Archive for November, 2017


THE REGGAE MARATHON ADVENTURE BEGINS AGAIN

11.26.2017

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani, the first time we all met at Reggae Marathon Pasta Party

I arrived yesterday (Nov 23) in Jamaica and am staying for a couple of days with fellow Reggae running friend, Lawrence Watson at his Castle Vue Bed & Breakfast in Montego Bay. I expect to soon see the guy who introduced us seven years ago, Navin Sadarangani, one of the Four Amigos. Navin and Lawrence know each other from the days when Navin lived in MoBay and they used to run together. Navin is also here for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. This is a great start to the vacation and running adventure that is the Reggae Marathon!

Of course, most of us (except Navin) never actually RUN the actual marathon. This year, that includes the ever intrepid Navin, who broke his leg earlier in the year in a (if you can believe it) non-running accident. 10K this year for Navin. The only other of the Four Amigos to have run the marathon is Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy) and it was his first time, nine years ago. I intended to at my first Reggae Marathon, but you’ve heard that story more than enough times.

First run, with Lawrence Watson in Montego Bay

I have started writing this at Castle Vue, but expect I won’t finish it and post until I get to Negril and my home for the remainder of the stay, Rondel Village. The only reason for waiting is largely because I have this personal THING about not really being here until I’m checked in at Rondel Village. Because I can (retired, doncha’ know?) I always lengthen my stay beyond the time needed to attend Reggae Marathon weekend (3-4 days). It is too far to travel, not to stay at least a week. Several times it has been more, including this time.

Sunday sun rising over Norman Manley Blvd

So, I am the ‘advance party’ and like to taunt my friends about getting here hurrying up to join me. I post a few photos like the ones here, just to get them fired up about their trip and the fun of the event. It doesn’t take much! While the “Four Amigos” remain the core, the list of other friends grows every year, and of course the Reggae Marathon ‘family’ of Frano, Diane, Jessica, and Gena is part of it.

This is the last year (it is said) that the race will be on Saturday. For a bunch of reasons, starting next year (2019), the race will happen on Sunday. It won’t much impact me (see above) but should help people who want to run but don’t have the time to take much more than a long weekend.

Quick stop for a ‘selfie’ during the first run in Negril

One of the first orders of business, usually my first morning in Negril, is a run in the early morning. It is both a celebration of being back (as they say here “Welcome Home”) and a bit of a safety measure. Safety? Yes, when you come from The Great White North (aka Canada) it has been some time since you will have experienced the everyday weather conditions of Negril. As hot places go, Negril is really not extreme, but if you can, some acclimatization is highly recommended. I can.

While I love running the beach, my first run is usually along Norman Manley Blvd (the race route). It used to be a bit dodgy running along the shoulder of the road, but a couple of years ago they installed a completely separated pathway that extends almost the whole length of the 10K route. I have been known to run the length of the pathway heading north, then cut over onto the beach for the return ‘home’. Best of both worlds!

That Runnin’ Guy, runnin’ the beach at dawn. Not sure why I didn’t ask him to take my photo too.

Last year, Chris and I went running on the beach one delightful morning and since I had my phone/camera with me, he asked if I would take a few shots of him. I did. Stupidly (IT WAS MY CAMERA!!!) I never thought to say, ‘now you take a couple of me’. Doh. Going to fix that this year, but here is what ‘running the beach’ looks like just around sunrise.

Maybe I’ll get him to capture me going the other way. You know, don’t want to look too copy-cat. One thing I do know is that I won’t run the beach barefoot until the actual race is over. I am a real tender-foot and have more than once worked up an uncomfortable blister from the shifting sand under the toes on some beach or another, including Negril. So, just a word to the wise if you are anything like me, or don’t know for sure.

