By Kimmi Runner
November 4th, 38.6 miles, 864 ft elevation gain, 6 hour Cutoff Time
After some much-needed extra sleep and delicious home-cooked meals at a beautiful B&B in the rainforest, Rancho Naturalista, we were bussed to the start of Stage 3. Being a flat stage, I was hoping my legs would welcome the terrain change and be able to make quick work of it. We were all off and rolling through town after town, where children were lining the course trying to high-five every racer that passed by. I was given candy by some new-found friends who were racing La Ruta for the 8th time, so that I could throw it in the air for the kids as we passed through some of the more rural towns in Costa Rica. It was one of the highlights of the entire race.
Stage 3 also had us crossing four of La Ruta’s iconic “bridges”. One misstep would see us plummeting 100 ft down into rivers where crocodiles are said to reside. Once again, the spirit of La Ruta shone through, and everyone was encouraged and given kind words by those around them. La Pura Vida, they call it. It’s the unofficial country motto, which translates to “the Pure Life” or “the Simple Life”. The local “Ticos” live and exude la Pura Vida. It is truly the heart and spirit of the country.
As I finished the race a little over 3 hours later in the city of Limon, on the Caribbean Sea, to hundreds of spectators yelling and cheering for me, a perfect stranger, I was overcome with emotion. Yes, I had checked La Ruta de los Conquistadores off of my Bucket List, yes I had survived the toughest race of my life, and yes I had laughed and cried my way from the Pacific to the Caribbean in three days through the most trying terrain I had ever seen. But more importantly than all of those, I had fallen in love. The beauty and heart of the people perfectly mirrored the country’s gorgeous and picturesque scenery. I felt honored to be able to share in such an adventure with them, and be so engulfed in their community. Somewhere along that grueling course, a piece of my heart remains.
And now a mere few days following the event, my legs and body having difficulty walking up a flight of stairs, I find myself already excited to go back next year to profoundly experience what I felt once more.
Pura Vida, Costa Rica, and Muchas Gracias.