HOW A SHUTTLE DRIVER SAVED THIS BLOGGER’S LIFE

12.05.2011

Finishing it up

Or, how I travelled to Jamaica for a marathon but only ran 10K!

[Warning: This is a long one, but decided on one big final post on this story instead of several smaller ones.  Get a coffee, or a coconut or better yet, a Red Stripe, and enjoy!]

So, you can already tell from the photograph that things weren’t quite as dire as the title might suggest. This is really more a story of “planes, trains, and automobiles” than extolling the virtues of CPR training.

First I must say, this is really a bit of a comedy of errors, at least some of which were probably my own, and that the race organizers did a fabulous job of putting on the event. Anyone following the blog has to know that we went off to Jamaica for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K.  I suppose that staying with the above scenario, the “planes” part was getting from Vancouver to Negril.  That went well enough.  We even had snow during our stop-over in Winnipeg to make the arrival in the lush tropical environment of Jamaica all that much sweeter.  To simplify matters and in a spirit of full disclosure, there were NO trains. But, there sure were automobiles of various sorts and therein lies the story.

Chris Morales - Social Media Guru

We got our race packets Thursday and did the pasta party Friday night.  I finally met Chris Morales, That Runnin’ Guy, who hooked me into actually blogging about the event.  Unfortunately, he had his own issues around getting to the race and despite original plans, only arrived on-site around 7:00pm Friday night.  He has had a major part in the on-line promotion of the Reggae Marathon and did a fabulous job of increasing the social media profile.  I also got to meet a couple of the other folk who have been involved as I was, interacting with the event blog and posting independently, Navin Savarangin, Larry Savitch and Bob Moore. Except for Chris’ unfortunate late arrival, things were going just swimmingly.

Things really started to go wrong long before we left home, even though I didn’t know it at the time. How so?  Well, we booked ourselves into a marvellous little resort that was a greater distance from the race start and course than I had realized.  Why is that a problem?  Well, the Reggae Marathon runs along the beach road and during the race it is closed to ALL traffic.  There are no parallel roads by which you can go along-side the course and then just cut over when appropriate.  This road is normally alive with taxis and shuttle buses, more or less day and night, but from 3:30am race morning until about 12:30pm that road is closed except for runners and official shuttles, and I DO mean closed.  Our first problem turned out to be getting from where we were to where the official race shuttles were running.  In the future, while I might very well return to the Rhodes Hall Plantation Resort for a vacation, it would be post-race not before.  Anyone thinking about the Reggae Marathon wants to find accommodation somewhere along the Negril beach road or close by.  There are lots of hotels of every level and type.

Once we arrived in Negril, It didn’t take long to realize we had a situation to manage.  Because of the early hour and the road restrictions I was fairly sure there would be few of the regular taxis.  We had to get to a certain location where the official shuttles would run, and by a certain time.  I was planning to book a car of some sort, but upon check-in at the media centre, was assured that there was a bus coming from a big resort even farther down the road and that arrangements could be made, and were, to pick us up in front of our resort at 4:15am. Superb!!  We were up and out at 4:00am.  I quickly realized that my instincts about very little traffic were good.  The gate-keeper, Norbert, dutifully stood with us first watching for our transport, and then when after just too long, it didn’t come, he worked hard to hail down anything moving.  Why the bus didn’t come is hard to say.  Several passed by and one could have been ours. Maybe they changed drivers. Maybe the message didn’t get to the driver. Maybe he forgot.  Maybe, because he was coming from way down the road, he got diverted by the alternate route going the (very) long way around the beach strip, right to Negril town.

As we stood in the dark and eventually watched the sky start to lighten, we ticked off the options open to us along with the time.  First, it was along the lines of ‘if it comes now, we can still get to “Point A” and the last on-course athlete shuttle to the start’.  Then, it was, if it comes now we can get to “Point B” the end of the course and make our way to the start somehow.  When the race start time of 5:15 passed and we were still waiting, thinking started to get a bit muddled.  All I knew was that I still wanted to get to the start somehow and run something.  Originally, Judi was to do the 10K and I was planning on the full marathon.  Maybe we would both do the 10K or the Half and 10K.

