21 kilometers

And an hour and fifty-six minutes.

From Marco Zero—where Recife was founded, at the end of the 16th century—through Recife Antigo, along the beira do mar, across the five-points bridge—the bridge I grind over every day in the onibus—through Pina, and then stretching kilometers along Avenida Boa Viagem, next to a stormy beach, wet sand flooded by overnight rain.

I’ve run one other half-marathon before, five years ago in freezing rain on a fall morning in Denver. So, I knew I could do it—knew I could finish 13.1 miles. These miles though, felt different—counted in kilometers, in months spent learning Portuguese.

It was so cool. Flying along next to this beach in Brazil, a plan I hatched for myself that I was now living… right now, right now, right now. If I feel tired at the next kilometer, I’ll slow down, I kept telling myself. But, I didn’t feel tired, and if you keep telling yourself you feel great, then there’s no reason not to feel great, and when I finally did feel tired, it was the 19th kilometer, and why slow down then, so I crossed the last bridge and pounded over cobblestones, and arrived, almost 15 minutes sooner than I had five years before.

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