category : ‘Race Reports/Favorite Races’



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!


RVM Finish 2000

A few steps to go – RVM 2000

It should probably come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, because I talk about it often enough, but this is the weekend of the Victoria Marathon and the weekend when the extended Cumming family runs together.

Janna finishing Royal Victoria Marathon, Oct 2000

The first time was October 2000. I ran my second ever marathon and daughter Janna ran her first. (Oh, and don’t be fooled by the positioning of the photographs. Janna was about 15-16 minutes ahead of me.)

Just writing that caused me to do a bit of a double take. Let me tell you, there has been a lot of water under the bridge (or ferry) since then! Janna has run five more marathons, including New York City and Boston (two of the six Marathon Majors). In fact, she qualified for Boston in New York. My total is up to 27 actual marathons and one 50K Ultra. All but one of those marathons I’ve run since Victoria in 2000.

Danielle and Dan (her old Dad) after the run and ready for Brunch

Our daughter Danielle sees Victoria as her ‘go-to’ Half Marathon race. She has run it five times, tried once (a brave DNF last year) and will make it six this weekend. Last year I ran the 8K for the first time with Danielle’s son and my grandson, Charlie. We will be doing our second Victoria 8K together on Sunday, and Janna will do her first, rounding out her completion of all three events, full and half marathon plus the 8K.

Janna and me near Beacon Hill Park on a perfect race morning.

Janna’s husband Jason ran the Half last year and if indications hold, I am betting the other grandson, Jonah will be ready for the kid’s race next year. I suspect, he may think he is ready now, if he gets a look at all those kids running.

Our son lives in Victoria, but we’ve yet to get him to don a pair of running shoes and join us. And, even though he is an accomplished triathlete, we’ve yet to get the other son-in-law, Greg, out on this particular course.

All this adds up to a grand total, by sometime relatively early on Sunday morning, of 30 Victoria Marathon events since October 2000.

I’ve got another big thrill ongoing too, with a couple of the people from my first Forerunners Learn to Run 5K Clinic, signed up to do the 8K. As far as I know it is a first race for both, one for sure.

Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was actually launched at the Victoria Marathon Expo, way back in 2005.

If you look at what all the extended family members have done in Victoria, I guess the half marathon takes the prize for most popular distance. It is a wonderful course with so many amazingly scenic views and surprisingly good times. In theory, looking at course profiles and all, it doesn’t look all that fast, but it is nonetheless an excellent runner’s course. By my count we have collectively completed seventeen to date, with one more to be added on Sunday. That makes 18/30 at Half Marathon. Guess I might as well complete the box score and report seven marathons and five 8Ks (after Sunday).

Running with #1 Grandson at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (8K) – Oct 2016

The big thrill these days is I am getting to run with Charlie, our older grandson. Last year we ran the 8K and have run a 5K event where he lives (three times now). One day soon, that lad is going to have to beat his old Grandad and the old Grandad will be happy for it to happen, but Charlie, you’re gonna’ have to earn it!! Maybe it will be Sunday? We’ll see, I guess.

I’m going to keep this really short or it will wind up being race report.

Sunday is looking like pretty good running weather from the forecast, but you never know and it is what it is.

This is always a great opportunity for the family since we have seldom all lived in really close proximity. While our son does actually live in Victoria, one daughter and her family live in the Okanagan and the other and her family live in Winnipeg, while we are ensconced these many years in South Surrey. While some of us see some of the others relatively often, it is not nearly as often that we ALL get to see each other.

Running in the Zone Contributors at book launch, Oct 2005

The other great thing about Victoria is that so many other friends both running and otherwise, will be there. I mean, you can’t keep hanging around the same event for so long and not get to know a lot of people involved with the race. My list will include at least three Running in the Zone (the book) contributors: Steve King, Rob Reid and Evan Fagan.

We have already booked the post-race brunch (a tradition). With the Half being the longest distance run this time, we should be good to go by no later than 10:30. If one of us is running the marathon (especially me, these days) there tends to be a good bit more waiting for everyone to finish. But, the last time that happened was 2013. You must have priorities and family brunch is right up there.

Ferry reservation? Made. Hotel? Booked. Race Registrations? Done. Brunch? Booked.

Let the Games Begin!



Proud Emblem of a Proud People

You would have to be a first-timer to this blog if you didn’t already know that the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K is one of my favourite running events, and probably most favourite international event. This December will mark my 7th year in a row of attending.