Finally, the magic began. A taxi going the wrong way, but empty, finally stopped.  Norbert knew the driver and off we went to get where we could go. As it turned out by that time – not very far! I still hoped that flashing my media badge I could get us some special dispensation.  Hah!  So much for my delusions of grandeur. The police had blocked the road a long way from the near end of the race route because it was the only reasonable turn-around spot.  We begged a police officer to help us with our situation.  Hotel staff shuttles were still being allowed to pass this location and we were able, with his help to beg our way onto the bus. It was already full, but as anyone who has travelled in similar places knows, there is always just a bit more room.  This phase got us as far as anyone was going that morning, but still shy of the actual race route.  I guess, this was “Point C”.  From here it was walking, even the staff (some of whom weren’t all that pleased).

The actual race course was still most of a kilometer away, but I figured that there may be race vehicles stationed along the way that could help us out – I did still have my media accreditation badge!  That idea didn’t work out so well.  There really was nothing much more than emergency vehicles and while WE figured we had an emergency situation, they sure weren’t going to be looking at it from our point of view!  Walking it was.  Poor Judi.  She is an avid and regular walker, but her legs aren’t as long as mine and I don’t think the adrenalin was pumping quite as hard for her.  I may have pushed her pretty hard.  She was a good sport though and pressed on.

Lead runner of the Half - early dawn.

We were about 3.5-4 miles from the start/finish when we started out.  Time-wise, it was already well into the race, to the point that shortly after we began our trek, the lead runners in the Half Marathon were passing by us on the way out the turn-around, and soon after, on the way to the finish. With nothing else to do, we cheered on the runners as they progressed and kept our own trek going toward the start. With each step it was now getting lighter – the sun officially rises around 6:30. We saw several people we had met over the previous couple of days and I took the opportunity to snap a photo or two.

We finally arrived at the start area, and by then, the finish for almost all 10K runners and more than a few Half Marathoners.  As a race director, I knew we had to stay away from the timing mats with our chips.  I searched for a member of the timing squad and finally made contact with Frano, the Race Director.  After a quick explanation of what had happened, or “hadn’t” actually, I told him I no longer had any interest in trying to run a full marathon, and was probably not even sure about the half, as the sun was growing hotter.  The 10K would be it.  Judi figured at that point he had already walked most of the 10K she planned to do and decided to just wait and be my official photographer.  Frano gave me instructions on how to get out on the course and over a timing mat that could later be used to give me a time.  Off I went. It was about 7:30am – just two hours and fifteen minutes behind!  Yea for chip timing!

The run itself was relatively uneventful and a lot fun once all the other stuff was behind us, but even doing that 10K in the full sun was taxing and I was quickly glad that I had not elected to do the Half Marathon, which was still entirely possible with the time available.  Reggae music is a big feature of the Reggae Marathon and I even kind of “danced” my way past a couple of particularly inspiring music stations.  It was a bit fun as well as a little embarrassing to see people being really impressed and cheering me on!  Impressed – why?  Well, for anyone who understood the system, I was still wearing my full marathon number bib. So here I was, this old guy rambling along at a pretty impressive pace and well past half way in a full marathon.  Of course my pace was impressive.  I was only doing 10K and when the first people took notice, I had just started and was no more than maybe 2-3km into the run!  Everybody looks good at that point and those that noticed thought I was at more like 25km in!  The embarrassing part was when I passed a fellow of around 40 or so, who WAS doing the full marathon and he thought he was being passed by this guy at least 20 years his senior.  I was afraid he was going to try to chase me.  Guess I would have told him my story, but even that is awkward because telling him he shouldn’t try to keep up to me would have been almost as bad as just quietly going by and let him wonder.  Thankfully, for both of us, he wisely held his own pace.

As I neared the finish area I had to consider what came next.  At first I thought it was just a hard left turn to the finish, but realized that my Garmin was telling me I would be quite short of the 10K distance.  I remembered that as we had approached the finish area on our long walk in, there was a coned turning point.  Nobody was using it and they were even starting to clear it away before I started but that was where I had to go before my dash to the finish line.  The problem was, that I wasn’t certain where it was and could see nothing on the road.  I used the Garmin to make my turn and at least by its reading was within a few meters of being right when I actually finished.

I realized as I headed down the finish chute and got a look at the clock, that for a 66 year-old full marathoner I was clocking a fabulous time – about 3:27, if of course, I HAD been doing a full marathon and not just a late starting 10K.  I never did that kind of time in my best running days, but here I was, in full flight with my full marathon bib headed for the finish line and a 3:27 clocking.  I yelled at the race announcer, who was calling names and the usual stuff, that I was only doing 10K, not the fullmarathon.  Thankfully, she must have heard me because there was no hoopla about this amazing marathon by “Ask Dan”!

Medal, coconut, Red strip - soon come!

