_2660811202285308426_nThe first 10 miles / 16k were a gradual uphill, so I worked to make sure my pace was conservative. Next was a 3 mile / 5k descent to the other shore of the island to Anakena, and then we had to turn around and head back to Hanga Roa. The weather was calm and sunny, until I approached the hill going up on the way back, and at that time, clouds rolled in out of nowhere, and a fierce rain-wind combination seemed to push me downhill as I began the ascent. At the top of that hill, I had 10 miles to go. Only 10 miles! Wait, that’s still kind of far.. I had to re-focus and just break it down into three simple 5k sections. I tried to just focus on doing a good job in the 5k I was in. Even though my overall finish time of 4:35 was a solid 20 minutes slower than my 4:14 finish in my first marathon (Bayshore 2013), I feel that I actually performed much better and enjoyed this race more. The elevation gain and loss in this race definitely merits a slower time. The main difference between this race and my first marathon is that I didn’t give up on myself in the last few miles. One of my fastest miles of the race was mile 26, and that alone is enough to make me more than stoked on my improvement in both endurance and mental toughness. 11100309_885763884792775_5981489503729023680_nAna Carla, having finished her 21k half marathon in a new personal best for the course, was there to cheer me on at the finish line. It was pretty funny; she had to take care of me and help me get back to the hotel since I could barely think or walk, meanwhile she could walk completely fine and didn’t seem to be phased at all. She teased that she never would have imagined I would be such a wreck after the race. I told her that my plan was to leave everything on that course, which I did, and so not being able to walk is proof that I gave it all I had! After a snack and shower, we headed to the Gimnasio Municipal for the award ceremony. Something pretty cool happened at the ceremony, something that really highlights the camaraderie in the international running community.1507794_885787364790427_762023724368652506_n The race director announced that we would wait to start the ceremony until every runner finished, and there was still one runner on the course. The race clock was ticking away at over nine hours at this point.  Ten minutes passed, and sure enough the last runner entered the gym (it was right next to the start line). With a huge smile on her face, Sarah finished her marathon with a lap around the gym in front of the whole crowd, who was cheering for her. The Rapa Nui marathon has no time limit. It was really inspiring to see that the crowd of athletes cheered her on wholeheartedly instead of being irritated that their award ceremony was being delayed. Many people were moved to tears by this, including myself. It had been a long day for all of us, but this moment of pure joy and genuine enjoyment for the sport of running reminded every person in that gym that this what running is all about- fun and community! After the ceremony, we went out for a nice post race dinner. Right on the coast, sitting with a friend from my exchange program and my new friend Ana Carla, and indulging in a great meal was the perfect end to a whirlwind of a day.

Things I will take away from this experience

  • Finding your own path. Without deciding to travel alone and staying at smaller, lesser known hotel, I would not have had nearly as amazing of a time as I did.
  • Friendship has no age limits. Did it matter that Ana Carla is 60 and I’m 19? Nope! Getting to know people of all different ages is such a fun way to broaden your perspective.
  • Chocolate milk and ice baths are treasures.  These things are pretty much the post race recovery standard in the United States, but that is  not the case on Easter Island. I could not have either of these things after the race, and now will be even more grateful for them after races at home.
  • Marathons are just as mental as they are physical. I attribute almost all of my success in this race not to better physical preparation, but better mental preparation.

Special shout-outs

  • My parents, grandparents, and brother back home- your continued support means the world to me!
  • My Chilean host family- I could not have done it without your daily encouragement!
  • Evan. Thank you for coming all the way to Chile to visit me and climb with me, and giving me so much positive energy for the race!
  • Ana Carla- I would I have been lost on Easter Island without you, and am so glad I got to know you!
  • Christine- even though we couldn’t train together, thanks for being there for me every step of the way!
  • All the ISA Chile amigos and staff

Isla de Pascua en una palabra: místico. Fui a esta pequeña isla en el medio del oceánico pacifico por cuatro días y la corrí costa a costa en el maratón.

¿Porque Isla de Pascua?

Conocido como Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua es un parte de Chile en la realidad. Los únicos vuelos a la isla se llegan desde Santiago y Tahiti. Esperaba a correr una maratón durante mi semestre de intercambio acá en Chile, pero la maratón de Santiago ya alcanzó a la máxima capacidad, así que empezaba buscando otras opciones, y encontré la maratón de Rapa Nui. Me interesaba inmediatamente. No tenía idea que la isla fue accesible desde Santiago, además ofrecería una maratón. Había algo que me motivó mucho, para entrenar para una maratón en un lugar donde tan poca gente han visto, y donde una cultura antigua polinesia sigue viviendo atreves de los rapa nui y los moai. Sin pensándolo en esto mucho, inscribí, y comencé escribiendo mi plan de entrenamiento.

Un Pre-Competencia Visitante

Acabo antes saliendo de Valparasio para la carrera, tenía mucho suerte que Evan viajó a Chile desde Michgan para visitarme.  Fui a Santiago para encontrarle en el aeropuerto, y su viaje inmediatamente empezó con la vida chilena y conociendo a mi familia chilena.  Todos estaban emocionados para conocerle, y teníamos un buen almuerzo junto acá en Valpo. Era tan divertido para mostrarle este lugar donde he estado viviendo los últimos cuatro meses- mi universidad, gimnasio de escalada, rutas diarias de correr, y restaurantes favoritos.

