Archive for November, 2018


BC IS ABOUT TO REVEL IN A NEW RACE

11.18.2018

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See what I did there? Revel. In a new race.

Yes, I just learned a day or so ago that Revel Race Series has announced a new race in Chilliwack, BC. I have far from run all their events, but I’ve done one, twice and another one once – Big Cottonwood and Mt. Charleston. Check this out for a course profile!

 

The main characteristic of a Revel race is that it starts up, way up, and then runs down – generally fast. The new event (August 17, 2019) follows the pattern. If anything, the elevation drop is less than most other Revel races, but it still pretty much meets the standard. For those who really want the details, you can go to the Revel Chilliwack web page and dig around all you want. However, the basics are that the Marathon drops 2,100 feet and the half marathon drops about 615 feet. Both are more or less constantly downhill and of a similar slope except that it seems the marathon has one much steeper downhill section that makes it look like the course is a steeper profile than the half marathon. As normal, the half is just the bottom of the marathon, therefore an integral part of the marathon course profile. The profile is not nearly as extreme as some Revel courses, and that may be a good thing. Running a steep downhill is not as easy as it might first sound. What seems to be on offer in Chilliwack (I think there is going to be a little drive in my immediate future) is a gentle steady downhill for both the marathon and half marathon. Such courses are far easier on the legs but give a wonderful boost to the time at the finish.

Nicely started! Mount Charleston Half
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

There already seems to be quite a bit of enthusiasm on-line and I am part of that. I would love to run another inaugural Revel race. I did Mt. Charleston in its first year (2016). One of my big running thrills (well, fun really, since I didn’t kid myself about what really happened), was winning my age group in the half marathon and therefore taking the age group record! I’ve never held the record for ANYTHING where it comes to running.

Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon (May 2016) – I do love me a podium finish -1st M70-74. Photo by Revel

I didn’t have any idea that I had even won my age group until I went to get my official finish stats and was pointed over to the WINNER table to claim my gold medal! I did have a pretty decent time, and was happy about that, but talk about a bonus. It caused me to think about running first time events and was surprised when I went back over the years, just how many I have actually done. Needless to say, when a few others found out about this great race just outside Las Vegas, my record lasted just 365 days, whereupon it was smashed – smashed, I tell you! Well, that’s OK. I wuz a contenda that first year.

I have a few personal REVELations from the Big Cottonwood Marathon too. First time was 2014 and then I did it again in 2015 (when my wife walked the half).

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Big Cottonwood happens just outside (and well above) Salt Lake City, Utah. First time the start was at about 8,000 feet. They adjusted the course (snarky out and back at the lower part of the course was shortened) by moving some of the lower part UP the mountain a bit more so the start was at 10,000 feet. If anyone tries to tell you Revel races are easy because they are seriously downhill, do ask if they have ever run a race that starts at 10,000 feet or if they have run one that drops 5,000 feet or so. Starting at 10,000 feet will immediately challenge your oxygen gathering and transferring capacity. Even though I knew, and stayed most of a week at Park City (near 8,000 feet) to acclimatize, I was seriously taken aback as I went through the first few miles. How could I be that tired when we had just started. OK, not really tired. I guess it was more how could it be that hard. Suddenly, it dawned on me just how high we were. I slowed down. It got better and as we continued down, breathing sufficient oxygen became less of an issue. It is a gorgeous route and both times I did it the weather was amazing.

Looking better than I was feeling on ‘net zero’ out and back.

The first time I ran Big Cottonwood we started lower and it was, I think, the last time I had a marathon time that started with ‘4’. Boy was that a big mess though. I do a bit of acting and had been cast in a commercial. Yay me! I was clear that I was supposed to be in Utah, but could/would rearrange my plans, do the filming and still get myself to Salt Lake City. Then, I found they changed the filming schedule and I was between a rock and a hard place. Long story short, I flew on Friday, arriving around 4pm, just in time to pick up my race kit, go to a Marathon Maniac pre-race gathering, grab a couple of hours sleep, drive down from Park City (to bus transport) only to drive back up to the race start and then RUN. Interestingly, we still started pretty high, around 8,000 feet, but I didn’t feel an issue with the altitude. I am told that you either have to give  yourself time to acclimatize, OR, run in and race before your body knows what you did. I guess that I unwittingly did the latter. From the time I landed in Salt Lake City until we started the marathon, was about 15 hours, maybe less.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – Racing CAN be fun!

