Journey to the Centre of the World: Quito Ultimas Noticias 15K

Hello again everyone!

Greetings from Quito, Ecuador, just 20km south of Mitad del Mundo, Latitude 0, 0, 0 = The Equator, where the earth is rotating at it’s fastest, at 1,600 km/hr! It’s also at 2,850m above sea level which maybe also accounts for some occasional dizziness.

The Centre of the World: Mitad del Mundo or The Equator, 20km north of Quito

It’s been FAR too long since I last blogged. It’s good to be back at it. Danny Kassap’s tragic and untimely death affected so many of us, that I must confess to having been “down” the past few weeks.

But I’ve kept moving forward, and to the races, which has definitely helped restore some of my spirits — seeing the joy, the sense of achievement and happy lives of thousands finishing marathons and road races in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and this past weekend in Quito, Ecuador.  

It’s also restored my faith in the racing scene a little too, after the debacles of folks running off course in the Mississauga, GoodLife Toronto and Bluenose events in Canada. “An accurate and a safe, properly secure course” is perhaps THE fundamental thing for us in the race community. Without this, it’s more of an unstructured training run. And I don’t think that’s the intent of the thousands of runners paying to enter races! Even for the slowest of the slow, I think they want to know how long their accurate 5K or 21k or 42k will take them, exactly. They train for weeks, months, for this life goal, only to end up going off course owing to poor organization, and running a meaningless distance.  But enough of this depressing stuff!

Race Director Patrice Matamoros & her team of 3,000 managers & volunteers at the new Pittsburgh Marathon put on a super show in the light rain -- for only their 3rd year as a new event

Pittsburgh Marathon & Half is only 3 years old andthey got it right, with a wonderful show put on by RD Patrice Matamoras and her team of 3,000 volunteers. In just 3 years they’ve re-built a great Expo, an interesting if undulating course, andthey had a super race with an American winner in Jeff Eggleston. Jeff ran a patient race, some 100m or so behind a pack of Africans, closed on them at 20 miles, hammered them for the next two miles, then dropped down a 4:48 to blow-away the last contender in the 25th mile!

Ottawa Race Weekend showed why they're an IAAF Silver Label & the Cream of Canadian Spring marathons - beginning with a first-class Expo at the new Ottawa Convention Centre. Classy!

AndOttawa, with2,000 volunteers, gave us another SUPER weekend, especially in the 10K on Saturday night andthe Marathon Sunday morning. The weekendstarted with their Expo at the new Ottawa Convention Centre. Like STWM at the Direct Energy Centre, it provided an enormously classy introduction andfirst impression of the whole event. They capped that with terrific new courses for all their events, running through neighbourhoods. Even with a 7am Start for the marathon, they had some of the best crowds of spectators I’ve ever seen at a Canadian race, and of an international standard. I’ll write more on the races in Ottawa later, but for now, hats off to Jim Robinson, John Halvorsen and their team for a great, QUALITY event in Canada this Spring.

AIMS President, Paco Borao (left) chats with Jorge Rivadeneira inbetween sessions at the ALCAR Congress. Jorge founded the Quito Ultimas Noticias 15K fifty-one years ago and still comes out on Race Day!

