Monday, November 30, 2009

A Tikal Thanksgiving

Bruce Cockburn, one of my favorite musicians, wrote a song about Night Trains, which was probably inspired by a trip he took. I wanted to quote the song, but it has nothing to do with Mayans or Thanksgiving, but I digress.

Anyway, I took trip on a Night Bus to Tikal, a Mayan ruin, for Thanksgiving. I have no plans of writing a song about it, but I do have to say one thing, one of the passengers sitting in front of me had an old boom-box cd player and was blasting, if blasting is the correct word, old 80's soft rock. After that I had the song " Eclipse of the Heart" stuck in my head for most of the day.

Strangely the horrible Bonnie Tyler song and not Bruce Cockburn's song fit my trip, because the Mayan's were known to follow the lunar calendar. Whenever there was an eclipse, they ripped the hearts out of their enemies in sacrifice to their gods. In fact, most of the gigantic temples in Tikal were built in correlation with the sun or moon.

As I walked around the ancient buildings, I kept wondering what it would be like to walk around New York a thousand years after it had been deserted. I saw in the 2009 September issue of National Geographic what New York looked like when Henry Hudson discovered it 4oo years ago. Check this issue out, because the urban takeover on the island of Manhattan is very similar to the jungle takeover in Tikal, except in the opposite direction.

Manhattan, once a forest, now is a gigantic city and Tikal, once a sprawling Mayan metropolis, now is a gigantic jungle. During Tikal's peak, it was the epicenter for much of the Mayan world. Now it's a national park in the middle of the jungle. So, as you look at the pictures below try to envision Tikal as it once was, a thriving city. The temples were dyed red to symbolize life. The grounds were stone. It was immaculate. It was alive.

Yet, for the city to continue to live the Mayan's believed that someone had to die. It was their circle of life. Blood was sacred, life giving, and so at one time blood spilled down the temples, as the priests ripped out the hearts of their unfortunate human sacrifices. Mayans believed that when blood was spilled in sacrifice to the gods life was renewed. Mysteriously something, maybe famine, war, or overpopulation, ripped the heart out of the Mayan culture leaving it dead. But because of the death of the Mayan culture, many Guatemalan's make a living off of the national park. The Mayans understood the connection between life and death. Unfortunately they didn't know about Christ, the man who broke the cycle and quenched the need for sacrifices. Yet, for me, walking around their sacrificial monuments pointed me to Christ, because they reminded me of the world's need for a savior.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

5 steps to running the Xela Half Marathon

Step one: start off slow. Independencia, the main street in and out of Xela, was packed with runners bobbing up and down. Everyone trying to warm up their legs. Knowing that any last minute help would probably speed them onto the finish line. Up at the front of the line were the Kenyans, invited so they could win the race, and who could win the race with their legs tied. Fast is in their blood. The Kenyans were already starting their fourth kelimoter when I crossed my first. I was told by a very wise man to let everyone pass you because it's a long race. So, I started off slow.

Step two: find a running partner. A couple of my coworkers were runnig the race as well. Unfortunately for them they had not trained, so I kew they would not be good partners. They also started off very fast. The first leg of the race seemed flat, so almost everyone raced ahead. By the 7th kilometer I had caught and passed most of the people who'd raced ahead and I had a guy following my pace. I don't think it's possible to run 13 miles with out a partner. Your partner really helps push you on. Several of my patners fell behind, especialy on the bigger hills. But in some way or another I always had somoene running with me, helping me push on. My favorite partners were my students Danielle, Julio, and Melvin. Danielle and Julio were in the crowd and decided to run with me for a litte while and Melvin finished the race with me. When Danielle and Julio joined me, I was at a point where I wanted to slow down, but they reminded me that I am a PE teacher and so I must be faster. It was great.

Step three: remember your training. I spent over two months training for the race, not including last year's training. I had a couple of hickups. My shoes were stolen and I was sick a time or two, but overall my training went smoothly. And so when I was running up the big hills, not fast mind you, I knew I had run up bigger hills. And step by step I drew closer to the finish line. My training gave me the confidence to run fast when I was going down hill and the knowledge to conserve my energy by runnnig slower on the up hills. The best part was knowing I had run most of the harder sections during my training, so I knew I could do it. There's nothing like facing a challenge and knowing you have the skills to beat it. I don't think I could have finished without having trained for the race.

Step four: finish strong. Well, I tried this and it kind of backfired. I sprinted the last kilometer. I'm sure I looked good and strong while I was running, but I threw up afterwords. But as I was rounding the final bend I figured why not run as fast as I could, I mean I wouldn't be running again for a couple of weeks. Again without any training I couldn't have done this, but sometimes migraines just happen. Even though I was sick for four days after the race, I am glad I finished strong. I would rather give something my all and get hurt or sick than try something half heartedly. I finished the race and now I know that if I put my mind to something I can achieve my goal.

Step five: rest and repeat. I plan on running the Coban half marathon in May and so I'll probably follow all four of the steps I've mentioned above. I hope when I run in Coban I don't have to deal with a few of the things I have dealt with for the last two half marathons I've trained for. Hopefully swine flu doesn't rear it's ugly head and cancel the race again and most of all I hope no one steals my running shoes again. I would like a smooth training experience and a smooth race. But I guess I just need to remember that like life, running isn't always easy and the hard times will just make me stronger.