The locals know all about the Reggae Marathon, but for some my early morning runs are a bit like the first robin of Spring. At least, I like to think of it that way. “Oh man, it be dat time so soon?!” Of course, that is my idea. They may be thinking, “what is that stupid white dude doing running up and down and sweating all over everything?” No, I’m sure that isn’t it. First Robin, for sure. All I know is that I get lots of warm greetings, including a few that really do involve an element of “is it that time again, already?”

Negril River and fishing boats

There is a VERY good chance I won’t come in 2019 and I really want to do the half marathon this time. So, all the more reason to get some acclimatization runs in before race day. The race looks after us very well, probably couldn’t really do better, but it is still hotter here than the running guides suggest you should be out there racing, and especially shooting for PBs. I guess the local runners can go right ahead. For them this is just normal. And, there are getting to be more Jamaicans running distance.

Sunday morning and I have completed all the rituals of the first run, first breakfast of ackee and salt fish (even chatted up my waitress about the care and handling of fresh ackee!). First dip in the sea outside Rondel Village. Sunrise photo and the route of the race. I HAD to take a couple of photos from the bridge over the Negril River (boats and egrets) although most Reggae runners don’t see that early morning view (still dark when you get there). More than a few ‘selfies’ to chronicle the run and from an ‘album’ I’m thinking about from the trip. Take selfies now, decide later.

Egrets on the Negril River

So, I think that is it for ‘starters’. This won’t be my last post before Reggae Marathon, but it makes me feel good to be here and I’m looking forward to seeing all my Reggae Marathon friends as the week goes along. First one I expect to see will be That Runnin’ Guy!

Later in the week, I may even do a short post of Jamaican ‘food porn’, or maybe I’ll just eat what I find and you will have to come and see for yourself!  Soon come, Reggae Marathon!

IT HAS BEEN A BUSY FEW WEEKS!

11.18.2017

I promised myself I would write about this right after my last post on getting ready for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. The title says it all. It starts with the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (weekend), rolls through the Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge put on by Forerunners, and then on into the Fall Classic, just this past Sunday, which also coincided with completion of the second ForerunnersYour Run Starts Here – Learn to Run 5K” clinic. Oh yes, and catching up one more time on our ‘road’ warrior, Walter Downey who has had a busy and amazing YEAR, never mind the last few weeks.

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

The entire family, post-race Victoria 2017

I have said before, because it is true, this is the Cumming family ‘go to’ event. While I may have missed counting one or two of our individual races, as a group, we have participated in at least 30 races at this event since 2000. Daughter Janna and I ran the marathon that year. It was my second and her first. In a way, it was my first too. The actual ‘first’ was the Vancouver Marathon in 1988, but that was more than 12 years earlier, not to mention one spinal surgery (something about a ruptured disk). I had made a couple of false starts after the surgery in 1990, but #2 marathon happened October, 2000. Since then, I have a personal total of 13 appearances at the Victoria Marathon weekend, including all three events, marathon, half marathon and 8K. The last two years I have run the 8K with grandson, Charlie. His Mom, daughter Danielle, specializes in the Victoria Half. I think registering is now part of her New Year tradition. Janna has run the marathon a couple of times and the half, several more, and joined us boys for the 8K this year. I have five marathons, six half marathons and the two 8Ks with Charlie. Throw in a son-in-law in the Half (Janna’s husband) and it all adds up to 30.

This year we had four runners (Janna, Charlie and me in the 8K, with Danielle running the half marathon). It was a fabulous day to run and 100% of the family was present, even if some didn’t run this time. Charlie had a PB by over six minutes! Danielle had her best time in years. That was especially sweet, after preparing in 2016, getting injured just before race day, trying to run and making it to the first turn when discretion became the better part of valour and she wisely shut it down! It was that kind of injury – straight ahead, semi-OK, anything else, not so much.

Biggest disappointment prize for 2017 went to the other grandson, Jonah. He is deemed to be too young to run yet (not quite 3 years). I use the term ‘deemed’ because Jonah does NOT concur. Maybe next year for him in the kids run.