Finally, in my race-recovery mode, I came onto Quito, Ecuador this weekend for the Quito Ultimas Noticias 15K (yesterday, Sunday) and ALCAR Congress (Asociacion LatinoAmericana de Carreras de Ruta), on Thursday and Friday. Both were a SUPER experience. As we move towards Toronto 2015, I thought it a good idea to accept an invitaion to attend ALCAR and see one of SouthAmerica’s top road races. I am thrilled to say it was a huge experience, on bothcounts. At ALCAR, I spent 2 days in meetings with Race Directors from Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as host Ecuador. I was blown away by the level of organization of some of the races. Ruta de las Iglesias in Quito is organized by TVentas — the TV shopping channel in Ecuador, but their diagrams and binders of Start, Finish, Course, were tip-top. Andy Muller showed us the great strides they’ve made at the Lima Marathon in just 3 years, and we could all learn from the marketing job put on by Maraton de Santiago, Chile. To say I was gobsmacked by the presentation of Irene Peralta of Maraton de Caracas, Venezuela, would be an understatement. This Febraury was their first edition. They had 1,000 in the full marathon & 2,000 in their half, “live” TV coverage [decreed 2 days before the event by El Presidente Hugo Chavez], and 800 police and security on the “ruta” or course. No-one running off-course in Caracas! And the cost? Zero $$, but a race jacket to each police and security person. AND, 450 of them went to a training workshop put on by Irene’s team where they were shown videos from other marathons like Buenos Aires and New York, so they could be shown EXACTLY what was needed on race day!! Interestingly, Lima also has about 800 Police and course Security Officials.

On Friday night, the Marathon Flame came from Greece to Quito, with a spectacular Lighting Ceremony in historic Plaza de San Franciso. ( You can see a few Photo Highlights on our STWM Facebook page ). Quito was the first city to be designated a World Heritage site by Unesco. You can easily see why! 

Not to be outdone, the Saturday morning Press Conference not only presented some pretty good elite athletes, but also gave us a 2-hour rock concert withappropriate stage, lighting, “fog” blown at ground level — featuring Amelia Vega from Dominican Republic, miss Universo 2003, plus Ecuadorian stars  Fausto Mino and Dario Castro. If we thought the Marathon Flame turned up the heat, the press conference cranked it up to a level where we were ALL super-pumped andready to run! ( I have some good video, but will have to add later as the bandwidth isn’t large enough to let me upload to YouTube from the hotel here).  

Thumbs up from me from world's most-packed Press Truck: and RD Pablo Gonzalez jumped on b4 we left!

Andthen it was Race Day, where I was again fortunate enough to be able to get on the Press Truck (my third in a month after Pittsburgh & Ottawa), to see the course, the city, andthe race unfold in exciting fashion. I must mention, however, that it was the world’s most-crowded Press Truck, including radio commentators going nuts when Ecuadorian Segundo Jami held the lead from 6k to around 13k. “Premiro lugar, Segundo Jami, Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador!!!” We passed on-course crowds as good as you’d see in Chicago, London or New York, equally animated. My favourite was around12k as Jami began to tire. One spectator ran out alongsidehim with water yelling encouragement, and a bicyclist appearedon his other side, urging him on, pumping his right arm in the air, while a dog clung on, wrapped around his head and shoulders — no hands!!  This was definitely “Showtime, LatinoAmericana style”!

Here’s my un-edited Race Report that I wrote for AIMS:

QUITO Ultimas Noticias 15K 2011.

( And here’s a Photo Highlights Gallery  of 15 pics from our STWM Facebookpage, to go with it )  

Peru’s Constantino Leon and Ecuador’s Diana Landiconcluded a weekend-long festival with victories at the 51stedition of the Quito Ultimas Noticias15K. For Leon, it was his first victory in 4 attempts, as he ran a smart race to cross the line inside Estadio Olympicoin 46:25 after a thrilling duel with hometown favourite Segundo Jami, who ended up 23 seconds back. Landi had a much easier time in defending her title from last year, breaking away from fellow-Ecuadorian, Sandra Ruales and Kenyans Rose Jebet and Neria Asibaat 3k, to cruise to the win in 52:23. Mexico’s Karina Perez came through to take a distant secondplace in 53:43, with Jebet third.

But Quito Ultimas Noticias 15K is about so much more than just the race up front. The event was founded a half-century ago by then-President of Grupo Comercio, Jorge Rivandeneira, who still comes out on Race Day, even though El Comercio’sdynamic Sales Manager, Pablo Gonzalez, has taken over as Race Director. It began as a gift from the newspaper to this city of 1.4 million, that sits directly on the equator at 2,850m above sea level. The run has grown into the largest road race in Ecuador with 15,000 participants. It has blossomed, andbeen embraced by the community as a mega-festival that goes far beyond running. The event showcases the best of Quito and the warmth and generosity of its people. And a hilly 15K is quite far enough to race at 2,850m!