I will always love that first Big Cottonwood. One of the photos included in the entry shows me getting big air! I am getting pretty old and slow and have never been a high knee lifter anyway, but that is a photo of which I am very proud.

Between marathons and half marathons, I have run a lot of races with various bling and features. Revel Big Cottonwood was the first where the photos (including a personalized video) was part of the entry. More are doing it now, but it was a first for me back then and appreciated.

I really don’t know what to do about Chilliwack. I would so very much like to do it. The problem is that after three years of trying (unsuccessfully) I got a team registered for the Hood to Coast Relay.

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast 1987. My first Hood to Coast

It is a week later. Well, to be precise, six days later. This is my 10th Hood to Coast and with the combination of my age and the difficulty of getting a team into the relay, it may well be my last. Hood to Coast is amazing, but it is no joke to run plus or minus three 10Ks in about 18-20 hours with little or no sleep. For sure, unless something goes sideways, there is no choice. Hood to Coast it is for 2019.

All that said, I am seriously mulling the idea of running the half marathon at Revel Chilliwack, not for time, just for the experience. The race is so close to where I live that I would drive to the start mustering area on race morning. The only expense I would have is the entry and a bit of gasoline. I mean, I WILL need some extra distance training in support of Hood to Coast. The individual legs are short enough, but even if I take the shortest combo, that is more or less the distance of a half marathon. I am certain that 2019 HAS to be a better year of running than 2018, so done strategically Chilliwack could work out OK. Guess I will watch for a bit and see how registration is going, not to mention my own training and running.

I mean, I just signed up for the ‘new and improved’ Fir2018.M.Logo.Event.FirstHalf.VancouverMarathonst Half in February. That will take some training and if it goes well, I think my year will be set up nicely. At my age and stage, I am doing a lot more experiential races than any in which I am trying to podium or even nail a ‘good’ time (a relative term, to be sure). Sometimes it happens anyway. Doing the first Revel Chilliwack Half Marathon would fit the pattern quite nicely!

That said, regardless of my own decision, based on my appreciation of Revel races, this is the chance for local (Vancouver/Fraser Valley) runners to give one a try. I don’t think you will be sorry. So, off to the Revel Chilliwack web page with you for a look about. At time of writing and although I could not see how long it lasted, they seem to be offering an early registration discount (Code: EARLY), so there is that to consider as well. See you at the races!

 

THE REGGAE MARATHON BECKONS, CAUSING A LITTLE REFLECTION

11.13.2018

 

Proud Emblem of a Proud People

No posts for a month (you know why from my last one), now they come thick and fast! I wanted to get this one out because there is still time for you to get yourself down to Negril and have the best race experience EVER!

Next up for me is one of my very favourite events: The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. I am very excited to be going in 2018 because I was kind of resigned to the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen. We live within the various pensions coming to my wife and I, but I make little bits and pieces of money from other sources and like to protect that money for special stuff, like traveling to Jamaica for the Reggae Marathon. Well, after thinking our big 50th Anniversary trip to India and Nepal would take all the travel money for this year, didn’t a few crumbs fall into my run fund. Now, my 2018 Reggae Marathon trip is going to be probably the shortest one I’ve ever done, but do it I will. Ya mon!

The near miss got me thinking about the event and the country and friends and some of what makes it special, and special to me. I thought I’d share some of it with you.

Young Cummings at Negril 1969

Judi and Dan at Negril in 1969

As anyone who follows this blog and my posting around this time of year will know, my first time to Negril and the Reggae Marathon was eight years ago (2011). That would be my second ever trip to Jamaica, the first being in 1969 and funny enough also involved a visit to Negril, even though we were staying way over in St. Mary Parish. In fact, my involvement with the race and its organizers resulted from a photo I shared with the official blogger, Chris Morales. That photo was my pretty much new wife and me on the Negril Beach in 1969.