Final note on Victoria, I also had another ‘family’ to run with. Two of the participants from the first Forerunners Learn to Run 5K clinic stepped up to 8K and apparently used me as an unofficial ‘pacer’. Both did great and we all four of us finished within seconds of each other.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED!

PM Justin Trudeau in White Rock

So, as I was working on this blog piece I learned that PM Justin Trudeau was making a brief stop in town to support his candidate in a bye-election we are having here. Well, when your Prime Minister is coming to a place a few blocks from where you live, you just naturally go to greet him! There was a great crowd there and regardless of anyone’s political leanings the nearby schools did the right thing and brought the kids out to see the PM of Canada. What fun! I truly think that the PM was having as much fun as the kids and probably high-fived every last one of them. Selfies were taken (that was what was happening in this photo). I was as close as the photo implies and a nearby woman handed me her phone so I could take her and her child with the PM, just a moment after I took this shot. That was the kind of day it was. (Oh, and he is a runner, so I guess he belongs here on that basis too, although I don’t think that is why people came out to see him.)

OK, back to blogging!

Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge

You are forgiven if you’ve never heard of the Seven Summits Challenge. It is brand new this year and thus far just 22 people have met that challenge. The next and final chance is Sunday November 19. At this point, it isn’t clear how many will take it on, but I’m guessing that the final total won’t be far off 30.

What IS the Seven Summits of Vancouver?

Seven Summits Finishers – October, 2017

Since opening their new store on Main Street, Forerunners has been doing all sorts of fun based running activities to get people motivated. The Seven Summits, being a 47km route, is not exactly for the beginner. On the other hand, it is NOT a race, but rather an activity to be completed. There is a practical time limit that ensures everyone gets out and back in a reasonable time, but that is more than nine hours, almost ten, for completion. If you do the math and make very few stops, you could argue that the Challenge could be done by walking. To my knowledge nobody did actually walk it and the quickest ‘Challenger’, thus far, finished just around four hours. I don’t want to even know exactly what the time was, because there is NO recognition for speed, just doing. If you were cynical, you might harken back to the tried and true saying, “My parents went to XXX and all I got was this T-shirt!”. Yep. That is the reward for completing this Challenge, a T-shirt (and some awesome bragging rights). But, it is one VERY unique and EXCLUSIVE garment. The only way to get one is to start and finish the Seven Summits. As noted, so far there are just 22 of us can make that claim.

There were 5 opportunities, spaced roughly a month apart, with the final one for 2017 happening November 19. I took ‘the Challenge’ on October 22. I was not seriously trained (I’d done about half the distance, twice, in preparation and to try out my strategy). I never planned to try to run the whole thing, but had carefully considered how I would go 5K over the standard marathon distance of 42.2K. I was confident of my ability to finish, which is all that is required. How sore I’d be the next day was something to be discovered later.

