On November 15, I joined 567 Americans and ran the Maratón de La Habana-MARABANA 2015.
TRAVEL TO CUBA
Americans can now purchase directs flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Havana, Cuba on Southwest Airlines. In my case it was as simple as checking a box on the Travel Affidavit for general license category 8. “Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic & Other Competitions and Exhibitions.”
A casa particular (Spanish for “private house”) is a private accommodation. Cost is generally about 30 CUC. which includes breakfast. Casa Alta Habana, where I stayed, is about 1.5 km from the Marabana starting line.
Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) is the government owned telephone, internet and wireless services provider in Cuba. For the price of a Cristol cerveza I was able to access Wifi internet at the Inglaterra Hotel bar. Purchase the ETECSA card with a scratch off code at the Hotel Plaza in Central Havana. One hour of internet costs 4.5 CUC which is $4.50 USD. Due to limited internet access and no phone service I used MapEasy’s Guidemap to Cuba and the StreetSmart Havana Map by VanDam to navigate around Havana.
The MaraCuba 4k “fun run” takes place the day before the marathon on Physical Culture and Sports Day. I ran the 4k and later that afternoon I took a taxi to the Ciudad Deportiva for the pasta dinner followed by a race course review. Runners are shuttled around the course by bus.
The Marabana starts in front of El Capitolio. It runs along the Malecón, past the Hotel Nacional, the recently re-opened U.S. Embassy and the Plaza de la Revolución before finishing at El Capitolio.
Aid stations are stocked with clear plastic bags of lime and fruit punch flavored water. A high point of the race was the elderly Cuban women sitting on the curb shouting “corre” as I slowed to a race walk, arms pumping wildly, up a long, gradual hill. For American runners, 1 km goes by a lot faster than 1 mile. At the finish line runners are funneled into a courtyard where Cuban runners compete for foreign runners shoes. I gave my size 10 Brooks Glycerins to a female runner that I had met the day before at the 4k. Post race I stocked up on water and two cinnamon raison buns at the panadería next to the Inglaterra Hotel. This years race is November 19, 2017.
Mojitos, Cuba Libres, Pina Coladas… all firsts for me. Mixed drinks cost between 2 and 4 CUC’s.
Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso’s “Anti-Stress” health drink (coconut milk with ice, pineapple, anise, mint, yerba buena lemongrass, basil, cinnamon and honey) has rum in it !?!?!
ALCOHOL AND CIGAR LIMITS
U.S. Customs and Border Protection website: “Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.” I brought four bottles of Havana Club Rum thru U.S. Customs with no problem.