San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Coast-to-coast humanitarian run launches on Saturday

Thirty-one runners from as far away as Canada, France and Australia arrived in Costa Rica this week to participate in the second running of the cross-country Transtica.

The race begins on Saturday in the central Pacific town of Manuel Antonio and crosses 250 kilometers of terrain to arrive in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side on Nov. 26. Runners travel either 20 or 40 km (equivalent to a half or a full marathon) each day, depending on the group they´ve chosen to compete with.

What makes the competition unique is not necessarily the distances or the difficulty of the race, but the fact that runners stop in select locations to participate in social projects.

“Running is a self-absorbed sport,” said competitor Brenda Williams, 46, from the Canadian Rockies. “The thing that attracted me to this competition was its humanitarian angle. To me, it´s a beautiful combination.”

Williams, who trains with full-day runs through the mountains in her hometown, said she only began running five years ago. She´s steadily built up her mileage, competing in ultra-marathons and three-day treks.

“I like mixing athletic events with vacations, and I´ve always wanted to come to Costa Rica,” said Williams during a welcome event at the residence of the French ambassador on Thursday. “I am hoping to see a cross-section of Costa Rica, but I am sure it will just be a tease and I´ll want to come back for more.”

The first running of the Transtica hit intense rain storms that caused bridge outages and uneven terrain, but race director Vincent Gallois called it a success. Gallois is hoping for better luck this year. “The competitors´ spirits seem high,” he said.

Gallois helped coordinate the 10-day trip through the French tourism company Authentic Tour and said he´s indebted to the Costa Rican fire fighters for use of their vehicles as well as several sponsors, including NBC Car Rental and Chalet d´Orosi.

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