Summit #1 – Top of Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver is kind of bumpy, so the ‘Summits’ were certainly high places in the landscape, but just possibly a little arbitrary. SEVEN became a key aspect of the whole thing: 7 summits, start at 7:07am, entry fee $7.70 (proceeds to Firemen’s Burn Fund), etc, etc. Thankfully, nobody got the idea the duration should be seven hours! The new store is located at 23rd Ave and Main Street. Not terribly far away is Queen Elizabeth Park, or as we called it when I was kid growing up in the neighbourhood, “Little Mountain“. Naturally, that was the First Summit. From there the route made its way to 37th Ave and a long easy downhill trend to 41st Ave and SW Marine Drive. That is just where Marine Drive starts through Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC Endowment Lands. This spot is also on the BMO Vancouver Marathon route. What is most significant about this location is that it is the bottom of the Camosun Street hill. And oh yes, a hill it is! When you reach to top of Camosun at 29th Ave, you have achieved the Second Summit. It is a little known fact, but when you reach 29th, you really haven’t reached the highest ground in the area. Nope. So continuing on around the edge of Pacific Spirit Park to 16th Ave and then West on 16th into the heart of the UBC campus, you turn North on East Mall to what is the Third Summit, somewhere near East Mall and University Blvd. (I realize none of this means anything to anyone who isn’t a local, so feel free to skip ahead, or just read on to get the general feel of how long and difficult the route is.) From that point the route slowly and then rather quickly heads down (you are actually back on Marine Drive again) to the beaches of Spanish Banks, Locarno, Jericho. All of this is pretty flat until you leave Jericho Beach. Eventually, traversing West Point Grey Road which morphs into Cornwall Street, you find yourself at the Fourth Summit, the Burrard Bridge. Immediately upon crossing over the bridge, you hang a hard left and continue down to the beach area of English Bay and into Stanley Park. This is where I would say ‘ignorance is bliss’ really kicks in for this Challenge. Following Park Drive, you make your way up and up and up (not the steepest but certainly the longest most gruelling climb of the Challenge) until you reach Prospect Point and the Fifth Summit. The down side is actually much shorter and sharper than the up side and when you hit the bottom of that hill, the route mercifully cuts through the middle of Stanley Park on Pipeline Road. Around the North side of Lost Lagoon and along the English Bay Beach Path until you are under that old Burrard Bridge again. You head up the stairs to Pacific and Burrard, back right and over the bridge again. Sorry, but there is only one ‘credit’ for the Burrard Bridge. Pretty much upon reaching solid ground on the West side, it is up Cypress to 16th, East to Granville and then a short sharp ‘up’ to the The Crescent, and the Sixth Summit. There is a quick whip around Crescent and back out onto 16th Ave headed for Main Street. Yessir! Main Street. At that point it is a mere 8 blocks UP Main to 23rd, the Forerunners store and the FINISH of the Seven Summits of Vancouver.

Summit #5 Prospect Point (I stopped for coffee!)

The whole thing was waaaaay more fun than I expected it would be (or it maybe sounds). Having just spent forever, talking you through the route, I am not going to talk you through MY experience of that route. What I do want to say is that because there was no pace requirement or hard finish goal, as you would have in a race, or even a training run, it was possible to look around and see what was happening. I even ran into one of my Learn to Run clinic members and stopped for a chat! I stopped for coffee (as do many, including the seven other people who ran the day I did). You could even stop for a quick lunch (as did the others). I had a kind of rolling lunch as I knew I had to keep moving if I was to finish comfortably. The others were much younger and much faster than me, so they took more and longer breaks, but we kept encountering each other along the way and funny enough, three passed me with just a few blocks left to the finish, while the rest finished just a few minutes behind me. As it happened, it was an amazing day. My strategy was to run easily on all down-hills and walk the ups. Flats would depend on how I was feeling at the time. Some were run. Some were walked.

Summit #7 – Forerunners on Main – I MADE IT!

You are to be self-supported with gels, your own water, and enough money to take a taxi if required. Completion was to be proved by logging the run into Strava and showing ‘selfies’ at the various Summits. I KNOW I wasn’t the fastest, but also not the slowest to complete. I also know how much satisfaction I got from doing it and how much fun it was to go that far with the only goal being to finish. Meeting my fellow ‘runners’ along the route was also fun. I guess the one unique claim I can make is that I am probably, by some years, the oldest to complete the Challenge! Would I do it again? Not for me, but I was intending to do it with one of my runner friends from the Forerunners clinics. It didn’t work out for her due to work demands (limiting training), but she wants to try it next year. We’ll see. Never say never!

Your Run Starts Here – Learn to Run 5K

I have written about this before and mentioned it previously, and will again. The Learn to Run (LTR) Clinic has been a general success and personal thrill this summer. We had two groups complete the whole program, the first starting in May at the time of the official opening of the Forerunners Main Street store. I wrote the manual and built the training program, then became the ‘Head Coach’ for the clinics. The biggest thing for me was the satisfaction of seeing people show up, very unsure that they could do this thing of running 5K, but ready to try, and then DOING it.

