by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Cuban police officer Jorge Luis Suarez has chased and captured a fair few criminals in his 26 years on the force. But it's his participation in the country's marathons that really showcases his enviable running skills and physical condition.
A police captain on the verge of turning 48, Suarez is a four-time winner of the Marabana, Cuba's top international marathon.
On Sunday, he competed in Run 24:1, a global race organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to celebrate the upcoming Global Running Day - held annually on the first Wednesday in June - and champion healthy habits.
The race spans the globe, featuring one-mile runs in 24 cities across different time zones in a 24-hour period.
This year's edition covered 16 different time zones, starting in Fiji and continuing through Beijing, Delhi, Gaza, Copenhagen, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Bogota, Mexico City, Havana and Atlanta, among other cities.
Olympic and world champions were among the several hundred people gathered at the starting line along Havana's emblematic Paseo del Prado promenade, in the city's historic downtown area.
"This is Cuba's total support for this effort by the IAAF - to move, to walk for quality of life and, above all, for people's health," two-time Olympic champion Alberto Juantorena told Xinhua.
Juantorena, who won the 400- and 800-meter races at the 1976 Montreal Games, organized the local leg of 24:1 as president of the Cuban Athletics Federation.
More than a race, the event encourages running or walking one mile, equal to 1,609 meters, to help promote an active lifestyle, according to high jump world record holder and Olympic silver medalist Javier Sotomayor, who served as captain of the event.
"Cuba was chosen as a venue for the second time, mostly because of the results and massive participation we had last year," said Sotomayor.
Olympic champion in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Dayron Robles expressed Cuba's belief that "sport is health and that is a principle."
"Running has become an ideology and I think it is important, because it is a way to seek peace or tranquility after the stress of work," said Robles.
On Wednesday, the IAAF convened the ministries of sports and education, as well as all its member federations, to celebrate Global Running Day by organizing a one-mile race for children in elementary schools and local sports clubs.
Friday will see the closing event, with a symbolic race in the Principality of Monaco, with the participation of local sports authorities, along with IAAF council and staff members and several sporting figures.
In 2018, more than 120,000 people participated in the first edition of Run 24:1, starting at the Silverdale Elementary School in Auckland, New Zealand, and ending in Vancouver, on Canada's west coast.