Timorese runners complete the New York City Marathon
"Calisto da Costa and Lola Goncalves Gama completed the ING NYCM in 2h46:04 and 3h51:43 respectively. The two Timorese runners completed the event as the second pair of Timorese athletes to attend the annual New York Marathon. Da Costa's time put him in at 276th overall, much the same as his compatriot Augusto Ramos Soares' time from last year. Once again the Timorese runners suffered from the cold weather and were somewhat slower than there times from the Dili Marathon on 18 June this year where they each finished second in their sex category.
"It was an amazing run" said da Costa of the five borough event "there were so many people cheering us on with signs and music." The race is however well known for its bridges where the cold hits the hardest. Da Costa started feeling trouble with cramps in around the 35 km mark and by the 40km mark was already watching many competitors pass him. Similarly Goncalves was struck with cold and cramps, falling from a 4min/km average to a roughly 7min/km average from the 20th km onwards. All in all though the race and the lead up to it were enormously successful in showcasing Timor to the world and continuing to promote Timorese elite athletes.
Before coming to the USA, the runners spent five days in Singapore for their visa interview and processing. There they were able to make the best of their time through a meeting with representatives from Air Timor, the airline that sponsored the flight from Dili to Singapore, as well as meeting the athletics group, Dream+. Through their time in Singapore, da Costa and Goncalves, trained, relaxed and chatted with the Singaporean athletes who wondered at their Timorese counterpart's skill and determination, while the Timorese were equally impressed by the Singaporean's equipment, technology and structure. After the five days in Singapore, the two athlete groups departed as good friends and both teams expressed their hope that they would be able to meet up again soon to contribute to each other's training programmes.
After arriving in America, da Costa and Goncalves were invited to attend a training session with a school running programme "Wheeler Athletics" in Washington Heights (North Manhattan). Here the TImorese runners wowed students with their stories from Timor and running before joining the students on a run and leading a stretching programme. The stretches they showed were a small indication of just how skilled and well-trained the Timorese athletes really are.
After their school visit on Thursday, the runners had the openning ceremony on Friday night, alongside athletes from over 100 other countries, da Costa proudly carried the Timorese flag. The runners spent the night mingling with athletes from around the world, as well as offering a good many geography lessons to those who did not know where Timor was! As they marched towards the finish line the athletes were able to get an idea of where everything would end on the Sunday.
The following morning, da Costa and Goncalves were able to attend a meet and greet with famous distance runners Paula Radcliffe, Tegla Loroupe and Wilson Kipketer. After that they completed a small jog and stretch session in preparation for the big day ahead.
Overall the trip was an amazing opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with the biggest and best-known marathon in the world. It was a fantastic success in terms of athletics, promoting awareness of Timor-Leste and providing inspiration for younger runners in Timor. The event was a perfect way to promote one of Timor's best resources: it's people."