I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the sacred night
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do.
They’re really saying… I love you.
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.
Around mile 13 a fellow marathoner caught up to the pack of runners I was in, smirking knowingly as he turned up his handheld speaker which so fittingly emitted Louis Armstrong’s ‘It’s a Wonderful World’. I looked over, laughed, and even slightly shook my head, knowing that as cliché of a moment as it was, it was one that would surely stick with me for years to come.
This wonderful world indeed seemed to whiz by me in a blur as I finished the back half of the Patagonia International Marathon, the tune seemingly serving as a temporary remedy to help me overcome the endless stretches of painfully beautiful hills, a glaring reminder of the long training runs I hadn’t done back home in London. I crossed the finish line, taking mental snapshots of as many views of Los Cuernos as possible while trying to regain my breath. I shook hands with fellow finishers. I searched for the nearest apple or sandwich.
I looked around and absorbed every single thing I could about this moment: the sunshine beaming down on my face, the surprisingly wind-free conditions, the way the late morning light hit the snow, the people congratulating each other, in awe of what they had just accomplished. This was my place and these were my people.
All I could think was: I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I’m not sure I had ever felt that emotion so entirely before.
What I and the other thousands of runners had completed together that September morning would be a memory not soon (if ever) forgotten. Many marathons are run each year- and people run them for different reasons: personal goals, with or for family members, fundraising for a cause, etc. But this experience felt somehow different. With crossing that finish line, we would be bonded for life, not just by the race we had just completed, but by the experience of running in truly the most beautiful place on earth. That, and the effort it took to get there in the first place.
Running in Patagonia is a different type of experience than running anywhere else.
It’s not just about a dedication to training, or the steady pulse of your feet hitting the pavement relentlessly for 26.2 miles on race day; It’s about getting back to the basics, and stretching our physical and mental limits as humans.
It’s about being reminded with every step that we are all a part of and wholly responsible for this uniquely pristine land.
It’s about respecting what we all stand for: beauty, purity, great wide open spaces – and the protection of them.
It’s about coming together as one, rather than being wedged apart, despite being individual racers, each with his or her own story, opinions and backgrounds.
The runners dedicated themselves to traveling many hours and thousands of miles, and in many cases, even days to being in Patagonia arrived to the race that day with one overarching personal truth: this is the place, and these are the moments that make us feel alive.
They give us faith. They give us hope.
My Patagonia marathon experience and desire to help do my part in this world and minimize my own footprint was only amplified by my stay at Ecocamp Patagonia with Cascada Expediciones.
As Torres del Paine’s first fully sustainable accommodation, Ecocamp is a place that you can relax in what feels like the most luxurious place on earth, but also feel good about doing so.
Ecocamp lives and breathes the same truths and mores as the runners who are attracted to the Patagonia marathon, and it’s not hard to see why it is so special to so many of us who stayed there before and after race day.
The Ecocamp team fully embodies the spirit of giving back, teamwork, and supporting one’s own community: 90% of the guides are employed from local regions, all food is bought from nearby suppliers, the majority of the decoration inside the domes comes from Argentinian and Chilean artisans. And this isn’t limited to just the staffing and importing of products, but extends as well to the thoughtful construction of the domes themselves. The semi-spherical Ecocamp domes have skylight windows, are heated by the old-fashioned way (fire) and are constructed in such a way to minimize their impact on the Earth.
The property stays at the forefront of the newest green capabilities and actively seeks ways to improve and to do better (currently, electricity is limited and propane gas is used for heating, but the founders are in active talks to implement solar energy for heating in the near future).
The same way that we, as runners, are used to pushing our limits to the best of our ability, Ecocamp prides itself on pushing comfort ‘to the limits of what is sustainable’. Through their ethos, they demonstrate that within us all exists a capacity and ability to take care of and respect the land we live on. What matters most is our continued conscious effort and dedication to doing so. Ecocamp is trying harder than anyone I know, and creating a truly unique experience in doing so.
Track and field coach and cofounder of Nike’s Bill Bowerman once said, “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”
I couldn’t agree more, and a stay at soulful Ecocamp combined with the experience of the Patagonia Marathon gave me the ultimate heartfelt experience.
Life feels simpler out there, but it feels just right.