At least part of the attraction is Jamaica itself. It is a favourite place of mine, including the people, the food and the vibe. Don’t ask why. It just is. I suppose there is a personal element in all of this. Maybe it is the time of the year. As old as I am, I still go pretty hard most of the time with projects and such. Maybe December is just when I get to ease back, and getting away tothe #HomeOfAlright, is the perfect way to get out of my normal surroundings and routine. I consider Negril my ‘happy place’. Of course, Negril does claim to be the Capital of Casual! Soon come, mon. Evry likkle ting gonna’ be alright!

Oh yes, and on the personal side, there are all the friends I’ve made over the years. We stay in touch through the year by social media, but the Reggae Marathon is when we get to meet up in person. More on that later.

As readers of a blog on running, you probably want to know more about the Reggae Marathon (short reference for the multi-part event, in which more people run the Half Marathon and more than that run the 10K). I’m even up on 10K and Half Marathon – three each. I shouldn’t be, actually. My first time was in 2011 and I was registered for the Marathon. It is an interesting and convoluted story. You can check the blog piece out HERE. Let’s just say the fates conspired to see me arrive at the starting line about 2.5 hours after the start, and completing 10K vs the marathon.

Where, besides the Capital of Casual, could you run anyway if you are more than two hours late?  Huh? Where?

Finishing it up 2011

Well, 2.5 hours after the start is about 7:45am. That doesn’t sound all that late, but by then the sun is up most of an hour. Starting a marathon that was going to take me more or less five hours just did not seem prudent. In those days, a marathon was not taking me anything like 5 hours, but I had prior experience with this kind of run (see Maui Marathon – 2008).

My Reggae Marathon medal collection (2011-2016)

I begged to be allowed to do the 10K and Race Director ‘Frano’ Francis gave me the thumbs up and assured me they could adjust my time and event later. That leaves me with three 10K finishes and three half marathon finishes. What should I do to break this tie? Logic says suck it up and get that red ribbon (marathon). Sound thinking says that at the age of almost 73, that would be really STUPID! I’m registered for the Half. We’ll see how the training goes, but I do want to see that end of the course and Bob’s Mile, one more time.

What does all this mean for someone thinking about doing this event? For all events, the start and finish are the same time and place. The races start in the ‘middle’ of the course at Long Bay Beach Park. The course is actually the main and only road along the Negril Beach – Norman Manley Blvd. For the duration of the event the road is closed to regular traffic. In fact, well before start time (5:15am Saturday morning), the road is closed and only runner shuttles, race and emergency vehicles are on the road/route.

Negril Town Round-About – Day before race day.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

Starting at Long Bay Beach Park, everyone heads south toward Negril Town. Plus or minus, it is 5K to the round-about, where runners turn back toward the start.

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Upon approaching the start/finish area, 10K runners continue a few hundred metres and then make a 180° left turn back toward the finish, inside Long Bay Beach Park.

Unless it takes a person more than 1:30:00 for 10K, the sun may just be rising (cue Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds) as you finish. If you are closer to an hour for 10K, it will still be dark and you can watch the dawn break with a fresh coconut in your hands. Whatever, there WILL be Reggae Music!

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

If you are running the Half or Marathon, there is still work to do and you keep going. About 5-6km out, you will turn back toward the start/finish. By now, notwithstanding the start in complete darkness, regardless of who you are (OK, except if you are winning the Half), the sun should be getting up and the course will be transformed! The Reggae Marathon happens less than a month prior to Christmas and most resorts have some kind of decorations up. And, I must say as a boy from the far north, it is somewhat confusing to be running in a singlet and shorts, sweating like it was July, past all those Christmas lights!

Obviously, the route doesn’t change, the aid stations are still there, as are the spectators and music systems blasting inspiring Reggae sounds. The difference of ‘night’ and ‘day’ transforms the appearance of the course. Temperature too!  Now, don’t get me wrong. Negril is warm at all times for us folks from “The Great White North” (aka Canada), but as tropical places go, the start temps are often quite reasonable (21-25C). However, as soon as the sun rises, so does the temperature.

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

Again, it is a relative thing. Negril in December is not blazing hot, nor terribly humid. In fact, daytime temperatures are ideal for vacationing, ranging around 28-30C. It is also relatively dry at that time of year, so while there might be a sudden cloudburst (generally in the late afternoon), the rain does not settle in. Chances are good that you will run in bright sunshine with a clear sky. The start temperature usually doesn’t change until after sunrise. That means everyone gets about an hour and a half of running at starting temps. Many 10K participants and the quicker Half Marathoners will finish before sunrise.