I had my eye on the Reggae Marathon for some time, but it was and still is on the same weekend as the California International Marathon, which was on my favourites list for several years. Long story, short, I decided that 2011 would be the year I gave Reggae Marathon a try. I had been running well through 2010 posting many recent PB’s (not bad for 65) and was looking forward to a great year in 2011. My big focus would be the Eugene Marathon where I had posted (in 2010) my third best raw marathon time and second best age graded. Best laid schemes of mice and men…………………. I injured my knee while training for Eugene, tried to run it and really completed the job by refusing to take a DNF. The rest of the year was spent in recovery. Negril and the Reggae Marathon was only going to be for the experience. Well, that was probably true regardless, due to the heat expected, but while I was recovered enough to do the marathon, I had no illusions I was running for a great time.

Got the coconut, now where’s that Red Stripe?

Perhaps it was the running gods looking out for me or something, but something conspired to keep me (and my wife) from getting to the start on time. I have described that in detail and referenced it more than a few times since. If you want to read the whole story you can find it HERE. Suffice it to say, arriving almost two and half hours late for the start, there was no way I  was doing a marathon. The RD, Frano Francis gave me permission to do the 10K and said they would fix my time later. I did, they did and that was my first Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. I think that probably sealed my fate for years to come (8 and counting). Debacle of planes, trains and automobiles, or not, the spirit of Reggae Marathon had got a hold on me and it still hasn’t let go.

Part of the reason for being so late to the start (which is conveniently located in the MIDDLE of the course) was where we stayed, a resort out between Green Island and Orange Bay. Funny enough, I had originally found an attractive little resort called Rondel Village and I think had even booked there. Then we found our time-share would let us book at this other resort, so we changed.

Breakfast time – Rondel Village, Negril

From 2012 onward it has been Rondel Village, including this year. It has become my home away from home when in Jamaica! No more excuses for being late to the start though! In fact one of the best parts of each year’s race is the walk to the start at Long Bay Beach Park. Logistically, you should know that the races all start at Long Bay Beach Park. They head toward Negril Town, turning back at around 5K at the round-about JUST after you cross the Negril River. Now, you are headed back to the start area and the finish of the 10K. Half and Full Marathoners continue on to just past the RIU resort complex and then they turn back toward the start finish, and naturally, when they get there the Half Marathoners peal off to their just reward at the big Reggae Beach Party. The Marathoners just do it all again. Now, I must say I am not a big fan of multiple loop courses, but in this case, it is strategically and practically, almost two different races. The first circuit is done in the dark or early dawn. The second is going to be in full sunshine. But, I get ahead of myself.

Getting ready for the Start – Reggae Marathon

The walk to the start is along a pretty quiet road in the dark or mostly dark morning (there ARE street lights). Other people are making their way to the start and the shuttles are running, but compared to what is to come after the start, it is pretty tranquil. To an old guy from the “Great White North” the air feels warm and soft. It is quite funny that us northerners are generally wearing shorts and singlets and nothing more, while many locals have jackets on to keep warm in the predawn ‘chill’! Everything is relative. Anyway, this brings me to my first point of contemplation.

Day dawning along the Reggae Marathon Route.

Historically, low temps in early December are about 21-24C. Highs are around 31C. Whatever the actual start temperature, it generally stays the same until the sun rises. That got me wondering what ‘hot’ would be in Negril. It seems that in July and August highs can easily reach 34-35C with the lows in the 25C range. That may not sound like much of a difference, but in practical terms, I would so much rather be doing this in December! And, in practical terms, considering that the race starts at 5:15am (sharp) and the sun rises around 6:30 am, most people can finish the 10K before the official sunrise and decent half marathoners can probably finish before the sun is truly up and getting warm. In fact, it is closer to 7:00am when that happens, notwithstanding meteorological absolutes. So if you can finish a half marathon in 1:45 or so, you only have to deal with startline conditions in terms of heat. Now, I’m not suggesting that these temperatures are ‘cool’, but they are not that hard to deal with if you take it easy and avail yourself of the hydration options along the route. According to the weather forecast for December 2nd, we are expecting mostly sunny, with a low of 24C and high of 28C.

Almost enough to halt you in your tracks. Almost.

This will be my 8th Reggae Marathon in a row (despite the fact that I have never actually run the marathon, even if it WAS my intention that first time). I would love to do the half again, but practicality says 10K. I haven’t really run in a month and 2018 has generally been a disaster for running and training, notwithstanding that this will actually be my ninth race of the year. There were good reasons for doing all of them, but maybe we can just say there were no recent PB times in 2018! I would like to run this year’s 10K smart and get a much better time than last year. That shouldn’t be hard. I imported some kind of nasty bug from Canada, but it really got to me after arrival. Although I was having a ‘good’ day on race day, I was still not great and basically dragged myself through the 10K (running-wise). Even under those personal conditions, the whole thing was great, and when I finished, my good friends looked after me at the finish.

