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Running around the World: discovering Central America with Dino Bonelli
Always running, but never in a hurry, the photographer and runner Dino Bonelli takes us to Central America, visiting Mayan sites and forests in an alternative way: running
Text and phots by Dino Bonelli
A couple of minor injuries and the consequent stop to frenetic physical activity, made me rediscover the beauty of running without the anxiety of performance, without the chrono to impose the rhythm, without programs to respect. Today, I only run for the pleasure of running, when it’s possible I walk, and if there is a good opportunity for a nice view, I stop to snap it (something that is pretty normal for me as a sport photographer)
A month ago, I was in Mexico to photograph the beautiful Carrera de Baja, of which La Sportiva is a technical partner, and in this wonderful country I decided to run my fifth Wings for Life charity race, and then move to the nearby Guadalajara. Here I reached Danilo, a friend of mine, coach and fellow traveller, with which I’ll keep on travelling to the wonderful lands of the Maya. During the charity race, which takes place at the same time all over the world, we didn’t have any big goal or desire for results, and neither asphalt shoes to be fair, even if they were needed. We both run with the Lycan, one of the lightest mountain running shoe in the La Sportiva collection and those that best suit to the uniformity of the asphalt. I must admit that they’re also so comfortable to be used as travel shoes.
At the end of the race, with a fast flight first and many hours of bus then, we arrived in Belize, the only English-speaking land in Latin America. In our programs, in addition to a small relaxing break on an island in Caye Caulker, a visit to the two Mayan archeological sites of Altun Ha and Xunantunich.
The Maya have lived in Central America, exactly in eastern Mexico, in the whole of Belize and Guatemala and in northern Honduras between 2000 BC and 1000 BC when they inexplicably went extinct, leaving their sacred cities to be covered and hidden by a thick jungle foliage for almost a millennium. Rediscovered, cleaned and restored, now these sites are one of the most famous and amazing symbols of Central America, and we decided to visit them - needless to say - running, each one with his own rhythm and his own "artistic" needs. For running on these dirt terrains I used my trusty Akasha, protective and well cushioned at the same time, even if unfortunately, climbing on one of the many battered buses that we used for our travels, I cut the upper with a protruding iron. Danilo, on the other hand, used his inseparable Ultra Raptors. Even if he is not a long-distance runner, Danilo always like to choose his shoes not only to be able to run but also to do some mountain trekking and his exhausting outdoor sessions of functional training. We decided to run without stress, with no goals in our mind apart seeing all the Mayan ruins that surrounded us. Some of them huge and well preserved, others equally impressive but partially restored, others still reduced to real ruins of which only the first high steps remain, which strived us to test our quadriceps.
But as I said the Maya did not live only in Belize, and in our programs, there was also a visit to Guatemala. Also here there are many sites, most of them deeply lost in the jungle, but the largest and most famous one, Tikal, was only 33km away from the asphalt road where our hotel laid in El Remate. I decided to also run this track with a slightly uphill road always using the Akasha, not exactly an asphalt shoe but simply amazing then, in the dirt roads and in the tortuous single track that draw the entire park.
As in the sites visited previously, also in Tikal all the buildings are named with a number or with a letter and, map to the hand, it is not difficult to find yourself in the middle of the forest. The sun was massive, burning skins and energies, but fortunately the large foliage of the forest offered endless shaded areas where running was definitely a pleasure. Here it was possible to breathe a unique “ancient” air and with a bit of suggestion you could still feel the presence of the warrior spirit of the jaguar man, one of the greatest leaders of the Maya population.