Monday, May 26, 2008

Post Race in Ottawa!

I spent the early evening at the casual hotel restaurant and bar, hungry and thirsty yet again. And soon I was accidentally folded into the elites (a term I now finally understand) at the invitation of the Russian-born 32-year-old Aigars Fadejevs. He speaks Latvian, German, Russian, some English and some Spanish. Spanglish became the most effective language across the larger group, including an American.

Striking, pas
sionate, colorful, Aigars tells the story of how in the picture to the left he wins the silver medal in the men's 50Km race walk for his home country of Latvia. "This moment," the intensity punctuated by the veins on his neck and the severity of his enunciation with a thick Russian accent, "was like magic. I was the first person in Latvian history to ever win a medal for my country." Aigars is larger than life, and all the energy in the room goes to him, as he gestures in grandiose motions and speaks excitedly about his three times to the Olympics. He was here in Canada just three weeks off of the Vienna Marathon, where he missed his Beijing qualifying time by 15 seconds. Today, he was minutes off, where he lost it in the last 4Km. "I just did not have enough strength today [coming so quickly off of Vienna]."

He set a world record in the 15Km (race walking) distance, and nearly set a world record in a 50Km race, where he was disqualified at 49Km. That, and another similar DQ, made him give in to his Russian coach's pleading to give running a shot. In less than a year of training, he was able to accomplish a 2:18 marathon.

Why does he run now you ask? With intensity that pierces through you, and wild flashes in his eyes, he'll tell you, "Because I love to run! Remember this: I love to run! I am free!" Reflecting o
n his Beijing miss this year, he says, "Everytime you lose something, you learn something."

Within the group, Constantino Leon (left), 34, from Peru was the only one to have made it to Beijing. 17th overall i
n Ottawa, his finishing time was 2:17:41. As it happens, Constantino was sharing a room with Aigars. He is quiet, reserved, reflective and simple, he managed a half smile when Aigars called him, "Campeon del mundo!"

As he began to open up a bit, he shared some funny stories of Peru, and talked of the life there. He is very humble, and it is clear life has not come easily to him.

Abderrahime Bouramdan (pictured right), 30, from Morocco also stopped by. He took #2 in Boston this year, behind Cheruiyot with a time of 2:09:04. He won Ottawa in 2006 and also took second behind Cheruiyot in 2007 here. He did not run this weekend; he didn't have to qualify for Beijing. He c
ame over to me and we chatted for a time, and he asked whether I'd run today.

Now, let me tell you, really, I am proud of my 4:04, but I really didn't want to talk about my marathoning in front of this group. I managed to squeak out my time honestly, and note that I was on track to finish in my goal time of 3:50 (which is still mas despacio in this group, can we please talk about something else!?) until about 30 Km. He asked why that time, and I explained that I wanted to qualify for Boston. "Why Boston? It is such a hard course." Umm.. well... I must come up with a better answer than the one I gave to Abderrahime.

There was also the American, Jonathan Little, 26, whose goal was to finish the first half in 69 minutes (which he did). And he spoke surprisingly good Spanish, often negotiating the conversation with maturity over Aigars' sometimes rapid, high-energy antics.

A few others came and went, and it was finally time for me to turn in. It was a long day, and I earned my rest!

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