One it is all done, the beach draws everyone to the sea!

Enough about me for now. This little gem of a race has a world reputation. The number varies by a couple of countries year to year, but there are usually some 35 countries represented at Reggae Marathon. There are three events and notwithstanding the event name, the marathon is no longer the BIG event. You can take it all very seriously. The course records are more than respectable for any race, but as things have evolved over the years, there are a lot of runners and walkers there for the experience rather than to set PB times. I’d love to know the stats but the returning participant ratio must be huge.

Chris Morales

Chris Morales

My friends and I (The Four Amigos) have been streaking for at least eight years. Chris Morales, the de facto leader in all this and official Reggae Marathon Blogger is going to be in Negril for his 10th year in a row. Collectively, we will represent 34 individual races (from 10K to marathon) over those years. Repeaters may not come every year, but it is harder and harder to find true first timers! As the slogans used to say: “Once you Go, You Know!” Another slogan that is ever so true is: “Come for the Run, Stay for the Fun“.

Pasta Anyone??

You could ask the Reggae Runnerz. Apparently THEY KNOW! I haven’t heard the numbers for 2018, but at least 500 can normally be expected. There are a good many other groups that have been coming for some years and continue to return. Reggae Marathon, Half Marthon and 10K is a race. Make no mistake. BUT, it is also an experience and that experience starts upon arrival at package pick-up and continues through to the Reggae Beach Party at Long Bay post race. A highlight is the best pasta party in the world! The WHOLE world? Possibly. I have never attended a pre-race pasta party to better it. They take the whole thing very seriously and if you think the competition begins on Norman Manley Blvd at 5:15am on December 2nd, you would be wrong. There is a big competition going on among the cooking teams, trying to make the best pasta dishes possible and we, the runners get the benefit. That, and steel-drum bands, dancers and sweet, sweet reggae music. This is the place where Reggae Marathon friends (who have no other connection) find each other and renew friendships and catch up on what has been happening. Either being too sick or fairly smart, I skipped the party last year. It was clearly a good decision health-wise, but I sure missed it.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit on Norman Manley Blvd!

As I mentioned, there are some serious racers out there in all events, but otherwise and even if you are running to do reasonably well, once the races start, it is a bit of a rolling party with reggae music blasting from sound systems all along the course, and then from the stage at the finish. The first part done in the dark just adds to the party atmosphere and it doesn’t hurt that resorts have usually started putting up Christmas decorations.

Post-race, sunrise at Reggae Marathon. No winter jackets even if it is December!

Regardless of which event you choose and how long it takes you to complete it, inevitably everyone arrives at Long Bay Beach Park. Fun and refreshment and dips in the sea, coconuts, bananas, Red Stripe beer, massage on the beach and dips in the sea (oh, I guess I mentioned that before), Red Stripe (Hmmmm, that too). Oh yes, and true to the name of the event REGGAE MUSIC. The stage acts, often two different ones, are top quality acts, usually rising stars. Friends find each other and do whatever they do. People gravitate to the stage and just kind of dance to the music, with or without anyone else being involved.

Sweet Reggae Music – so hard to resist!

Getting down with the Reggae Sound.

Eventually, there are awards. They are definitely important to those who have won them, especially the school teams that compete for computers to enhance their schools’ resources. The winners of the marathon (male and female) are rewarded with a trophy: of Bob Marley for the men and his wife, Rita, for the women. The organizers have personal links to the reggae music industry and to the Marleys and the trophy statues were donated to the event by Rita. That said, very, very few of us are there for the placings (well, OK, I admit I like getting a podium finish in my age group, which is NOT that hard at my age). That said, and for whatever reason, a ‘podium’ finish is nothing more than a number beside your name in the official results. As much as I would love to be able to have some medals to show my placements over the years, it is also somehow fitting to the tone of the event, not to do this. There is some kind of great equalization across the event by which we are all just there as part of a kind of celebration of running.

