Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Q: What has 10 legs and 5 fingers?

A: Me!

San Silvestre Vallecana 2013 Race Report

Needless to say, from the minute I got on the Metro, my outfit caused a mini-sensation. I lost count of the number of times I was asked to pose for a photo (in fact, I am suffering from a kind of post-fame anti-climax in which it feels weird that nobody should pay me any attention). One guy in particular said that he would definitely be running as an octopus next year, having seen how many girls were asking to have their photo taken with me. As I was running, I got called variously "El pulpo Paul", "Calamardo" (Squidward from Sponge Bob) or just simply "Ese pulpito!". Apart from it being a bit hot, it was actually quite a practical costume for running in as I could put it over the rucksack I was carrying and giving "high fives" to the kids amongst the spectators was never so easy.

I was also pacing my wife, who was aiming to get under one hour, thus being able to start in the sub-60' corral next year with some of our friends. We did try to sneak into the women's corral which started 15 minutes after the sub-60 bunch and 15 minutes before us but, in spite of a rather professional forgery of the wrist tag and my covering my face, my height and hairy legs must have given me away because the astute security types lost no time in pointing out that the octopus was, in fact, "un tio".

As we were joining the back of the pack, a couple of guys called out to me by name and, I have to confess, I had no idea who they were. Perhaps I had been running with them before and they had worn hats and sunglasses so I was unable to recognise them. It turned out that they had been sent a photo of me by my brother-in-law, who'd instructed them to "saludarme" - they were about to start the third of for 10K San Silvestres they were running that day.

My only complaint about the suit was that it was very difficult to look behind me to see whether my wife, Ana, was keeping up with the pace or not: every time I turned my head around, the costume stayed put, meaning that I would have to either turn around completely and run backwards (not very advisable in crowds) or twist the octopus head around with my spare hand (in the other hand was my GoPro with which I filmed the whole race). It was also difficult for me to look at my watch to see how we were doing.

Ana did very well considering that she had done virtually no training and was not feeling very well. The killer hill in the 8th kilometre was too much for her, though, and she had to stop a couple of times. I wasn't sure how much to press her because I couldn't really know how much it would mean to her to achieve her goal relative to the suffering but I did give her some advice along the lines of "the faster you run, the sooner it will be over". We caught up with the pacing balloon only to see to my dismay that it was for 65 minutes - they had clearly gone off too fast and were having to hang back. Then, when we turned the final corner and the clock came into view and I saw that she could just make it so I shouted that there were 15 seconds left, 10, 5... According to the clock, she just made it my a whisker; according to her watch she was 0.7 of a second over an hour. I realised that I should have also crossed the line at the same time because we had potentially swapped our chips without realising. However, the official time clocked her in 1:00:09 and me in 1:00:12. Had I known, I would have spared her the sprint for the line, which left her a little worse for wear before our New Year's Eve celebration dinner. She said she enjoyed all the octopus related shenanigans but, on balance, enjoyed the race less than last year when she wasn't so concerned about the time.

Just as Ana was catching her breath, another guy came up for a photo-op with the pulpo and was keen to know the time I had done. He explained that he had seen me at the start and set himself the goal of at the very least crossing the line with me, if not beating me. Unfortunately for him, he did neither... Look out for photos of running octopi on blogs and let me know if you find any of me!

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