On November 15, I joined 567 Americans and ran the Maratón de La Habana-MARABANA 2015 in Havana, Cuba.
The MaraCuba 4k “fun run” takes place the day before the Maratón de La Habana-MARABANA on Physical Culture and Sports Day. I ran the 4k and later that afternoon I took a taxi to the Ciudad Deportiva for the pasta dinner followed by a race course review. Runners are shuttled around the course by bus.
The Maratón de La Habana-MARABANA starts in front of El Capitolio. It runs along the Malecón, past the Hotel Nacional, the recently re-opened U.S. Embassy, and the Plaza de la Revolución before finishing back at El Capitolio. Aid stations are stocked with clear plastic bags of lime and fruit punch flavored water. The upside for American runners is that 1 km goes by a lot faster than 1 mile. At the finish line runners are funneled into a courtyard where Cuban runners compete for international runners’ shoes. I gave my Brooks Glycerins to a young woman that I had met at the MaraCuba 4k. Post-race I stocked up on water and two cinnamon raisin buns at the panadería next to the Inglaterra Hotel.
TRAVEL TO CUBA
Americans can now purchase direct flights to Havana, Cuba on Delta, Southwest, JetBlue, American Airlines, and United. In my case, it was as simple as checking a box on the Travel Affidavit for general license category 8. “Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic & Other Competitions, and Exhibitions.” Guidelines for traveling to Cuba, including how to apply for a Cuban visa, are on the U.S. Embassy in Cuba website. I purchased my visa through Cuba Travel Services for $85.
The Cuban Government requires all passengers traveling from the U.S. to Cuba to have Cuban health insurance to enter the country. Health insurance policies issued by U.S. insurance companies do not provide coverage in Cuba. If you fly direct from the US with one of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) licensed carriers ASISTUR health insurance is included as a mandatory Cuba Health Insurance Fee. Proof of ASISTUR coverage and contact information is stamped on the back of your boarding pass or receipt.
You can exchange US dollars for Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) at the José Martí International Airport. There is a 10% penalty for Americans.
A casa particular (Spanish for “private house”) is a private accommodation in Cuba, very similar to a bed and breakfast. Casas particulares can be identified by a small sign on the door, with two blue triangles (‘roofs’) against a white background, and cost about 25 CUCs per night which includes breakfast.
Casa Alta Habana is a short 1.5 km from the Marabana starting line. Café El Escorial and Fototeca de Cuba, as well as, Spa Sio, where I had a post race massage, are located one block from Casa Alta Habana in Plaza Vieja.
Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) is a government-owned telephone, internet, and wireless services provider in Cuba. For the price of a Cristol Cerveza, I was able to access WiFi internet at the Inglaterra Hotel bar. Tourists can purchase the ETECSA card with a scratch-off code at the Hotel Plaza in Central Havana. One hour of internet costs 4.5 CUC which is $4.50 USD.
ALCOHOL AND CIGAR LIMITS
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, “Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.”
My transit through U.S. Customs in Tampa was uneventful, in spite of the Cuban stamp in my passport plus three bottles of Havana Club Rum and ten Cuban cigars.
The Trump administration has imposed new travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba, however, it is still possible for Americans to travel solo without a tour group.
Casa Alta Habana
Host: Romey Chuit
Calle San Ignacio e/ Sol y Muralla
Edifico 412, Apto 2, La Habana Vieja
Malecon # 461 Apto 7
Perseverancia/Campanario C. Havana
Casa: +53 78600329
Cell: +53 53862139
Host: Jose Antonio Cervera Mora
Trinidad. Sancti Spiritus. Cuba.
Tel: (53) (41) 993 963
Cell: (53) 54 154 651
Register for the Maratón de La Habana-MARABANA 2020_____
Susan M Hall is an American long-distance runner with a goal to run a 10k in all 193 UN recognized countries plus the two permanent non-member observer states of Palestine & the Holy See.
On her radar are the Košice Peace Half Marathon ☮️ Kosice, Slovakia, the Istanbul 15k 🇹🇷, Istanbul, Turkey the Beirut Half Marathon, Beirut, Lebanon, the Pyramids Half Marathon, Giza, Egypt & the Quantum Nicosia Half Marathon, Nicosia, Cyprus.