Masters Women Half Marathon

On that note of a celebration, it is probably worth noting there is truly something to celebrate. I won’t get too deep into this because I am not fully versed in all aspects, but I know enough to flag the ultimate result. Reggae Marathon started in 2001 by the Jamdammers and under the direction of Alfred ‘Frano’ Francis and his team. There were a number of goals, but one was to promote distance running to Jamaicans. With the fabulous history of running in Jamaica (I am getting pretty old and I can’t remember when there wasn’t a prominent Jamaican sprinter on the world stage), ‘distance’ seemed to start at 400m! Those sprinters, men and women, could KILL up to 200m. All the kids want to be Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Longer running is not just competitive but part of a healthier life-style. Reggae Marathon was a nod toward making a shift. In the very first year, the marathon WAS the big race (Total finishers = 691, Marathon finishers = 401). While numbers were not huge the first year, the largest group was clearly those doing the marathon distance, and oh, there was no 10K back then. The 10K was introduced in 2008 when 227 took part. As time has gone by, there is now a whole race series of 5-10K events leading up to Reggae Marathon as the last event for the year. Thousands of Jamaicans are now training for and running the longer distances. The goal is not directly to put Jamaican distance runners on the world stage. That is for other sport bodies to do, but the movement has put distance running into the minds and legs of young Jamaicans and the rest will surely follow. Actually, back when he was a high school athlete, Usain Bolt did (I am told) run in the schools competition at Reggae Marathon.

I’m sure that most of the visiting people enjoying the fun on December 2nd won’t know of this back-story, but it is important. It is part of what has made this race grow from a few hundred to around 2,300 across the events over the last couple of years. Now, the marathon itself is the small event among the three (118 finishers in 2017) with the 10K attracting the most people (1282 finishers in 2017) and the half marathon quite popular (at 518 finishers in 2017). But, the big story in growth is at least as much the local numbers as the foreign. This is what the dedicated effort to get Jamaicans running longer distances has produced. As much fun as Reggae Marathon may be, this is going to be a lasting legacy, along with the boost in tourism fueled by all us ‘come from away’ folk who trek to Negril every year at this time.

Oxtail with rice and peas.

I could go on and on, but maybe this is the time to stop. Sure that last bit is kind of serious, but it is an important part of this gem of an international running event. Two weeks from tomorrow night, I am on that red-eye to Toronto, with early morning transfer to the Jamaica flight. By late in the day, I expect to be tucking into a dish of oxtail, or maybe curry goat, at Rondel village. Soon come, Jamaica!

Negril, JA West End Sunset

 

 

FROM NAGARKOT TO NEGRIL

11.09.2018

I’m sure you have all been wondering ‘Where can Dan the Blogger be???’. A couple of you? Nobody?

Well, I will tell you. I have been traveling on a trip of a lifetime kind of adventure with my dear wife of 50 years. The trip was a celebration of those 50 years, which technically and officially tallied up back in August. However, at that time the area we were going to would be experiencing the monsoon season, so we put off travel until October/November. No blog posting for the simple reason that there just wasn’t time to get down to it and do it properly.

Charlie putting the (surprise) move on Grandad!

We met up with all the kids and grandkids and in-law spouses in Victoria for the Victoria Marathon Weekend where I ran for the third time in the Victoria 8K with grandson Charlie and umpteenth time with his mom Danielle (Half Marathon). I expected Charlie to beat me (hoped he would – it is time) and he took off like the proverbial ‘scalded cat’, but a minor injury he has been suffering brought him back down to earth about 4K and I caught him at 6K. We finished together, except that I think he took me way too seriously when I said he was ready to beat me. Sore paw or not, he took off with about 100m to go and caught the old guy by surprise! I tried to turn it on and catch up, but he had me and did indeed cross the line looking a lot better than he actually felt, with me in hot pursuit. The one good thing about his surprise move is that our son, Cam caught us in full flight and ME getting air with less than 100m left in a race!  THAT never happens anymore! Thanks, Charlie/Cam!

What can I say? If you are going to pick one photo to represent a trip to India, I guess it has to be the Taj Mahal

No sooner was that celebration weekend over with, than we (Judi and I) were on a plane to India. I mean literally, as in later the same week, we were headed for India and Nepal (which is where Nagarkot – see title – actually is). We just got back a couple of days ago and I am planning the next trip – to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Don’t worry though. I am not going to recount every moment of three and a half weeks in India and Nepal. Unless, you want me to……………..??? No. I thought not.

