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Date : 11th April, 2017
Time : 57’01”
Total distance run to date : 1060 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1682371031
One of the questions I most often get asked is, “Isn’t a shame to visit all those countries and not spend more time there?”
Which is true at one level. I normally spend only 24 hours in each country, sometimes less. And by the time I’ve transferred to and from the airport, met people, done my run etc there’s not usually much time for sightseeing.
But Run the World is a challenge, not tourism. And it has a budget, and time constraints, so the idea is to complete it as cheaply and quickly as possible. (While still trying to spread the word and raise some money for cancer research!)
However. I’ve always wanted to go to Costa Rica. It’s got mountains and volcanos and rain forests and cloud forests and golden beaches. It’s got white water rafting and hanging bridges walks and sea swimming and horse riding and zip lining. It’s got sloths and bizarre frogs and coatis and tarantulas and monkeys. If you like active outdoor holidays, with a bit of wildlife thrown in, then it’s probably for you.
So I broke with tradition and stayed on in Costa Rica at the end of my central American trip. And Liz and the girls joined me.
Was it as amazing as I’d imagined? Pretty much. It’s far more expensive than you might expect, the wildlife can be hard to spot and some of the taxi drivers were astonishingly blatant in their attempted rip offs.
On the other hand, it’s truly beautiful, the activities are great and most of the tour guides are extremely good. Take the picture below of a sloth’s bottom. We wouldn’t have seen the animal without our guide – and we certainly wouldn’t have learnt all about its lavatorial habits.
Basically, sloths only exercise their butts once a week – and can excrete up to third of their body weight at one sitting. And, since sloths don’t move very fast, they have to find a way to hide their waste so that it doesn’t lead their predators directly to them. Accordingly, once every 7 days, they make the perilous journey to the ground, dig a hole, do their business, cover up the whole, and dawdle their way back up to the tree tops.
Along with all the other positive things about Costa Rica, you’re also reminded at every turn that it’s safe. And when people in Costa Rica stress how safe it is, they really mean in comparison to many of its neighbours in central America.
In fact its roads aren’t particularly safe and it has the 35th highest murder rate in the world. But that pales into insignificance besides El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala – all of which are in the top 10 in the world for murder rates (per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
On our trip, the only place that felt at all unsafe (apart from the zip wires, the white water rafting and the horse riding…) was San Jose – the capital.
San Jose’s not on most tourist itineraries but I’d thought it would be the best place for me to get in touch, and run, with some locals. That didn’t work out so I ended running the first 5 km with Liz and Sienna – picture above. (It was a little too hot for them to do the full 10 km).
We ran down Avenida Central – which takes you past most of the major tourist attractions – as far as Parque Metropolitino de Sabana (which was full of the kind of sporting facilities I’d love to see in more UK parks.). For a bit of variety, I ran back along Avenidas 6 & 10 which, while not as scenic as Central, gave a better sense of local life and reminder that for all its relative prosperity, Costa Rica isn’t Western Europe.
In truth, even though I love running with my family, it wasn’t the most memorable of runs. By contrast, Costa Rica is a truly memorable country full of wonderful sights and (taxi drivers aside) lovely people. Just don’t go there with post Brexit sterling in your pocket!
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
Costa Rica (literally meaning “Rich Coast”), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San José.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847.
An era of peaceful democracy in Costa Rica began in 1869 with elections. Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued Central America. Since the late nineteenth century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1917–19, Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a dictator.
In 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election. “With more than 2,000 dead, the 44-day Costa Rican Civil War resulting from this uprising was the bloodiest event in twentieth-century Costa Rican history.” The victorious junta drafted a constitution guaranteeing free elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military. Figueres became a national hero, winning the first election under the new constitution in 1953. Since then Costa Rica has been one of the few democracies to operate without a standing army. The nation has held 16 successive presidential elections, all peaceful, the latest being in 2014.
The country has consistently performed favourably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 69th in the world as of 2015, among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. Its rapidly developing economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.
Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It was ranked 42nd in the world, and third in the Americas, in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, was twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation‘s (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and was identified by the NEF as the greenest country in the world in 2009. Costa Rica officially plans to become a carbon-neutral country by 2021. In 2012, it became the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting.
World Bank Data
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Costa Rica – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
GDP $57.4 bn 2016 $15.0 bn 2000
Population 4.86 m 2016 3.93 m 2000
Primary school enrolment* 110% 2015 113% 2000
% below poverty line** 21.7% 2015 21.2% 2010
Life expectancy at birth 79.6 yrs 2015 77.4 yrs 2000
GNI per capita $10840 2016 $3580 2000
*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
**The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
Greatest Sporting Nation Data
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Costa Rica performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:
Global Cup – 113th
Per Capita Cup – did not place
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.