This race has a brilliant hydration system. Water and electrolyte come in 250ml sealed plastic pouches. No spillage on transfer from volunteer to participant, and easy to grab one of each if you want. It is a mile between aid stations and you can carry the pouch as far as you like. No need to gulp down fluids, then hold on to the next aid station. Nope, just sip as you go. The pouches are kept very cold, so the contents are refreshing. When you want to, you just tear off a corner with your teeth. Because it is so warm and you are going to sweat, I generally drink the electrolyte and pour the water over my head. I often joke that this is a perfect early warning safety device as well. The first time you get it wrong, drinking the water and pouring the electrolyte over your head, is a mistake. The second time (there shouldn’t BE a second time), you should take it as a warning that you may need help!!

Getting it done at the Reggae Marathon

If  you are running the Half Marathon you will be done upon returning to Long Bay Beach Park, and will slide off to the right, into the finish chute. Because of course and traffic logistics total race time has been reduced to six hours. It was seven hours until 2016. If you cannot make it half way by about 3 hours, race officials will divert you for a half marathon finish, awarding an official half marathon time and medal. “No Problem!” In 2016, they allowed runners to self divert “on the fly”, including from full to half and really, any distance to 10K. It worked well enough from the runner side, but as an old RD, I’m pretty certain it was a logistical nightmare. The policy for 2017 is that if you feel weather conditions are looking too difficult or you aren’t well enough prepared for the distance you chose, you CAN “step down and be alright”, but you have to do it at package pick-up, not during or after the race.

Early morning on the Negril River

After the first loop, Marathoners do it all again: down to the Negril River, around the round-about, back to the start/finish, out to the north end of the course and back through Bob’s Mile to the finish line. OK, even if you are running the Half, you get to do Bob’s Mile (the final mile for both events). Marathoners get a double dose. It is one of the prettier parts of the course with lots of views of the sea, off to the right. In terms of on course music there is nothing you won’t have experienced already, but what there is, is a series of sandwich-board signs with lyrics from Marley’s music. To the casual eye, they don’t really look like much, but they aren’t random. I can tell you that. What I can’t tell you is how emotional some will make you as you finish the Half or Full Marathon. I’m just going to leave it at that. You should really experience it for yourself. One Love!

Sweet Reggae Music – so hard to resist!

As with the Half Marathon, once Marathoners reach the finish area, they too make that last dash to the finish line and the Reggae beach party that will be well begun before any marathoner reaches that point!

PARTY!  Did he say Party?? Well, yes. And, it was an oversight on my part, because the Finish Beach Party is the SECOND party, and true to the name of the area (Long Bay Beach Park), it IS a beach party. OR, maybe you could say it is the party of the SECOND PART! Which, of course, would make the Pasta Party, the Party of the FIRST PART.

What I forgot to mention was the pre-race events. The Reggae Marathon claims to have the best pre-race pasta party in the World. That’s right, THE WORLD! Now, I haven’t been to all the pasta parties in the WHOLE world, but I’ve been to my share, and have no evidence to refute the claim! In fact, I support the claim. How many of us have attended the standard ‘spaghetti with red stuff, a bun and some lettuce’, pre-race carbo/pasta party? Right.

Pasta Party just Getting Started – Couples Sport Complex

Pasta Anyone??

Just one of many pasta stations! Looks pretty – tastes great!

Package Pick-Up and the pasta party happen at Couples Swept Away Sport Complex, and catering is by many of the bigger hotel cooking squads along the beach strip. They set up their tents and cooking gear, and go to town on an amazing range of pasta dishes, salads, breads, even a few Jamaican twists on the whole thing, such as Rasta Pasta and for those who believe fast running requires “Food” (starchy root vegetables), some will have that, too.

Red Stripe, So Good at the Finish! (Even if this is from the pre-race party.)

There is Red Stripe beer. Of course there’s Red Stripe!! There is also lots of entertainment and that is where old friends meet up. And, where new friends meet for the first time. I have lost count of just how many people I’ve met at Reggae Marathon, a lot of them either at the pre-race or post-race parties. Some have become people I look forward to seeing every December and a good many, I now keep in touch with via social media.

Four Amigos (L/R Larry, Navin, Chris and Dan) demonstrating the 2016 ‘count’, now at 26

This is Reggae Marathon #7 for me and I can’t wait to see the other three of the Four Amigos who will be counting a total of 30 Reggae Marathons. There are many others who can’t quite claim our ‘streak’ of attendance,  but are regulars and even participants in the Reggae Runners’ Half Marathon Challenge.