Since this is about running, I guess we should start with my possibly unrealistic goals in that area. We lived in Malaysia for nearly two years and I ran something like 5 days a week. In other words, running in warm steamy places (including the last seven years at Reggae Marathon in Negril, JA) is not new to me. What I didn’t count on was the packed agenda of our trip and location of our hotels (where places to run were few and far between). Never mind.

My hope was to add two more countries to my list of 23 where I have run at least a bit. I also planned on adding one more country to my list of places where I have raced (much less impressive, at 5 countries). The first thing that happened was that just before leaving I was trying to sign my wife up to walk the 5K in the Run for Unity and Success (Oct 31 – in Delhi), when I discovered a conflict over dates. It appeared the race was either Oct 31 or Oct 28. The 28th was Sunday, which made more sense to this North American runner/racer, but the original date, including the date I had registered for, was October 31 (Wednesday). Long story short, when it finally got sorted out, they had to change dates and we were going to be nowhere near the race venue on October 28. Scratch the race in India. Very sad. They had a shirt and medal and everything. THAT would have truly enhanced my collection!

Just finished a very short, but very real run in Jaipur, India

From running as often as I could, I went to “I have to get a run in SOMEWHERE!”. That I did. It happened in Jaipur where there was a perfect place just outside our hotel. There was a promenade directly across the road along a lakeshore that was about 1km end to end and held no danger of getting lost on unfamiliar streets. So, that was where I added India to the list of countries where I have run. I suppose I could have run at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, but while ‘running with the bulls’ is a thing, ‘running with the tigers’ doesn’t usually work out that well for the human. I passed on that even though there were great roads/trails and the air was clear. I raise the latter point, because that was not always the case and truth be told, had the race actually happened as originally scheduled on Oct. 31, I am not at all sure I would have taken part anyway. The air conditions in Delhi had gone from pretty darn good when we arrived, to awful.

Sagarmatha from our Buddha Air flight

The trip was everything we hoped for and much, much more. Nepal offered its own wonders, like this mountain we went to see, taking a special flight that goes right by the Himalayas and its star, Mount Everest, or as it is known to the people, Sagarmatha. This is also where the place in the title, Nagarkot, comes in. We traveled up (almost 7,000ft) from Kathmandu to stay at a hotel where we could watch the sun rise over the Himalayas.

Sunrise view from observation deck at Club Himalaya, Nagarkot, Nepal

Everest made an appearance there too, but you had to know where to look and have a very sharp eye as the mountain range tails away from the view point and Everest is way in the distance (far to the right of this photo), unlike our flight on Buddha Air (yes, that’s right…………..Buddha Air). And also, unlike most flights you will ever take, while our plane had two seats on each side of the aisle, only the window seats were booked. The flight goes one way with the mountains to the left, turns around and gives the right side passengers the bird’s eye view going back. As we were near Everest, every passenger was invited to come to the cockpit and get some pilot’s eye views. Amazing, but no running! OK, except to get my turn in the cockpit.

Sadly, just as with India, no running in Nepal either. Same general reasons. I guess anybody with a Fitbit or similar was getting great numbers because we walked and walked and walked and very little of it was flat! So, there’s that.

OK, lets get back to talking about actual running and racing!

Nothing like a barefoot run on the beach, to start the day

Negril and the Reggae Marathon looms. Three weeks from this moment, as I write, I expect to be jogging along either Norman Manley Blvd or the Negril Seven Mile Beach, with my friend, Chris Morales. This will be my 8th year in a row in Negril and Chris’ 10th! The Four Amigos, Chris, Larry, Navin and Dan, will be raising a total of 34 fingers in our traditional and annual group photo, to indicate the total races we have done in Negril.

Four Amigos ride (run) again for a total of 30 Reggae Marathon events.

As much as I wanted to take on the Half Marathon one more time, unless I walk it start to finish, that just isn’t realistic. 2018 has been one awful year for my running. I won’t bore you with the details (already done that a few times, I think). Add the lack of ability to run while on our big trip and my decision that it will be the 10K this time, just makes sense. Besides, you get back for the beach party that much sooner!