This year’s activities began with an ALCAR (Asociacion LatinoAmericana de Carreras de Ruta) Congress on Thursday and Friday, attended by AIMS President Paco Borao, Board Member Fernando Jamarne from Chile, and Race Directors from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Columbia, andParaguay, as well as host Ecuador. It continued Friday evening with the lighting of the Marathon Flame, brought from Greece by SEGAS, in the spectacular Plaza de San Francisco. The two-hour ceremony included traditional Ecuadorian music and dancing. Not to be outdone, the 2-hour Press Conference on Saturday morning served to not only present the elite athletes, but also the weekend’s star entertainers for the post-race concert, the “show artistico”: Amelia Varga, Miss Universe 2003 brought in from the Dominican Republic, and Ecuadorian singers Fausto Mino and Dario Castro.

Conditions were ideal for the 9am start in front of the El Comercio/Ultimas Noticias offices on San Bartolo – overcast and 10 degrees. New York-based Ethiopian Alene Reta and Mexico’s Hugo Romero took a pack of 11 through an ambitious first, uphill kilometre in 2:51. The lead group hit 5K in 14:48 before encountering the hill to end all hills! From 5K to past 6K, the course features a long, twisting, mountainous climb up Avenida Moldonado and Loja. It was at the top that the first major move of this year’s race occurred. Attrition took the lead pack down to 5, and from the top, Segundo Jami made a bold break, quickly opening up a gap of 50m. “I felt good,” said Jami. “I felt comfortable and very strong after the hill. And the cheers of the crowd encouraged me to take the risk.” Jami maintained his lead all through the Centro Historico– the first UNESCO designated World Heritage site – through Plaza Santa Domingo, with picturesque El Panecillas an imposing background capped with its 30m statue of the Virgin of Quito, past Palacio Municipal, Iglesia San Augustin and Plaza del Teatro, and into New Town, Jami maintained the gap. 10k was passed in 30:09, 12k in 36:47, and 13k 40:09 on the undulating course. It was at this point that a patient Constantino Leon struck, on Avenida Amazonas. He closed the gap and moved past decisively, at 41:30 into the race. Leon trains at the 18-month old High Performance Training Centre in Huancayo, set up by the Peruvian Ministry of Sport, for marathoners. Leon credits their new Korean coach with improving their training, with more quantity and quality – but also in teaching them to run smarter, tactical races. “Last year I went too hard on ‘THE hill’, and paid for it later, finishing fourth. This year, I wanted to run smarter and win. I dropped back to 5th or 6thon the hill and let the others go a bit,” he said. “I felt under control from that point, andfelt I was controlling the race. I knew it was a 2-man race from there.” As for Jami, the second child in his family, he was still pleased with his second place, and was a hero to the thousands of spectators who packed the course and Estadio Olympico. He was even a little philosophical after. This was his second 2nd place at Quito Ultimas Noticias15K. His father has also come second three times in the race. “I think I will name MY son ‘Primero’” he joked.

As the thousands of recreational runners streamed into the stadium under a bright, equatorial sun, the main stage sprung to life and the grandstands rocked.

RESULTS:

Men.

  1. Constantino Leon PER 46:25
  2. Segundo Jami ECU 46:48
  3. Miguel Almache ECU 47:09
  4. Peter Nkaya KEN 47:12
  5. Juan Ortega ECU 47:21
  6. Isaac Kimaiyo KEN 47:56

Women.

  1. Diana Landi ECU 52:23
  2. Karina Perez MEX 53:43
  3. Rose Jebet KEN 54:11
  4. Evelyn Anangono ECU 54:34
  5. Neria Asiba KEN 55:28
  6. Sandra Ruales ECU 57:27

 

 

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