Run 128 : Puerto Rico – San Juan

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Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 15th November, 2017

Time :  1h 07’ 47”

Number of runners : 75

Total distance run to date : 1280 km

Run map and details :

Media : ;  ;

I hope I won’t upset anyone in Puerto Rico if I say that, seen from the distance of chilly London, it feels like Puerto Rico has been in the international news more often than usual in recent months.

First we had the global phenomenon that was Luis Fonsi’s ‘Despacito’ which, at 4.4 billion views and counting, is the most watched song ever on YouTube.  (Since ‘Despacito’ translates as ‘Slowly’ I’ve often thought that it would be an appropriate theme tune for my runs around the world. In fact, Luis, Justin, Daddy, it occurs to me that a charity version of the single in aid of Run the World / Cancer Research (or Puerto Rico) might be a good idea. To assist with this ‘never going to happen in a billion years’ project, I’ve re-written Justin’s opening verse – please see below.)

Then there were the hurricanes Irma – which severely clipped Puerto Rico – and Maria – which went straight across Puerto Rico devastating much of the island.

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And then there’s been the ensuing debate around President Trump’s response to the hurricane damage which has, again, made headlines round the world.

I’m  almost always excited to fly into new countries but all this meant I was particularly fascinated to be flying into San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. It’s a  big city of 400 000 inhabitants and, at first sight, it looked less damaged than St Croix had the day before. Probably as a result of being 25 miles to the north of Maria’s epicentre.

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However, the ongoing issue for everyone in San Juan is not just the physical damage – it’s that the electricity is still, at best, unreliable. (On the day I was there, Puerto Rico’s governor was in Washington asking for $17 billion to fix the electricity infrastructure). And, sure enough, when I got to my hotel, the generator had broken down and there was no electricity. (In fact it turned out that they’d cancelled the booking two weeks previously because of ongoing problems with the power supply – but we never received the message in the UK.)

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My hotel the Comfort inn the spent the next 2 hours trying to find somewhere else for me to stay – which was very good of them. But between the electricity problems and the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) personnel already booked into the local hotels, there wasn’t a room to be had. Eventually, after a few hours, they managed to fix their generator and, much to my relief, I was able to check in.

And get ready for that evening’s run.

We met at Parque Luis Munoz Rivera as the sun was setting. Angel Durant, who runs maratonespr – a site which covers marathons and all things running in Puerto Rico – had, with support from Matt and Fit 2 run team, done a great job in publicising the event and there were 75 of us as at the start.

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We set off along the coastal road which is used for a lot of San Juan’s runs. (In common with a number of San Juan’s roads, it has a cordoned off cycle lane and not too many cyclist – which makes it ideal for running.)

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Before heading up a notoriously sharp hill

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to San Juan’s old town and its famous fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

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We stopped there for photos and what should have been a great view over the city and the harbour. Except that, due to the citywide power failure, everything was pitch black. Apart from us runners because most of us were either wearing a luminescent wrist band or carrying a torch. Which made for a running stream of lights which actually looked pretty magical.

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From the fort we made our way down to the port and back through town to the Parque with everyone smiling, laughing and chatting for much of the way.

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It was a great run and I’d like to say ‘muchas gracias’ to Angel, Matt and everyone who joined us on the run (pls see below for more photos). And to the people of San Juan who were uniformly friendly throughout my visit.

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As a postscript, as soon as I got back to my hotel, I headed straight to the shower. It felt great after spending one night in St Croix without hot water. Only one night and I really felt it! There are people in the Caribbean who have been without electricity and hot water since the hurricanes in September – with the prospect of months to go before those in the rural areas are reconnected. Run the World studiously avoids politics so I’ll just say that everyone affected has my deepest sympathy.

Please like Run the World on Facebook to receive notification of future blogs and news about runs, races and running clubs across the world. And please donate to Cancer Research if you’d like to help fight the global scourge that is cancer.

Despacito Run the World remix. (Best enjoyed while listening to the original.)