We start out very gently, but soon increase the amount of actual run time and eventually even pace. The process or system is set up so the individual is only asked to run at their own comfortable pace. Everything is based on time. So, in the first session there is a warm-up and cool-down walking segment, but sandwiched in the middle are 10 reps of run one minute, walk one minute. Some found that quite challenging. A bunch of weeks later, the same people ran 30 minutes without a break. Nobody is more amazed than they, themselves. The looks on those faces is what turns my crank. What happens next is up to them, but a significant number from each of the first two groups have seamlessly moved on into other run groups and are continuing. We specifically stress that it is a Learn to RUN, not Learn to RACE clinic, but several have actually taken on 5K, 8K and 10K events since the first two clinics ended.

We are taking a break now until the New Year, but will be picking it up again on January 6 for the next 12 week Learn to Run 5K clinic. It should be a great challenge for all those New Year’s Resolutions to be played out!

Fall Classic 5K

2:30 Pace Group – Fall Classic Half Marathon

The Fall Classic has been around for a good many years. It has been under various organizers and has had a range of formats. The core race is the Half Marathon. However, at various times there have been 10K and 5K races too, which is the current format. As far as I know, it has always been located on the UBC campus. It has always been in November. It hasn’t always been nice weather, but maybe that is part of the charm and challenge! 2016 was definitely NOT nice. I know. I was the 2:30 Pacer for the Half Marathon. It was cold and wet. A picture, being worth a thousand words, I will just let the accompanying photo stand on its own.

When I was asked if I would pace again this year, I begged for the 5K and the time of 35 minutes. Partly, that was because I took a considered decision after the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in early June, to really cut back on long runs and try to get the constant fatigue out of my legs. It seemed I was never truly recovered from my last run. When I raced, even much shorter distances, my times were nothing like what I thought possible. So, come November 2017 I was in no condition to pace a half marathon – no training. There was also a further method in my madness, because 35:00 for 5K was just about what my clinic runners were trained to do. If I paced that particular group, I could provide a friendly and familiar leadership for anyone who decided to give it at try. There were FOUR such people. It all worked a charm, with me coming in at 34:26 and all those following my lead as the pacer, being pushed in front, to finish just ahead of me. I had done a practice run on the route, finishing in 33:38 (was supposed to be 35:00), so I knew a) I could hit the pace and b) run much faster than 35:00, even if that was not the intention. I’m still competitive at heart!

Well, perhaps my good intentions and good deed of pacing and hitting my pace, was rewarded by what I call ‘running karma’. I wound up actually winning my Age Group! That is one of the prettiest gold medals I’ve earned (yes, they gave all age groups in all races, medals for their podium finishes). I don’t kid myself that it was a fabulous time for me or the age division, but as I now like to say (OK, maybe cling to) is that you can only race those who show up!

A couple of old winners celebrate Age Group golds (Rod and Dan)

Speaking of racing those who show up, the Forerunners gang had a fabulous day across the three races. Coach Tony from 4th Ave, WON the half marathon. Coach Carey from Main Street won his age group. Rod Waterlow (M80-89) and I won our divisions in the 5K, while Walter Downey took on the ‘double’ and came second in his age division in both the 10K and 5K. There were many more and I think the final total was around 11 podium finishes. Not a bad day’s work, I would say!

One final note on 5K clinic runners, in addition to the four in the 5K, three from the first clinic group (I call them The Graduates) decided to take on the 10K and did great!

Catching Up With Walter

Walter’s Year at the Races!

