Pumping It Up With the Oddballs

Most days I run in the Parque Kabah, which, though not large, is the biggest protected natural area in Cancun. The park has a loop which is 1800 meters around, so it’s just long enough to make it good for running. And each day lots and lots of people do just that, they go and they run…or walk…or waddle.

As a regular at the park I am keenly aware of the other regulars, I know who belongs and who is new. And each person who goes there is a story in themselves.

The first story is the “juicey guy”, as we call him. He’s in his mid-50’s maybe. He rides a bike to the park each morning with a small cooler strapped on his bike rack. And he’s got big colorful promotional signs stuck all over his bicycle. From his cooler he sells freshly squeezed juices, mixtures of carrot juice, spinach juice, and various fruit juices. Sometimes he rambles on to people about the nutritional properties of his various juices. But most of my interaction with this guy consists of me running by quickly, hoping he won’t see me. When he does see me he usually rushes to grab my hand and slobber kisses on it, all the while crooning my name over and over as though it was his favorite song. The guy is a loon and he seems to be in love with me. So I work to avoid him.

Then there’s the “fruit lady”. Most people probably don’t think of her as the fruit lady, but I call her that because the first few times I noticed her she was carrying fruit as she was walking around the loop at the park. One time she had bananas in one hand and a large papaya in the other. The other time, just a day or two later, she was carrying a large pineapple in one hand and a plastic grocery bag with a long loaf of bread and some green leafy stuff sticking out of it. Both of the times I saw her with food she was power-walking, and she was doing LAPS. She was not just cutting through the park on her way home from the store, she was going around and around and around, huffing her fruit. These days I see her regularly, but most of the time she’s carrying hand weights, gone are her fruits.

A few times recently I’ve seen a guy walking in the park who is flanked by two very OBVIOUS bodyguards. The first time I saw the “guarded guy” I noticed how over dressed he was, he had one of those colorful nylon jogging suits on, and he had the jacket zipped all the way to his neck. It was 90 degrees out. And his two henchmen both wore matching mirrored sunglasses, and brand new looking t-shirts, and both were very obviously and carefully examining every one of the people they passed. The “guarded guy” and his henchmen don’t go together either, they look like they don’t belong together. The bodyguards look like overpaid redneck bouncers, while their quarry looks like he regularly uses lotion on his hands and probably knows how to read.

The first time I saw those 3 they were not talking, were not smiling, were just walking. The second time they were talking, and their body language was a lot more relaxed. The third time I saw them they were spread out, one in front of the other and were running. The bodyguards were huffing dangerously, like pre-heart attack victims, at the front and back, the “guarded guy” in the middle, looking like running was normal for him. And the most recent time I saw these guys they were all running, but not together, I recognized each of them separately as I passed them.

There are lots of other regulars in the park. There’s a tall black man who runs intervals of VERY fast sprinting followed by extremely slow almost-jogging in place. There’s a guy who always wears a bitter-lemon expression on his face, and stomps around the loop swinging his arms. There’s the “sloppy woman” who’s gait is so disorganized that I always wonder how she can walk like that; she flails her arms chaotically and has a funny twist in her walk as if her feet don’t work normally. There’s the “smiling old guy” who runs along slowly, grinning and grinning and grinning, wearing his headband and wristbands. His grinning is contagious and after years of resistance I’ve given in to always grinning back when I see him, and always wondering later what we are so happy about.

There are a few very fit athletes in that park. There’s a short little runner who always passes me like I’m standing still. And there’s “seiscientos” (600) who looks like he takes too many steroids, he’s in his mid-40’s and is super-buff with big, veined arms. This guy does 600 sit-ups every time he shows up. Other people come along and do 20 sit-ups, 40 sit-ups, maybe 100 sit-ups, but this guy just keeps going and going and going. And he talks the whole time he is doing his sit-ups, so someone he’s blabbing with always ends up asking him how many damn sit-ups he intends to do, and the answer is always “seiscientos”.

And then there’s little old me, plodding along at my 9-minute-mile-on-a-very-good-day pace, passing the old and fat and slow, getting passed by the young and fit people. I’m usually the only gringo in the place, the only pasty white chick there, but I’m there so often that I no longer get stared at. I have my stretching regime, my certain number of laps, my 100 sit-ups, my 40 (or 50 on a good day) push-ups, my leg lifts, and all the other crap I somehow remember to do each day.

I love going to the park and seldom get bored there. The people-watching is always rich, with each character becoming more like themselves each time I see them. And the work-out ain’t half bad either.

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2 Responses to “Pumping It Up With the Oddballs”

  1. stephenj2585
    March 21st, 2007 06:40

    Great post! Where is Parque Kabah? We are heading to Cancun in May/June and love to explore new places.

    STeve and Laurie Jones

  2. RiverGirl
    March 21st, 2007 18:09

    Steve – Parque Kabah is across from Costco in a triangle-shaped area that is bordered by Avenida Kabah, Avenida Nichupte and Del Bosque (I think).

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