César Lizano represented Costa Rica at the 2012 London Olympics marathon. In addition, he has run 18 other marathons, including Chicago, New York and, just last month, Boston; he has represented Costa Rica at three world half marathon championships; and more recently, he has conquered mountain races, managing to join the top finishers of some of the most demanding trail races in Costa Rica. He talked to El Colectivo 506. This is the extract of the interview with hi advice.
Where is your favorite place in Costa Rica to run, just for fun?
There is a very very rich area for a runner in every sense because it is flat, it has mountains, it has a much more pleasant, cool temperature: that’s Cartago. There you find something for everyone. It is one of the areas that I like the most for running.
You can go up Irazú, or towards Turrialba. Or you stay in the center and can run flat terrain towards Tobosi, the Guarco area.
It is my favorite place. I try to go two or three times a week.
What is your favorite place in Costa Rica to train?
It depends a lot on the type of training that is being done. If you want to be a fast short-distance runner, my favorite place is any 400m running track.
If you want to be a strong mountain runner, I really like the Cartago area as well as towards Prusia, towards San Juan de Chicuá. There is a place called Cabeza de Vaca that is quite challenging.
To train for hot events, I like the Rodeo, from Ciudad Colón on in: there are mountains, trails and a lot of heat, so I really like to train there when I’m preparing for to hot events.
What place do you recommend for those just starting to train for races and marathons? For mountain races?
As a coach I like the athlete to have many alternatives and varied training. To begin a training process, pick a place that is very safe, very comfortable, is La Sabana. You can run circuits in a safe way because there are no cars, no one is going to interrupt you, you can run on grass, on the street, on the road. La Sabana would be a good place for those who live in central Costa Rica.
Find places that are very safe, very quiet.
When you are starting out you don’t yet know the ins and outs of running in the street. Normally you should run on the left side, facing [oncoming traffic]. And since there are no sidewalks in Costa Rica, I prefer that people look for a safe place—Parque de la Paz, La Sabana, the TEC in Cartago—places where there is not so much traffic, to avoid accidents and so that one feels a lot calmer.
To start training for mountain running, there are many places. Rodeo in Ciudad Colón, where there are gravel and mountain roads, trails. On the Rancho Redondo side of Coronado, between Coronado and Cartago, there is a 3km trail that is very practical to start with. It’s high, more than 2000 meters above sea level, so it is colder and breathing is an effort, but it is also an opportunity to train in a healthy, cooler environment.
What competition do you recommend for those who want to start racing in Costa Rica? For trail running?
There’s a beautiful race in Cartago: La Candelaria. It starts in La Lima, passes through the center of Cartago, and ends in Paraíso. It’s a 10km race, one of the best attended in Costa Rica.
During the pandemic there are not many events, but when there were, these included the San Silvestre race at the end of the year, with 5 km and 10.4 km options. This is in the center, in La Sabana. The 10K is a little more challenging.
If you focus on a half-marathon, the Sele race that organized by the Football Federation tis very fast and relatively simple in terms of the route. It also has a 10 km option.
For mountain races, the Rincón de la Vieja race is very beautiful. It is an event that takes place every year in May, with a 5K option.
But for trail running there are many events. There is a series called Ecogreen that has five to six events in different areas, from 5 to 10K. Beginners can do these events perfectly well, and even those that are challenging are not as demanding as a 21K.
I recommend looking for event organizers like Ecogreen, who are specialists. They’re the ones I know best, but there are several organizers of mountain races.
What tips do you have for those who want to practice this sport?
First, set a clear personal goal.
Then, have a medical checkup to see if you’re ready to start a marathon process, or just to start running. How’s my heart? How is my body? That is important and we cannot skip it.
Then, get to work with someone who provides adequate planning according to the objectives you are looking for.
Have a good diet.
Understand that this is a process of great perseverance, because if I train one day a week and rest six, then I will not see a benefit. If I say I am going to start training three days and those three days I am fulfilling them with military precision, obviously I’ll see the benefits. That is why it is important to have planning and a guide, because all those details of organization and improvements are going to be given to you.