Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting beaten by Fernando Alonso

Without wanting to be seen to be haciendo la pelota (brown-nosing), I have to say that one of the things I really value about working where I do is that sports and exercise are actively encouraged. The head of Human Resources, José Luis Gómez Alciturri, has teamed up with former Marathon World Champion Martin Fiz to create a new charitable organization - Corre 1km+ - to support educational projects aimed at people affected by the crisis. The two of them together with a hand-picked selection of employees are preparing to run the Maraton des Sables next year - a six day, 251 km self-sufficient ultramarathon run through the desert. I was very jealous not to have been picked but I know that I would have said that I couldn't take part  anyway - my experience with the Ironman I did last year has shown me where my limits are in terms of time away from the family and my work is more demanding now than it was then. In any case I prefer the challenge of speed or distance over that of adverse conditions.

Today the President of the bank, Emilio Botín, decided to inaugurate the nature reserve he has had built next to our campus with a one kilometre run graced by the presence of none other than Fernando Alonso, the Ferrari Formula 1 pilot (sponsored by Santander of course). I was one of 200 lucky employees to get picked to take part in the "race" (not one of the "top 200 executives of the bank" as Emilio Botín described us to the press).

Don Emilio gave a short address to the crowd in which he named every type of tree, bird, amphibian and even reptile that was known to inhabit the reserve, some of them rare species. Fernando joked that we would have to run fast to escape the threat posed by all these dangerous animals.

Needless to say, Emilio Botín didn't run and no-one dared overtake Fernando. I overheard a couple of awed employees saying to each other: "Fernando was running fast and that was wearing jeans!". "Well, that's because he spends as much time training as you do stuck behind a computer". From what I haver heard he is a reasonably fast runner but the fact is that the race itself was more like a lively jog around a windy path that was far too narrow for 200 people to pass each other. In spite of that, there was a certain amount of jostling to run next to the former Formula 1 World Champion and, once we had crossed the finish line, he was overcome with people waving their caps in his face so that he would sign them. I was too embarrassed to push forward but then I regret not having made the effort as I'm sure my kids would have appreciated it.

One poor employee ran into some difficulties and had to be tended to by a medic and the bus on the way back made me think of a bus load of soldiers coming back from the trenches as all you could hear were people coughing. Hopefully the nature reserve will encourage more people to get out at lunchtime and run or ride a bike so that running a kilometre won't be a big deal for anyone any more.

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