Readers may recall a blog piece I devoted to Walter Downey and his decision to dig down and go for it, entitled “Where There’s a Will…………….” If you don’t recall, well the link is there for you to check it out. The story was partly about his accomplishments, the biggest of which was the changes he made and determination he applied to his goal. The whole story of him getting podium finishes began with the Fall Classic in 2016. He scored a 3rd place age division win (the first proof of success in his quest). On November 12th, Walter scored two Silver Medals in the M50-59 division making those the 14th and 15th podium placings in a row. If you look at it as an annual cycle, he has to drop one race (last year’s Fall Classic Half Marathon) and the only 3rd Place in the bunch. All others have been Golds and Silvers with very high Overall placements and one or two outright wins. Walter is a speedy ‘senior’ (if you consider 55+ to be a senior!). Seriously though, his performances are not just a matter of showing up, which happens the older you get. I never kid myself about being First out of One, or as with this most recent ‘win’ First out of Two. However, I do stand firmly behind the claim that you can only compete against those who come to race. All the faster people who stayed home don’t count. Walter though, is a mere stripling in the world of us Senior runners and his fields are quite competitive. The main reason for emphasizing his accomplishments is to stress what you can do if you put your mind to it.

And Now, On To Negril and The Reggae Marathon

The next big thing and truly final running adventure for me for 2017 is the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. My last blog post was all about that, so I won’t repeat all of that. You’re welcome.

Funny enough, while writing this post, I got a call from the host of the BnB I’m staying at in Montego Bay (also a fellow runner, who I met the first time I went for Reggae Marathon) confirming arrangements, then upon getting off the phone, I checked e-mails and had a final confirmation from Rondel Village for my stay in Negril. Boom! Everything is in place. Now, I just need to patiently wait for ‘wheels up’ in less than one week. As the kids used to count down to Christmas – FOUR Sleeps! Soon Come!

Negril beach view. No worries here.

 

 

 

BRINGING MY 2017 RUNNING YEAR TO A CLOSE – ALMOST

11.14.2017

Negril Beach scene, just before sunset on Day One.

Yes, it is almost time to put the 2017 racing season to bed. Almost!  But First, and as anyone who follows this blog even a little knows, there is one more bit of ‘business’ to take care of, if you can call it business!

That’s right, it is time for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K in Negril, Jamaica.

Who would have thought in 2011 when my wife Judi and I headed for Jamaica to attend the Reggae Marathon, that in 2017 I would be heading down for the seventh year in a row? Well, not me! As a quick bit of background, it was not our first time visiting Jamaica. We had been there in 1969. We were married the year before and while we certainly DID have a honeymoon, it was not a long or exotic trip, so the visit to Jamaica in ’69 was a kind of ‘second honeymoon’.

Negril 1969 – Judi and Dan

I’d been eyeing up the Reggae Marathon for a year or two, but it conflicted with the California International Marathon (CIM) and still does. I ran CIM a couple of times in pursuit of the ever elusive BQ. It is a great event, but it was looking like time to move on and the beaches of Jamaica beckoned. I picked up on the official Reggae Marathon blog and Chris Morales (aka That Runnin’ Guy). We exchanged some info along the way, including the embedded picture of Judi and me on the Negril beach in 1969. One thing led to another and he asked me to participate in a feature called ‘Ask Dan‘, me supposedly knowing lots of stuff about running. At the same time, two other guys were also blogging and we all kind of loosely linked up through Chris and the Reggae Marathon blog. They were Larry Savitch and Navin Sadarangani. You will see the importance of this later.

I did not actually meet any of these people until we arrived in Negril in December 2011. How four so truly different people could hit it off so quickly, still amazes me. Anyone watching us torment each other on social media would never believe how much we actually like and respect each other!

Four Amigos demonstrating the 2016 ‘count’, now at 26

I won’t recount each and every year between 2011 and 2017, but we (aka the Four Amigos) began a tradition back somewhere around Year 3, where each of us holds up fingers representing the number of times we have run one of the events of the Reggae Marathon. As of December 2nd, the annual photo will show the four of us displaying a total of 30 fingers! Except for Chris, we should all be showing seven fingers. Chris is two races up on all of us, so he will have NINE digits proudly held up. He has one more year to go, before running out of fingers! I suppose he still has both feet left, but that is going to make for a rather awkward pose, I would think!