Someone tried to put a marathon medal on me and I insisted they give me what I earned and what I think may have been the last 10K finisher medal.  It was the only one I could see in any case.  As disappointed as I may have been to not try the full marathon, I was also happy to have been allowed to run something and enjoy the experience of the race.  I had earned my coconut AND my Red Stripe, both of which I made sure I got – in that order.  I watched things happening in the finish area and could see what a fantastic vibe it had.  Running any race, bu particularly the longer ones, there is a well justified feeling of accomplishment.  Taking on the elements and the distance and getting home with a decent time is priceless and you could see it on so many faces.

Frano, the race director is a hard man to track down.  When I found him, I just wanted to thank him for making it possible for me to get out on the course, even for my scaled down race.  He was doing some announcements and presentations, so I waited for him to be done.  When I thought he was finished for the time being I went over to express my thanks.  I hardly had the words out of my mouth, when he had the microphone back at his own, thanking ME for taking part and being such a good sport about missing the bus, but still coming to run what I could.  Talk about gracious hospitality!  Of course, he did know who I was because of the blogging, so he informed everyone that he intended to make me into an ambassador for the Reggae Marathon.  Got a round of applause and everything.  After that, who could possibly say no??

While I’m not sure it is going to be 2012, there is a pretty good chance I’ll be back.  Either the Reggae Marathon owes me a maratho performance or I owe the Reggae Marathon one, but either way there remains a marathon as yet undone.  Maybe I will be like Chris Morales and collect the full set of events and medals. I will certainly recommend the Reggae Marathon to friends.  The 10K and Half Marathon pose far less challenge in terms of the sun, just in case I’ve painted too dire a picture.  Air temperature is not nearly the challenge that the direct heat of the sun is.  Even a two hour half marathoner will be done before the sun is really up and shining hot and bright.  If you intend to go for the full meal deal, you must account for the time you will be running after about 7:30.  Had I made the start on time, I would have been finishing the first half just around the time I started my customized 10K.  When I actually finished, I would have had another 11km to go in a full marathon.  Would that have been impossible? No. I always said I would run the first half and do what was necessary for the second. Anyone running more than about 3 hours has to have a plan to run well and stay safe. All of that said, if you want a really different and really special running experience, head on off to Jamaica in early December (Dec 1, 2012) for the Reggae Marathon.  Still, and obviously not quite as dramatically as the title suggests, the driver who didn’t pick us up may have done me a favor.  I already knew intellectually what was coming, but having experienced it first hand, I will be truly ready for the next time.  As much as I thought I was, I am not so sure I really was prepared for the full marathon on December 3, 2011.

Negril 1969 - Judi and Dan

Post Script: Although it had nothing directly to do with the race, the picture of Judi and me from 1969 had certainly got the connection going.  I was pretty sure it was taken somewhere near the location of the start/finish venue, so out we went onto the beach for the re-enactment.

Negril 2011 - Judi and Dan

We enlisted the aid of some other folks on the beach and in the end had several versions, including a few taken by Chris (as promised) from which to choose. The reader can decide if we got close and whether or not the subjects of the two photographs have changed in 42 years.  I know that Negril and the beach have.  Judi’s hair is shorter, as is mine, but otherwise……………………..

4 responses to “HOW A SHUTTLE DRIVER SAVED THIS BLOGGER’S LIFE”

  1. Nancy Tinari
    12.16.2011 - 3:52pm

    This post is a fantastic example of the ability to be flexible when plans change uncontrollably!

    It sounds as though you still had a wonderful time overall–and got some sense of achievement from completing the 10K, though you were a bit embarrassed about your “fake” 3:27 marathon time.

    Good pics! The left one is a bit blurry–so can’t be sure if there are many changes. 🙂

  2. RITZadmin
    12.16.2011 - 4:54pm

    Well, you either go with it or mess up your own party, I guess. Re the 3:27 marathon time – I knew that in the heat and my age group, it would be a winning time based on previous years. Didn’t want the very enthusiastic announcer getting all excited about it. As far at the 1969 picture goes, let me assure you there has been little change, except maybe that both of us have shorter hair.

  3. Running out of time at Reggae Marathon - The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K
    01.16.2012 - 3:02am

    […] the blogger, wrote about his experience and it’s a great story.  Check it out here:  ”How a shuttle bus driver saved this blogger’s life“. Dan and Judi on the beach in Negril, […]

  4. RITZadmin
    01.16.2012 - 10:01am

    Happy to recall those great warm days and the experience of the Reggae Marathon, especially all the people involved. We will be back!