When the Tamarindo Beach Marathon started in 2007, it attracted a handful of interested runners. Three years later, there were 900 runners. This Saturday, organizers expect more than 4,500 athletes and as many as 8,000 spectators, as well as a bevy of elite runners. Guests from all over the world will arrive in the Pacific surf town to pick up their bibs and prepare for their 42-kilometer journey.
Costa Rica’s enthusiasm for long-distance running has exploded in recent years. If waking up at 4 a.m. and stretching your calf muscles on a dark stretch of pavement with thousands of other people sounds like a miserable idea, these legions of competitors would beg to disagree: The nation now hosts a variety of running events, from the San José Marathon to the Challenge Irazú adventure race. Nearly all of them have grown exponentially in the past decade.
While the name of the race refers to “Tamarindo Beach,” the marathon takes place primarily on paved roads, not the sandy coastline. Beach marathons do exist, and there is a corresponding 5K race that takes place entirely on the beach, but the full marathon treats its runners to woodsy highways through the Guanacaste countryside. Organizers modified the route for this year’s race in order to better accommodate runners and their fans.
Last year’s first-place winner was Fidaku Lamma of Ethiopia, who was disappointed with his time of two hours and eight minutes, stating that the hot weather had slowed him down. (First-time marathoners are generally happy to break the five-hour mark.)
Less masochistic runners can participate in the half-marathon and 30K races (which also start at 5 a.m.), the 10K (5:30 a.m.) or the beach-based 5K (6 a.m.)
Marathon takes place Sept. 20 in Tamarindo. Info: Event website.