The ‘hub’ around which a lot of this is centred is Chris Morales, the official blogger of the Reggae Marathon and “That Runnin’ Guy”. He is the one who knows all of us and a whole lot more.

Chris at Rondel Village restaurant by the beach. Ready for breakfast (ackee and salt fish).

Chris and I fell into housing ourselves at Rondel Village, a whole lot of years ago. Except for the first time when my wife and I stayed at a small resort between Orange Bay and Green Island, I have stayed at Rondel Village. Chris and I generally have a preview run on the road and at least one on the beach. I love running barefoot on the beach, but have learned the hard way, if you are a tender-foot, to leave that until post-race. You can work up a blister pretty fast from sand shifting between your toes. That said, I’ve never seen a better beach for running with hard-packed sand close to the water and a very gentle slope, so you are more or less on the flat as you run.

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

I can’t say how many times Chris and I have gone out for one of those pre-race shake-out runs and met up with people we know.  They either join up with us or we stop for a quick chat, making that first blast of warm tropical air a bit easier to deal with (Chris is Jamaican by birth but now hails from Canada too). We both need to acclimatize fast!

Total registration is nearing 2500 and in 2017, for the first time, a cap of 3000 has been applied. Since I’ve been attending (2011 through 2016) total finishers have gone from 1192 to 2060. One must remember that registrants will always be more than finishers. All runners know stuff happens and as much as we want to, we don’t always make it to the start.

Year after year Reggae Marathon garners recognition among the world’s best international marathon events and in 2017 has been named #1 by Men’s Running of the UK. Women’s Running gave the race special recognition, too!

Some of the school teams movin’ to de Riddim.

While boasting registrants from more than 30 countries, one of the big stories is how many Jamaicans now take part. Everybody knows Jamaica is about sprinting and sprinters! However, at longer distances there aren’t too many Jamaicans to be seen. Reggae Marathon is the fruit of much work by the JamDammers (Kingston running club). It started with the first race in 2001. Over the years, much has been done to encourage local participation and a big success has been the high school team challenge with winning teams being rewarded with computers for their schools. More recently, there has been development of a country-wide race series, of which Reggae Marathon is the final event. Series participation has grown steadily and now many of these people are traveling to Negril for the grand finale of the year. This year will see involvement of a corporate challenge of Move Jamaica that encourages even more activity.

How the race is run varies from the very serious (stay out of the way of the 10K School Challenge runners – female and male – they are VERY serious and fast), to strictly participaory for the shear joy and fun of it all (check out Reggae Runnerz, if you don’t believe me). How fast are those school kids? Well the fastest male recorded a 32 minute 10K in 2016. How serious are Reggae Runnerz? Admittedly, a bit slower mostly, but you can expect 500 of them at the start line, so you could say they are pretty serious – serious about having an amazing time! Check the official video on the Reggae Marathon web site.

Record times are very respectable, regardless of the warmer than ideal (for record times) conditions.

Marathon (M/F): 2:21:05/2:42:25,

Half Marathon: 1:08:32/1:16:12,

10K: 29:55/36:17.

Record holders come from St Vincent, Russia, Kenya (2), USA and Jamaica, making it truly an international festival of running. Although Canadians hold no records, Canucks have won individual races, and more than once. The two most recent were Karen Warrendorf of Vancouver taking the women’s marathon in 2016 and Heather Colasuonno of Ajax (ON) taking the Half in 2015. I was most interested to note that in the first year the Marathon was the big event! Of the total number running (625), 401 ran the marathon (there was no 10K in those days). Last year (2016) 157 ran the marathon, 599 ran the half and 1333 ran the 10K. I suspect that word is out on how much fun post-race is, so why not get there as fast as possible????

Doctor ‘One Drop’ Dread (my Reggae Name)

And, to the last point, the vast majority of people are really just there for the fun, before, during and after. It is a great opportunity to get your Jamaica on. Get some gear in the Jamaican green, gold and black, or add some red for Rasta reggae colours.

Take it from me, not everyone sporting ‘dreads’ actually grew them! And, if you just can’t help it, well stopping to dance a bit at one of the sound system locations is all part of Reggae Marathon. So is singing along as you run! Fun doesn’t necessarily mean slow, but time isn’t the first objective, either.

As they say: If you go, you’ll know!