Joggin’ over in my direction
2-0-6 countries, it’s such a blessin’, yeah
Turn every situation into runnin’, yeah
Oh-oh, you wake me
At sunrise on the darkest day
Got me feelin’ pheromones
Make me wanna savor every step slowly, slowly
Trainers fit me tailor-made, love to put them on
Run the world, know how to turn it on
The way sweat dribble on my ear, the only words I wanna hear
Baby, take it slow so we can run long

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Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Puerto Rico (Spanish for “Rich Port”) is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea.

The capital and most populous city is San Juan. Its official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish predominates. The island’s population is approximately 3.4 million. Puerto Rico’s history, tropical climate, natural scenery, traditional cuisine, and tax incentives make it a destination for travelers from around the world.

Originally populated by the indigenous Taíno people, the island was claimed in 1493 by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage. Later it endured invasion attempts from the French, Dutch, and British. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.

Puerto Ricans are by law natural-born citizens of the United States and may move freely between the island and the mainland. As it is not a state, Puerto Rico does not have a vote in the United States Congress, which governs the territory with full jurisdiction under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of those who voted) disagreed with “the present form of territorial status”. A second question asking about a new model, had full statehood the preferred option among those who voted for a change of status, although a significant number of people did not answer the second question of the referendum. Another fifth referendum was held on June 11, 2017, with “Statehood” and “Independence/Free Association” initially as the only available choices. At the recommendation of the Department of Justice, an option for the “current territorial status” was added. The referendum showed an overwhelming support for statehood, with 97.18% voting for it, although the voter turnout had a historically low figure of only 22.99% of the registered voters casting their ballots.

In late September 2017, the category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico causing devastating damage. The island’s electrical grid was largely destroyed, with repairs expected to take months to complete, provoking the largest power outage in American history. Recovery efforts were somewhat slow in the first few months, and over 200,000 residents had moved to Florida alone by late November 2017.

Hurricane Maria was the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, and the most intense tropical cyclone worldwide thus far in 2017. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica, and caused catastrophic damage and a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Maria was the thirteenth named storm, eighth consecutive hurricane, fourth major hurricane, second Category 5 hurricane, and the deadliest storm of the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

Post hurricane recovery

In late September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the island as a Category 4 storm causing severe damage to homes, other buildings and infrastructure. The recovery as of late November was slow but progress had been made. Electricity was restored to two-thirds of the island, although there was some doubt as to the number of residents getting reliable power. The vast majority had access to water but were still required to boil it. The number still living in shelters had dropped to 982 with thousands of others living with relatives. The official death toll at the time was 58 but some sources indicated that the actual number is much higher. A dam on the island was close to failure and officials were concerned about additional flooding from this source.

Thousands had left Puerto Rico, with close to 200,000 having arrived in Florida alone. The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at New York’s Hunter College estimated that some half million people, about 14% of the population, may permanently leave by 2019.

The total damage on the island was estimated as up to $95 billion. By the end of November, FEMA had received over a million applications for aid and had approved about a quarter of those. The US government had agreed in October to provide funding to rebuild and up to $4.9 billion in loans to help the island’s government. FEMA had $464 million earmarked to help local governments rebuild public buildings and infrastructure. Bills for other funding were being considered in Washington but little progress had been made on those.

El Morro

Lying on the northwestern-most point of the islet of Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies.

In 1983, the citadel was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in conjunction with the San Juan National Historic Site. Over two million visitors a year explore the castillo, making it one of Puerto Rico’s leading tourist attractions. Facing the structure, on the opposite side of the bay, a smaller fortification known as El Cañuelo complemented the castillo’s defense of the entrance to the bay.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Puerto Rico – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP                                               $103 bn     2013      $61.7 bn   2000

Population                                   3.41 m       2016      3.81 m       2000

Primary school enrolment*      89.7%        2014      93.8 %       2009

CO2 Emissions**                        NA

% below poverty line***          NA

Life expectancy at birth            79.6 yrs     2015       76.7 yrs   2000

GNI per capita                             $19320      2013      $10310      2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

** Metric tons per capita

***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 Puerto Rico performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 97th

Per Capita Cup – NA

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive annual ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce an annual per capita ranking.

About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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