The 2015 Tijuana Marathon & Half Marathon was a success with the post-race highlights being free Dos Equis XX Beer stand, local massage academy with 25 tables, and the coolest feature was Pic2Go live-posting of race photos to social media profile during the race! (at the bottom)
When Roger and I run a race together, we kiss at the start and see each other at the finish. I was fortunate to have my friend and run leader David Martinez who was running the full as a personal pacer to guide me to my hopeful goal of 1:29. I hung into the plan until mile 8 uphill, then could not regain the cadence anymore. The heat was the same as last year, but I was able to hold onto form and will to finish at 1:36, which was a 4 minute PR from last year. The way they organize it, both the half and the full start at the same time. The full course runs with the half until mile 13 then it rears away to the 2nd half.
Since only one woman passed me on the last few miles, I decided to check the results. Last year after the finish line, we ate breakfast and just left. We had to wait 2 hours for the result sheets to be posted. I got 2nd in my AG and 7th overall female! Although this is a free-entry race, there are many sponsors including Coca-Cola and Dos Equis XXs beer. Podium winners win prize money in an awards ceremony on stage!
Fastforward 2 hours after results were posted for the awards ceremony, there was another 2 hours until the prize money counter would open to distribute the actual check in the adjacent building. It was such a unique experience to be sitting in a waiting area with elite American and African runners (many of whom have moved to Mexico as pros) speaking Spanish with other runners. I socialize with some who know many other Mexican runners that join the altitude training camps in the south of the country. Finally I’m called up, get my check, and we head to the border. In an effort to avoid the border pedestrian crossing delay on a Sunday in Tijuana, we motorcycled to Otay border to cross there. The Otay to Tijuana downtown cab ride was $5. As we exit the prize money building we catch a cab to the Otay border, which I guess the taxi’s use as bait, last minute the driver charges $20 USA for that ride! We are pissed as we get to the Otay border line but thankfully it takes only one hour.
The check is in pesos. I’m told, any HSBC can cash it, even in the States. All banks are closed on Sundays. When I get home, I Google and find there’s one in Horton Plaza. Cool.
My next day off, I bike to HSBC Horton Plaza and there’s a sign saying they’ve moved to Irvine, CA. I take the check to a Bank of America, where although I’m greeted in Spanish in Barrio Logan, I hear the unthinkable. Since HSBC is a Mexican bank and the check is also in another currency, from the USA there’s no way to verify the check is valid. I go to a checking and money exchange place, and again am stuck — the check has to be in USD to cash in USA, and you can only exchange foreign currency in bills. I’m recommended to try San Ysidro Border that has a much larger service called Baja Mex that should do it.
My next day off, I take the MTS Trolley to San Ysidro Baja Mex exchange place, and again hear the same situation. I will have to cross back over to the Tijuana HSBC branch….
I took my passport and bicycle just in case. The closest HSBC I Googled was 4.5mi away from the border. Instead of getting ripped off by random taxi drivers again, I’d rather bike on this beautiful day. Traffic is wild in this big city’s 4 lane roundabouts with signs saying yield for any U-turns. A cyclist needs to be aware and aggressive. Even a sharod would be appreciated but doesn’t exist.
At this point, I don’t have cell service to Google another HSBC Bank. I ask them, where is there an HSBC?? They say, Downtown. Let me remind you that Tijuana is BIG, I’ll just have to head towards downtown and ask passersby when I get closer. This area was called Union with many shopping plazas surrounded by completely ignored pavement with potholes, gravel, dips, holes and glass. Halfway down the 600ft elevation grade I had to climb up, I get a flat rear tire. So I start jogging my bike down Calle Segunda’s shoulder, and thank heavens see the happiest sight of the day a bike shop!
Turns out I jacked up my tube AND tire badly! The owner is an avid rider, gives me a good deal for my new setup and says he hopes to see me at the Ensenada ride coming in September.
Now that I’m back in action, I just take a few passersby inquiries to find the HSBC downtown!! I run in, present my passport and the check and sigh in relief that I made it. The teller looks at me and says, “Thank you. And do you have your Mexicali ID?” I explain, I’m not a local, I’m a foreigner that got a check at the race a month ago visiting again to cash it in. That’s my ID. The teller says, “This check was issued by a Mexican Bank that will only accept Mexican identification to cash it.” I am speechless.
A supervisor explains that they allow “negotiation” with their checks by a Mexican citizen on behalf of the foreigner. The Mexican citizen just signs the check below my signature, presents his/her Mexicali ID and it would be valid and cashed.
I went over alone, and did not have cell service at the time to even ask any Mexican citizens I know. It was already almost 3pm. Beyond irritated, I have to leave the bank, with my burning check in my pocket and I bike back to the border.
ANY Mexican citizen with an ID could negotiate the check for me. Hmm… How can I negotiate with one of these hundreds of Mexican residents I see on the streets around me, with some collateral so he/she doesn’t just walk out with my cash? I need to get this over with today.
I park my bike and walk up to an idle taxi driver. I propose to him: If I had him take me to the HSBC bank roundtrip, and tipped well would he be willing to “negotiate” my check by walking in with me, present his Mexican ID so I can cash my check as a foreigner? It’s a legal check that’s been issued from a race in July. He looks at me, thinks for a second and nods “Yes sure, I’m just about to start my shift.” YYYESSS! Please let the bank accept this!
On route, I brief him on me, I ask his name and where he’s from. When I get to the same teller at HSBC, I tell him “Hi, Joel can negotiate for me. Here are our IDs!” Joel gets the pesos and hands them over to me. I ask him on the walk back how much he’ll charge me for the trip and the service. He says 120 pesos which is $8 USD. He drops me back at my bike, I give him 150 pesos/$10 USD and thank him for his generosity and kindness.
I exchange at the best rate of the day, after expenses it was $150 USD. I was lucky, from the moment I got into the border crossing line to the moment I got onto the Northbound MTS Trolley at San Ysidro was 1 hour. That’s a PR for the Tijuana Border crossing! 🙂
That’s enough Tijuana for the rest of this year. Now I know my way around, and how the check business works. I’ll just ask one of my Mexican friends who visit TJ often to cash any check for next year (crossing fingers). I wonder if any foreigners have trouble cashing USD checks in USA without a USA ID??
Besides the ordeal I went through figuring it all out, I met really nice helpful people on my journey. None of the day’s conversations were in English, how’s your Spanish??