Jogging in Ciudad Guayana Became Obstacle Course Racing

Going for a run is considered an extreme sport in places like Ciudad Guayana, since malandros, garbage, stray dogs and vultures, to name a few obstacles, abound.

Photo: Primicia

Running is one of those things that communism hasn’t ruined for me yet, and as long as my running shoes don’t break, I’ll keep doing it (I don’t think I can replace those). I’m not that into fitness, but there’s something uplifting about taking a break and going for a run on my own. Problem is, these days the scenery turns a little more apocalyptic every time I go out.

I’ve come to embrace the garbage of my city. There’s so much of it, my route is like an obstacle course now. You can find little garbage mountains on the sidewalks of suburbs, malls, and even hospitals. Some places don’t even have a dumpster, it’s just the mounds on the floor.

Chavistas tried to solve this a while ago with signs all over town, reminding you that littering is forbidden.

Photo: Carlos Hernández

I wonder why that didn’t work…

Trash can be in one of three stages: fresh, burned or burning. It’s better when already burned, because when it’s fresh, the smell is unbearable (especially after rain). I always hold my breath when going through the worst parts, and I’m running, so it’s an extra challenge; I avoid it when it’s burning, I’m not ready for that level of bad smell yet.

The garbage problem is also a vulture problem. There are hundreds, a pest out of control that makes up for a great post-apocalyptic scenery. Picture this:

You are running through half-burned garbage, some of it still smoking, with vultures in all directions. They’re the size of chickens, with longer wings and pitch black. They’re on trees, on top of buildings, on lamp posts and, of course, on the trash. You don’t stop to count them (maybe 50?), but you see one with its beak buried in a half-burned diaper. It sees you, sizes you up, but it’s not the only one looking. All of them are.

That happens all the time. It’s like being in that Alfred Hitchcock movie; pigeons fly off, but these fuckers fear no man. Wikipedia says they only eat dead things, so I always try to look extra-alive around them.

Since most traffic lights are busted and everyone drives like the monkeys from Jumanji, crossing the streets is a game of its own.

There’s also sewer overflows, which I usually find in pairs, one of them at the very end of the route, in front of my building. I throw some jumps, CAP style, great for the legs. Stray dogs, however, can be a real issue. I’ve learned the bad way that they don’t like it when a hyperventilating dude runs towards them. If it’s a big group, they may bark and chase you. The don’t bite, but they really look the part, and that adrenaline shot always comes in handy. Great motivation when you’re tired and thinking about stopping.

Now, what do you do for fun while running? With the crime rate, I don’t dare bring my old iPod, I just count the many animalitos lottery places (I always lose count at about 20) and, since most traffic lights are busted and everyone drives like the monkeys from Jumanji, crossing the streets is a game of its own.

Every run is different, you don’t know what you’re gonna get. Is it burning trash? Will the dogs attack?

We recently switched mayors; Tito Oviedo is the dude who scammed hungry voters by offering them Christmas pork. He had protesters at his office pretty much the same day he took office, and he’s now tasked with coming up with solutions for a city that negligence ate up.

I’m sure he won’t dare ruin the post-apocalyptic jogging that his predecessors created.

Carlos Hernández

Ciudad Guayana economist moonlighting as the keyboardist of a progressive power metal band. Carlos knows how to play Truco. 4 8 15 16 23 42