Negril 2011 – Judi and Dan

2011 was meant to be the first time for me to run the Reggae Marathon, yes the MARATHON. I still get ribbed about the ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ debacle that surrounded getting to the start on time, and the fact that my marathon turned into a 10K. If  you want to know, you can check out the earlier blog account right HERE. What did come out of it, was a re-enactment of the original photograph that I sent to Chris as partial explanation of our intention to come to Negril in 2011. Negril has changed a lot in the intervening years, but our original photo from 1969 may very well have been taken somewhere near to where the 2011 photo was made, just outside Long Bay Beach Park (start/finish venue of the Reggae Marathon).

Anyway, let’s fast forward to 2017 and look ahead to this year’s Reggae Marathon!

Beach just outside Rondel Village – so glad – still there, just like last five times!

Arrangements are made for travel, accommodation and race registration. Actual packing has not commenced, but the mental inventory is well advanced. Of course, as Chris noted in a similar anticipatory blog piece this morning, you really don’t need too much for sitting on the beach outside Rondel Village, running the beach in the early morning and the race on December 2. Mind you, being retired and all, I will be there longer so may need a couple more T-shirts to see me through. I have learned it is best to try for a somewhat unique race outfit, simply so I can differentiate the year with a glance at the many photographs that have, and will come home after the event! Neither background, nor people will necessarily tell the story!

Time for that ackee and salt fish breakfast!

I am taking two weeks this time. From the West Coast of Canada, it is too big an ordeal to just go for a few days. I always take a week, but every once in a while I will take a bit longer. Negril has become a kind of ‘happy place’ for me. You’d think that for an old retired guy, life wouldn’t have too much stress or hassle, but you would be wrong. I can’t seem to keep myself out of things that create demands on time and energy. I should be clear, most of them are ‘voluntary’ and of my own doing, but that doesn’t make them less demanding or time consuming. Negril is a great, quiet break from it all. Other than the day or two immediately around the race, the most pressing decisions tend to be -shall we go for a swim? Is it time for a Red Stripe? Should we run before breakfast? What shall we have for breakfast? OK, the last one is not actually a regular decision. It is really hard to find good ackee and salt fish when you aren’t actually IN Jamaica. Rondel Village serves up a nice ackee and salt fish breakfast, so it is pretty much a daily thing.

Has anybody actually noticed how little I’ve been talking about racing? Well, let’s fix that soon. However, I do want to stress that Reggae Marathon time is a ‘whole body’ (and mind) experience. The race is, without qualification, one of the best organized events anywhere. That is not just my opinion. Reggae Marathon has regularly won ‘best’ event accolades from various sources, especially as a destination event. There will commonly be as many as 35 countries represented, but one of the BIG stories is how many Jamaicans now participate. There is a big focus on high school teams, so that may explain the continuing involvement by many. Anyone familiar with track and field will know the reputation of Jamaicans (for decades) in the world of sprinting. Role models like Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have every kid in the country striving to be like them. Careful work to encourage younger people to add some distance into the mix has seen a huge success, much of it spear-headed by Reggae Marathon Race Director, Alfred ‘Frano’ Francis and his team, along with the Jamdammers Running Club.

Morning run on Negril Seven Mile Beach

Once the others start arriving around November 29-30, the Negril vibe turns from a laid-back beach retreat into Reggae Marathon! If you go out on Norman Manley Blvd or the beach in the early morning, you will find runners out doing just what Chris and I are planning. You really do need to get a little acclimatization happening, especially if you come from The Great White North (Canada), like we do. Negril is a VERY pleasant place to be, with almost perfect vacation weather at this time of year. Lows will be 21-24°C and highs in the 30°C range. It will be sunny most days. Some years I have not seen rain the entire time. Others times the odd storm rolls through, but it is usually very quick and often very welcome. Frankly, it is not much warmer than some parts of Canada in full Summer season. The thing is, it is NOT Summer now and our lows are getting close to 0°C and depending on where you are, highs seldom break into double digits. Most of Canada has already had some snow, including Vancouver. That is one sudden change when you hit Negril and it is good to take an easy run or two before the race.

