Written by Jacqueline Newell
When I worked in Switzerland, it was often my responsibility to lead guests on hikes through the mountains. Walking slowly was a necessity in order to keep everyone together and running down the mountain was definitely not an option. But, while participating in the Desafio Ansilta, running down a mountain was the only option. Last month, I traveled with about 40 other Alto Running Club members to San Juan, a city about 2 hours north of Mendoza to participate in my first mountain race.
Vanesa and I made the road trip with Franco & Franco. Upon arrival, we met up with other Alto runners in order to explore the city of San Juan. We visited the house of Sarmiento and the local plaza, causing a ruckus and drinking mate as we went. Vanesa and I stayed with my friend Sarah, another Fulbrighter, and had a big pasta dinner with members of her running crew.
The next morning, we drove out of town, past the dam and through the mountains to find the start line. With a sinus infection and a bit of vertigo, I was antisocial at best as I warmed up and joined the herd in the corrals to begin our upward trek. A helicopter overhead added an extra element of dust in our eyes, making the sprint across the desert a bit more challenging. The 16 KM, 8 KM and 4 KM runners took off together and madness ensued. Unfortunately, like always, I forgot to start my watch as the race started.
We ran through a rocky desert, over train tracks and through dried out canals until we arrived at the base of the mountain. Hundreds of runners became walkers as we climbed up the mountain at a glacial pace. (Below is a video of the view from half way up the mountain.) As we reached the summit, everyone let loose and began slipping and sliding and sprinting down the mountain.
We ran up and down sand dunes, under bridges, and through caverns until we reached the finish line. The local army served runners locro, a typical Argentine dish, and our running group cooked up an asado. After several extra hours, we made the trek back to Mendoza.