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The Americas' longest relay race could help Brazil's poor

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Fat raindrops turned into a rare Rio storm minutes before a small blond woman trotted onto the Ipanema sands, the first finisher of the longest relay race in the Americas: 600 kilometers (373 miles) between Brazil’s two largest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

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Over three days last month, 260 runners in 20 teams passed cattle and shrubs in a Nike-sponsored race, the second year the event has been held. The race also had a social cause, donating 600 pairs of tennis shoes to a low-income Rio de Janeiro neighborhood to promote physical activity.

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The winner pumped her fists in the air as she broke the ribbon at the finish line. “This is Brazil, people! It’s marvelous!” she said breathlessly as her green-clad teammates fell into a cheering pile.

Editor's note: The headline of this story has been changed from its original version to reflect that the race was the longest in North and South America.