Dos días en la ciudad era suficiente, así que fuimos a las montañas para escalar con mi amigo Martin, uno de los instructores del curso de montanismo de NOLS.  La escalada deportiva en el Cajón del Maipo era increíble, e incluso una ruta multilarga (primera vez para mí!) Su viaje de ocho días se pasó tan rápido, y fue una despedida muy difícil en el aeropuerto. ¡Pero qué bueno que él podía visitarme, me ayudó mucho en bajando el nivel de estrés antes de la competencia!

Viajando a la isla

Con un vuelo a las 10:15 horas de Santiago, tenía que salir de mi casa en Valparaiso a las 6:00. Casi no llegue al terminal de buses con tiempo suficiente porque no había ningún colectivo en la calle principal del cerro.  Corrí bajando el cerro, y allá encontré otro colectivo. Cuando llegue al aeropuerto, me reí cuando me di cuento de que las veinte cajas de comida eran para nuestro vuelo también. Toda la comida- aparte de la que pueden cultivar allá- viene diariamente en el avión de LAN.

Trekking en la isla, una nueva amiga

Marcelo, el dueño de Kaimanna Inn, me recibió en el aeropuerto con un collar de flores. Me dijo que había una persona más también yendo al hotel en el mismo vuelo. Nunca me imaginé que la mujer que iba a conocer llegaría a ser una de mis memorias favoritas de mi tiempo en la isla. Ana Carla es de Italia pero vive en Santiago y tiene 60 años. Aprendí rápidamente que ella también ha llegado para el maratón para los 21k. “No importa la edad, puedes hacer cualquier cosa!” Recuerdo cuando ella me dijo esto cuando sentábamos para tomar un jugo natural después del vuelo de seis horas. Ya que nosotras ambos estaban viajando sola y quedando en el mismo hotel, nos divertimos mucho recorriendo la isla y comiendo juntas. El día siguiente, no había decidido lo que iba a hacer, pero acepte con alegría la invitación para caminar al Orongo, el volcán más cerca de Hanga Roa, con ella. Alcancemos a la cumbre y regresamos en menos de cuatro horas caminando- ¡valió la pena!  Más tarde, fuimos a un baile tradicional rapa nui exclusivamente para los participantes de la maratón, una experiencia excelente. El ultimo día antes de la carrera, visitamos los moai por la costa y fuimos a relajar en la playa de Anakena. Puedo decir mucho más sobre los moai, pero básicamente hay cientos de ellos en la isla, mirando adentro para proteger los isleños, y eran tan importante en la espiritualidad rapa nui.

Dia de la carrera

Me desperté sintiendo nada como lista para correr un maratón- con dolor de cabeza y estomago. No. Esto no puede ocurrir ahora. No hoy día, pensé. Después de quejando sobre esto a familia en Facebook Messenger, trate de olvidarlo. Había trabajado por meses preparando para este día, y era determinada para disfrutar la carrera. Fuimos a la iglesia para la misa, uno de los servicios religiosos más hermosos que he visto. Las mujeres tenían flores en su pelo, el cura con plumas. Directamente de la misa fuimos a la partida de la carrera. La energía allá era suficiente para olvidar el doler con que me ha despertado. Hay que correr! Las primeras 10 millas / 16k se subieron, así que pensaba en un ritmo más lento. Luego, bajamos 3 millas / 5k a la playa Anakena, y allí regresamos a Hanga Roa. Había tanto sol, sin embargo cuando empecé a subir de nuevo, viene un viento horrible con lluvia. Llegando a la cumbre, todavía me quede 10 millas más. 10 millas! Espera, todavía un poco lejos… Tenía que cortar la distancia en tres sectores de 5k, y solo pensar en los 5k que estaba corriendo en eso momento. Aunque mi tiempo total de 4:35 fue más despacio que mi tiempo de 4:14 dos años atrás, pienso que corrí mejor y disfrute la carrera más en la isla. La diferencia es que terminé más fuerte la carrera, con milla 26 como una de las más rápidas de toda la corrida, y eso es suficiente para ayudarme a sentir súper feliz.

Ana Carla terminó su 21k en menos tiempo que su otra vez corriendo la isla, y estaba esperándome en la meta. Era bien cómico; ella tenía que ayudarme al regresar al hotel porque casi no pude caminar, mientras que ella sentía bien! Nunca me imaginé este desastre, me dijo. Le dije que use toda mi esfuerza durante la corrida, así que es bueno que no puedo caminar! Después de un poco de comida y bañando, fuimos al gimnasio municipal para la ceremonia de premios.  Esperábamos para la última atleta, quien todavía estaba corriendo.  Toda la gente en el gimnasio le aplaudió cuando ella entro el gimnasio, y era un hermoso recordatorio que lo que es más importante en nuestro deporte de correr es la comunidad y para divertirse! Después de la ceremonia, cenamos en un buen restaurante en la costa- un fin perfecto para un día loco pero bueno.

Gracias a…

  • Mis padres, abuelos, y hermano en los EEUU
  • Mi familia chilena- No pude hacerlo sin el apoyo de ustedes!
  • Evan- gracias para visitándome y escalando conmigo! Un montón de energía positiva para la carrera
  • Ana Carla- tan agradecida para conocerte, gracias para tu ayuda en la isla!
  • Christine- aunque no podíamos entrenar juntas, gracias para todo!
  • Todos los ISA Chile amigos y staff

One thought on “Running with Moai // Corriendo con los moai

  1. Carly, What a wonderful time you’re having and the Easter Island marathon is and always will be a most special memory! Keep having the time of your life and I sure look forward to seeing you and hearing all about your special adventures! Sending much love, Mimi


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