marathoning in MexicoWhen you think of participant sports and Mexico, fishing, surfing, scuba diving, swimming, and snorkeling probably top the list. Marathons might not even occur to you, but the country provides increasingly fertile ground for those intrepid souls determined to competitively run a 42.2- kilometer course.

Running 26.2 miles is an exhausting, mentally challenging endeavor, but trying to find information about marathons in Mexico used to be nearly as difficult. The Internet has been a real boon for ex-pats and visitors wanting to add a Mexican “grinder” (my brother-in-law’s favorite descriptive term) to their resumés. That being said, do be prepared for sketchy info on many races, last minute schedule and course changes, and (as is to be expected) primarily Spanish language websites.

On the plus side, however, entry fees for Mexican marathons generally don’t exceed 25 dollars, and some are considerably cheaper. Whereas many north-of-the-border foot races have signup deadlines well in advance of the event, in Mexico you can usually hand in your entry form on the spot the day before. Within the last few years, online inscripciones using credit cards have become more popular, and some of the expos selling running merchandise rival their American and Canadian counterparts.

Always on the lookout for good deals on running shorts, I was thrilled to find name-brand products (Nike, Adidas, and New Balance) at a recent marathon in León, Guanajuato for around six-13 dollars a pair – WAY less than you’d pay up north.

These expos may even top their American and Canadian cousins for ingenuity. A few months ago, my 22-marathon partner Nick Dubeski and I were nabbed by some Corona sponsors in León and hauled on stage to take part in an “international kissing contest.” Both couples – a Mexican pair and us – were declared the winners, and Corona baseball caps, water bottles plus enthusiastic handshakes celebrated the results.

So…to get started, check out This English language site will give you a head start on international marathons, but it won’t be as thorough as,, and which are completely in Spanish. These three will have links to the bigger Mexican marathons, and some of those — notably the LaLa Marathon in Torreón and the Gran Pacifico Marathon in Mazatlan — do offer English as an option. By the time you’re reading this, that number may have grown.

Here are several marathons spanning the year: Culiacan in January, LaLa (Torreón) in March, Mexico City in August, the Maraton de Independencia (León) in September, Guadalajara in October, and Gran Pacifico (Mazatlan) in December. There are plenty more, so do use your computer to scope out the possibilities. Mexico’s gentler weather means a wider selection of races during the winter months than is possible in colder climes.

Before being sidelined by arthritis in my right knee, I also ran several Mexican marathons. Speaking from experience, it’s hard to overemphasize how important it is to keep checking details right up until race time for cancellations and date changes. Guadalajara used to be run in February — now it’s October. There was a great event in Cozumel several years ago, but that one’s bitten the dust. When we got to Mexico City in April, 2005 for the Congreso de Los Trabajadores (Workers Congress) Marathon, we found out a political rally for Lopez Obrador had pre-empted the race, which was then rescheduled for early May. I don’t say this to discourage potential participants but to caution against figuring an initial visit to the website is enough.

For your best chance at posting a good finish time, arrive at the race destination several days in advance to get acclimated to the heat, humidity, altitude and/or big-city air pollution. We build trips around marathons and have found it a great way to see more of Mexico. Next month, we’ll finally get a chance to experience the LaLa Marathon on March fourth before meeting my parents in Brownsville, Texas, for a family vacation the following week.

Anyone used to marathoning in the U.S. and Canada should know that porta-potties along the route here are virtually non-existent. On the bright side, the courses usually take you through a lot of open country where you can improvise. Water stations, sometimes offering electrolytes as well, are generally plentiful, and there is ALWAYS “hardware” at the finish: medals, to the uninitiated. Organizers are coming up with pretty snazzy T-shirts for those who go the distance these days, so you won’t go home without bragging rights.

Crowd support is often limited, so bring along some of your own. I always yell myself hoarse cheering for everyone who runs past where I station myself along the course waiting for Nick to breeze on by.

A plus (or a minus, given your mindset) is that you may get extra attention as a foreigner running in Mexico. Nick was interviewed by Mural, a Guadalajara daily newspaper, after last year’s October 29 marathon, and his smiling visage and post-race comments were featured in a human interest story we proudly added to our collection of race memorabilia the next day.

Because we’re marathoners, we’re attuned to that distance when we look for races online – but if you’d rather not run that far, check the same websites mentioned earlier for other possibilities. For example, Acapulco annually hosts several five and10-kilometer events plus a half-marathon, all featured on

If you’re really ambitious, Ixtapa hosts an annual triathlon (swimming, biking, and running); the 2007 date is tentatively scheduled for sometime in September. Nick competed in 2005, and spectator support for this one was awesome. The Olympic event includes a 1.5-K swim, a 40-K bike, and a 10-K run. A bit too challenging? Try the “sprint” event, where the distances are only half as far. The triathlon has been a staple in our paradise for more than 20 years, though the month it’s held has changed several times.

One bonus of living in Ixtapa is training on the ciclopista, which now runs from the Ixtapa marina to the very end of the road at Playa Linda. The nine-K track offers a great running and biking surface, safe from vehicular traffic, allowing peaceful jogs and cycling expeditions through a pastoral nature preserve.

And, for the past three years, the Carrera San Silvestre, an informal race organized by a pair of Mexico City runners with an Ixtapa condo, has been held there at seven a.m. on Dec. 31. There are both 10-km. and 16-km. events. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to end the old year. Happy trails!