Running races in a foreign location is one of the best ways to experience authentic cultures and meet a variety of local people. When we went to Mexico (right before the pandemic) in March 2020, we absolutely loved running Medio Maratón De La Mujer in Cancún City.
We got the idea when I won a trip from the hospital I work at. We had never planned on going to Cancún because we aren’t that into staying at resorts or in areas that over overly touristy. But because I won a 4 night 5 day stay at The Hyatt Zilara, with a room right on the ocean… you know where we went!
When we found out I had won the trip, we were so excited! But we immediately thought about running, because we were scheduled to run The 2020 Boston Marathon in April, only about a month out. So, we would need to run under the humidity and beating sun, which we aren’t used to because we live where there is always a ton of snow. To make this more appealing (and motivating) I sought out a half marathon for the exact dates we needed for our 13.1 training run. With a crazy amount of luck, I was able to find a race less than 30 minutes from our hotel! Another great thing – it only cost $30 and we got a shirt, a bag full of goodies and one incredible memory.
The race packet pickup was the day before, at a store in downtown Cancún City. We stopped by after landing in Mexico, and grabbed our gear. Here is where we learned that this race was meant to empower and support women. Women’s rights in Mexico have been a long time struggle, and the goal of Medio Maratón De La Mujer is to allow women to feel safe, independent and strong. This race also took place during Cancún’s 50th anniversary, so that was pretty special as well.
After picking up our packets, we went to our stunning hotel and prepared to run in what seemed like the toughest conditions possible (again, we are for sure not warm weather runners).
The next morning, we woke up at 4am, got ready and hopped in a taxi to be at the start line for 5am. The race started sharply at 6am, but we weren’t exactly sure from where, and our taxi driver had no idea either. So he dropped us off at a random street corner and left us to find it ourselves. We spent about half an hour wandering the streets until we happened upon a convince store, who’s manager directed us in towards the race. As we approached, we heard loud music and mariachi bands playing.
When we rounded the corner, we all of a sudden found ourselves in the middle of a Mexican street party. Music, photographers, a DJ and thousands of other runners flocked the streets. We were pulled up on stage to take photos with the American flag (to represent where we are from), along with others from countries other than Mexico.
We eventually made our way into the shoot where we would take out of. Matt and I were in the front 1/3 of the group, and all we could see as far ahead and behind us was a sea of runners. As we were preparing to take off, a woman yelled at Matt “Solo Mujeres! Solo Mujeres!”. Apparently only women can run in the front of the race, because it is a race that focuses on women’s rights in Mexico. So Matt moved to the back of the pack, and I stayed a bit closer to the front. Eventually I was in a sea of only women when the gun went off. We all began our race to the sounds of the mariachi bands playing and spectators cheering. This was by far one of the largest races I have run, and it made the experience that much more exciting.
Eventually, Matt was able to catch up with me. We ran the first 3 or 4 miles under the cover of darkness. Then, we rounded one corner to see an incredible pink and orange sunrise peeking over the ocean. Whoever planned out the half marathon course must have known this would have happened, because it seemed too perfect to be a coincidence. For miles 4 to 10, it was fairly quiet, with most of the runners taking a different turn to run only the 10k route. But from miles 10 to 13, Cancún City residents were out cheering for us, and the mariachi bands were again out in full force. By now, the heat was so high we were struggling, but eventually stopped at a water area where they were handing out the most interesting waters I have ever had! They were small clear plastic packets that you bite into, and then sip the water from there. They said it was better for the environment because it used much less plastic than cups or water bottles. And now looking back, we had no idea there was a deadly virus spreading, but there probably was in Mexico in March. So, this was more sanitary than open dixie cups anyways.
We finally neared the finish line, and went around the barriers to the half marathon finish section. The music was pumping from the DJ, and many of the other finishers have gathered around to cheer the remaining runners on. We got many high fives from others on our way across the finish. Right when we finished, we were handed the largest medals we have ever gotten, and I was given a rose. We went over to the free food and grabbed some drinks and snacks, then hung around the after party for a little while before catching a ride back to our hotel.
We arrived back to our room completely exhausted, and it was only 10am. But we knew that for the next three days, we were able to lay on the beach and do absolutely nothing. So, that’s what we did, along with eat a ton of delicious foods and talk about how special this race really was.
So when you go to Cancún, you really should challenge yourself and run The Medio Maratón De La Mujer. And you don’t have to do the entire half marathon – they also offer a 5k and 10k route you can pick from. We felt we were able to get a truly local experience and a deep look into a culture different from ours. Our trip was no doubt made whole by running this race, and it’s a memory we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.