Running for redemption

After days of big talk and no action, I finally laced up, strapped on my Camelbak and conquered the Christ in Rio.

Armed with three maps and a lot of warnings about how far it would be and how punishingly steep the climb was, I jumped a cab to a place called Alta da Boa Vista and set off up the Tijuca National Park roads.

Every hotel receptionist I spoke to about running to the Christ told me it wasn’t possible. Some told me that only buses and taxis were allowed, others that I’d have to hike it and need ropes for the final stretch but they were all wrong. All of them looked at me like I didn’t have it in me to cover the distance and the hills. They said it couldn’t be done. So today I did it.

The Tijuca Park roads were just that - roads not trails. But they were stunning. I can’t possibly do it justice. If I were Ernest Hemingway maybe but I’m not.

Mile upon mile of steep ups and sharp downs, all under the cover of a patchwork canope of green. I clocked a total of 20 miles in 3:34. I had hoped to make it 26-ut the breathtaking surroudings forced me to stop too often to burn the views onto my retinas and take pictures. Of all the runs I’ve done, this one was special. It’s the most free I’ve felt for a long time.

Large parts of the route were free from cars. Only cyclists and other runners, with all of them shouting greetings as they passed. The respect out there for people making their way to the top, not by tour bus, but by their own power was palpable.

I passed waterfalls, warnings for what look like rogue skunks on the loose and some of the most unforgetable views of Rio.

For this run, I decided not to take a GPS watch. I ran with only my phone and forgot about distance. At time running uphill felt like downhill. I hope this bodes well for this time next week when I take on the Classic Quarter. That run in Cornwall will feature more consistently severe climbs and drops but at least it won’t be 31 degrees celsius like it was out there today.

As I reached the final stretch up to Corcovado, I suddently ran into hundreds and hundreds of people queueing. After being fairly isolated in the Tijuca wilderness this was a massive shock to the system.

I had to ask a Brazilian policeman what the score was with running the final stretch. Everyone else was lining up for the mini bus up the final 1.5 mile steep ascent to the feet of Christ. When I got the nod from the gun-toting cop that I was ok to run on, I got some baffled looks as I set off up the harsh incline.

On the way up I got shouts of support from people walking up and toots on the horn from bus drivers. I assumed they were honks of support rather than warnings to get out of the road.

It was a tough run but I made it and at the top running gave me a gift for my endeavour. At the moment I arrived, so did the entire England football team who are in town to play Brazil tomorrow. Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Theo Walcott, Michael Carrick and old England legend Trevor Brooking were all taking in the views. I wouldn’t have seen this had I not set out to conquer Corcovado. It was a complete buzz. Then I realised I’d only done half the job.

So I turned around and ran back down.

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