Easy Skankin’

For me, a big part of the Reggae Marathon experience is going to package pick-up and hanging around in full expectation of meeting friends from earlier years. Those you don’t encounter Thursday, you will surely meet on Friday at the “World’s Best Pasta Party”.

While I am not soooooo fond of the 3:30am wake-up, once we step out onto Norman Manley Blvd and are walking to the start (Rondel Village is just a bit over a mile away), the excitement of the other runners becomes completely infectious. You can take a shuttle from anywhere on the strip, but an easy walk is a good way to get ‘warmed up’, so to speak. The race starts promptly at 5:15am. No ‘soon come’ for Reggae Marathon! It is wise to give yourself time to check your bag, find one of the porto-potties (just in case), and of course connect with your run buddies.

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

At 5:15am, when Bob Marley starts booming out (usually “Jammin”) the race has begun! It is still pitch black dark and temperatures are as cool as they are going to be. I describe the air at that time as ‘silky’. It really does seem to have a texture to it. Now, when I say it is dark, the sky is truly a night sky, but the street is quite well lit and many resorts already have Christmas lights. The range of pace of the many runners (could be a total of 3,000 this year) runs from the very, very speedy elite runners to those who will walk the 10K and more or less create their own rolling party. It all works and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more fun race crowd.

Early morning on the Negril River

Depending on your pace, sometime after the first 5K at the Negril Town round-about and the 10K finish, you will see the sky lightening and if there are a few clouds around, a dawn like you won’t experience many other places. Average runners doing the 10K will be at the finish around 6:15 to 6:30, before sunrise. However, the post-race beach party will be in full swing and as hard as it sometimes may be to believe, the elite half marathoners will be finishing too. I have some photos from the 10K finish, where you would think at first glance, it really isn’t a very nice day. Nope; look for sun on the tree-tops! It just isn’t full daylight yet. When the sun first pops over the horizon there is another short time of other-worldly light before it turns to bright blazing sunshine.

Afterwards, it is all about the beach!

As more and more people reach the finish, the party just gets bigger and better with live Reggae Music blasting from the stage. Fresh coconut, bananas and other post-race food awaits, as does the sea and beach. Some just go straight to the water and then come back for the rest. No Problem!

I plan to run the Half this year. I am 50/50 for Half/10K. I never have run the marathon. Being two and a half hours late to the start in 2011, and it being plenty sunny and hot, RD, Frano, took pity on me and let me run the 10K. I have realized that a guy needs to know his limits. At my advancing age and slowing pace, thinking about a full marathon in tropical conditions is probably just silly. Even the half marathon is going to see me slogging along in full sun for at least an hour. I know how that will be and will go prepared. Participants are well looked after on the course, so no worries there. What I AM worried about is that my ‘friends’ will drink all the Red Stripe and be having too much fun before I get back to Long Bay Beach Park!

Sweet Reggae Music – so hard to resist!

Maybe they will get a massage on the beach or get into the crowd dancing to the music by the stage. We usually wait for Navin, who DOES like to do the marathon, but he broke a leg earlier this year (no, not running), so is only planning to run the 10K and not so fast. I won’t have the cover of him taking around four hours for that marathon distance. Oh well, it is important to me to do the Half this time. I am 99% certain I won’t be back next year – something to do with the fact that 2018 is our 50th Wedding Anniversary and we have some (even more) exotic travel planned. Anyway, by the time I could get back for Reggae Marathon 2019, I’ll be just a month shy of 75 and who knows if the legs will stand for even a half marathon. Yep, has to be the Half in 2017!

Stay tuned! You KNOW this isn’t going to be my last post on the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K!