While the memories of our India trip will be with us for the rest of our lives, I have some wonderful memories of Negril and as the reality of that trip coming in less than three weeks looms (depart on the red-eye to Toronto on Nov 28, for connection to Montego Bay), Jamaica is very much in the forefront of things.

Rise up in the mornin’

I have my room booked (as usual) at Rondel Village and already looking forward to early morning runs on the beach, followed by a breakfast of ackee and salt fish. I’m already wishing I could stay longer, for a bit more of that sort of thing, but the truth is that I am lucky to be going at all. The race has moved to Sunday this year as a matter of improved logistics. We’ll see how that works. For racers it probably doesn’t matter since once you are on Jamaica Time, things just have their own rhythm and the only important thing is to keep your departure date straight. OH! And the start time of the Reggae Marathon, because it will go off with military precision at 5:15am on December 2nd.

Negril River and fishing boats (what I saw for the first time on race morning).

There is nothing I have ever experienced to compare to that race start in the dark, feeling the air (kind of silky at that hour) and moving through the morning with a happy crowd of runners/walkers with absolutely nothing else to do for the next while, other than enjoy the moment of whichever event they may be doing. At my pace of the last number of years, by the time we reach the 5K turnaround at the Negril round-about, the sky is lightening. It isn’t dawn yet, but the sky isn’t fully dark. On the way back to the finish line (for the 10K) the dawn will begin. The sky will begin to change and colours will begin to paint the sky. For all but the very slowest, the finish will come before the sun actually rises. It is a magical time and that turn back to the finish chute is a great feeling.

Post-race, sunrise at Reggae Marathon. No winter jackets even if it is December!

As you cross the line and get your medal (new design this year!), the Caribbean beckons. Reggae music is already playing and the fresh coconuts are being chopped open to yield refreshing coconut water to replenish you. Oh, and if you are ready at such an early hour, the cold Red Stripe is waiting too!

Let’s not forget the Half Marathoners (and Marathoners). As the 10K people turn back to the finish (you have to pass the finish area by just a bit to get in the full 10K distance), the longer distance runners continue into the rising sun. Of course, the faster ones will be seeing that lightening sky and dawn AFTER passing the start/finish area. Actually, some of the really fast Half Marathoners will be finishing about the same time I finish the 10K, so there’s that. The route continues along Norman Manley Blvd to just where the Negril Beach ends, just pass the RIU properties, where it turns back toward the finish and the first run through Bob’s Mile. As the Half Marathoners happily pull off to their reward, the truly gritty Marathoners begin the whole thing again.

Marathon finisher bringing it home. Wait! It is Navin, one of the Four Amigos!

Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that those gritty, dedicated runners aren’t going to experience a change of conditions. At the start, the temperature can be as low as 21C and up to 25C or so. But, it doesn’t change until the sun is up. When it DOES rise, so do air temperatures and the feeling of being hot is magnified by the fact that the sun is now shining directly onto you. This is when the smart running has to happen. The negative split is the goal of most distance runners. However, the Reggae Marathon is one race where ‘banking’ time makes sense. Running conditions are so much better prior to sunrise than after, that it makes sense to take advantage (if time matters). Once you are running in full sun, you need to be very strategic. The good news is how much support there is with both water and electrolyte solution available every mile. And, they are in handy plastic pouches that allow you to carry them with you rather than gulp down what you can and run on to the next aid station. Personally, I tend to drink the electrolyte and pour the water over myself for cooling. I have remarked before that this also serves as an early warning system for your well-being. The first time you mistakenly pour the electrolyte over your head is probably an accident – one you are unlikely to repeat – but the second time should be a warning that you aren’t quite on your game!!

It’s a Reggae Party!

Regardless of your chosen distance, the finish is kind of the same. Medal, music, coconut, beach, beer and PARTY. There are also misting tents and cold cloths for those who have really pumped it out. They look after us very well.

So, the final planning begins and arrangements are being made for meeting up and doing lots of fun stuff in and around the race. Four Amigos notwithstanding, every year there are more and more friends to greet. Expect more on this. I’m back and ready to roll on to my final race of the year and without doubt the one that is the most fun. Believe it or not, I also find it spiritually uplifting. Jamaica/Negril, I think I have said more than once over the years, is my ‘happy place’.