While participating in #bibchat recently, I mentioned that one of the many destination marathons I have done was in Cozumel, Mexico. I received some questions about it, and realized this would make for a great blog post!
Let me take you back to 2000. I had completed 1 full marathon (Maui) and was already looking for my next one. I was addicted! I was a member of Team In Training, raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I had the opportunity to be a mentor for a group of men & women in Team in Traning, helping them as they embarked on their first marathon…in Cozumel!
Obviously, the idea of running somewhere as exotic as Cozumel had me hooked. The race took place in November, so I had to train in the awful summer months in Arizona – but I honestly don’t remember it being too bad.
I was super excited for my “racecation” and getting to see Cozumel. I traveled there with a few of my teammates, and fortunately one of them spoke fluent Spanish. We had a connecting flight in Mexico City en route to Cancun, and if you’ve never been, well the Mexico City airport in a word is overwhelming! So much hustle and bustle. Our flight was delayed and we missed our connection, so luckily our interpreter was helping us arrange a new flight. I remember having to pay more and was really mad but I also just wanted out of there and onto paradise!
We spent our first night in Playa del Carmen, an absolutely charming village about 30 minutes from Cancun and a ferry ride away from Cozumel. I remember going out for my customary 2 miler the day before the marathon to acclimate myself to the climate. I couldn’t believe how humid it was!
When we arrived in Cozumel, we joined the rest of our TNT teammates. We did the usual carb loading and my friend and I also went out and decided to have our entire head of hair braided in cornrows - Totally touristy I know! What we didn’t immediately realize was how noisy it would make for running with all those beads clanking around! I ended up tying them back with a ponytail and that helped a lot.
The race started very early – probably around 5:30 am. If you’ve never been to Cozumel, it’s about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. Not a big island. It’s located about 50 miles from Cancun. It’s very laid back, an ecological paradise known for some of the best snorkeling and scubadiving. We gathered outside the El Presidente hotel for the start of the race. There was both a half and a full marathon.
The temperatures that day were around 90 with humidity levels over 90%. If you look at this chart, you can see the average high is 85 with 80% humidity! That's a lot for this desert dweller.
I remember starting fairly strong (back then I was a solid 10 minute miler). I was struck by how NOT SCENIC the race course was! Yes, you heard me! NOT SCENIC! It was industrial, with pockets of tall ugly vegetation and generally unpleasing to look at. We didn't get to see any water until towards the end of the race. Not exactly what I was expecting.
Let’s talk about hydration, shall we? The water we were given was purified water that was in sealed plastic pouches that you had to tear open with your teeth! Seriously! Our hands were all sweaty, so you couldn’t just rip it. Also, the official on-course sports drink was Ultima, a pink color, that was also in those darn sealed bags. So once you got one open, your bib and clothes were stained pink. Ugh.
Most of the runners were from various Team in Training groups from around the country. Lots of newbies just out looking to enjoy the scenery. They were not acclimated to weather like this. We started hearing reports of people “dropping like flies”. I remember running past some tall vegetation thinking where in the hell is the beach? I ran out of gas and started walking at mile 19, and just like that – I was done running. The weather conditions sucked the life right out of me. The ironic part is that the last 7 miles were within view of the beach! There was at least some sort of breeze, or should have been.
The race finished at Chankanaab National Park, a cool ecological park where you can swim with the dolphins. It’s pretty forested leading up to the park.
Just look at all this walking I'm doing! Geez...
Our medals were actually made out of wood, very cool and unique
This was my 2nd marathon and absolute worst finish time to date (out of 10 marathons), due to 7 miles of walking! I believe Team in Training pulled this race from their list due to the unpleasant experience, so they eventually stopped holding the Cozumel Marathon. There is still a Half Marathon (moved to March) as well as Half Ironman held there each year.
Cozumel was one crazy adventure! Good thing there was plenty of Tecate and Pacifico to kill the bad memories from the race. I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when he saw me with that full head of beads at the airport. I don’t think the Bo Derek look was a good one for me!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!