Forerunners gang getting ready to run - 2016

Forerunners gang, getting ready to run – 2016

And, it is also an upcoming race here in the Vancouver area. Yes, Richmond, we know it is really in your yard, and scenic to boot!

Just three years old (almost), the Forever Young 8K will happen September 10, 2017. I missed the inaugural event because I was off somewhere running a marathon or something! Last year I participated and it was a great event to be part of, so I signed up for the “Third Annual”, happening in just under a month.

There really aren’t that many races geared precisely for the ‘Seasoned Athlete’, but this is one. You young folk can come out and volunteer, cheer or just watch in awe as there may even be a single age World Record set (it has happened before!). If you want to run (or walk) you will have to prove you are at least 55 years of age! YES! Personally, I will have no problem with such proof.

Ready to roll from Gary Point, 2016

Ready to roll from Gary Point, 2016 (Photo – Tamiko Young)

In all seriousness this is a top flight event and one to give a try. There have been some significant changes this year, mostly intended to improve and streamline the race. While the first two years saw the start at Steveston’s Gary Point, the third edition is going to start and finish at the Richmond Oval. The course is still on the dyke, but will now follow the Fraser River section, just across from YVR. Starting from the Oval, participants will go West to the point (where the dyke path turns sharply south), then turn around and come back. Simple. 4K Out. 4K Back.

The other major change is that organizers have made an arrangement with the Oval to handle a number of administrative matters, reducing stress and strain on the race team. Well, that is the theory, and I think in time will be a good move. One of the things involved is the registration process. I try to be honest in what I write and I must say that I personally found it a bit frustrating. Why? Because before you can go to the usual on-line registration page, you must set up a profile and account with the Richmond Oval. It is actually not that difficult, but if you are like me, you may find that unhelpful. I register for lots of races where you are given an option to ‘join’ that so-called community. These are usually large multi-event registrar systems where they keep your info and as soon as you get to your specific race page, they can automatically populate all the fields. However, they also give you the option to just skip on by and register as ‘guest’.

I am writing all this because as annoying as I found the process, I also think the race is worth the effort. So, if you are buying that the race is worthy, please don’t let the process deter you. All of that said, and as long as the event does not sell out (it did in year one and almost did last year), you CAN register at Package Pick-Up (Friday/Saturday), including on race day (IF, the event has not sold out all the entry spots. And, if you are willing to pay another $10) You can register by mail too, but time is getting short to pull that off and get the current price. Here’s the registration details in a nutshell: Current cost – $45, After August 20 – $50, Day of Race – $60.

I must admit, I am a little late getting this post out. Seems I was too busy watching the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, and writing other stuff. Besides, I registered well over a month ago. I say this because there is a fee increase coming at midnight August 20. You can save $5 if you register before then. Trust me, you will be glad you did, register that is, and probably that you saved $5.

As a long time runner, I feel it is really important to keep smaller local events viable. The mega-events are fun and we have a few notable ones in the Vancouver area, but if you want to have other options, we have to keep events like Forever Young 8K healthy and vibrant. So, here I am promoting it.

Finishing Strong - 2016. Looking better than I felt!

Finishing Strong – 2016. Looking better than I felt! (Photo – Forever Young 8K)

September in Vancouver is generally very pleasant, weather-wise. I know for sure it was great on race day in 2016, because I was there, but from the photographs on the web page, believe it was more or less the same in 2015.

The route is flat and off the road. The Richmond Dyke is packed gravel and pretty easy for running or walking. The views are spectacular, if you need something to take your mind off the task at hand.

I know I have something to prove this time. I had a plan in mind for last year, that did not come to fruition. Being ‘well seasoned’ I guess I sort of forgot that running three hard legs of the Hood to Coast Relay just two weeks before, might tire the old legs out (a lot). None of that happening this year. I won’t tell you my goals, but I am feeling good about being able to achieve them. No plans for a podium, just better than last year and more like what I think I can do. That is my approach to racing these days, anyway.

This race is good value for money, even if you pay full price. If last  year is any indication they pay close attention to all the important details. Come on out and join the fun! It is just 8K and some of us probably even remember that was once 5 Miles.



Dan Cumming - In case you forgot what I look like!

Dan Cumming – In case you forgot what I look like!

AND, this isn’t one of those times.

Nor is the recent past despite the fact I’ve been pretty quiet. It has actually been another one of those times when life has been getting in the way of running and talking/writing about running.

BUT, it is Spring running season! As I started writing we had just ‘Sprung Ahead’ into Daylight Time, and the true official ‘first day of Spring’ was just around a week away. And then, more stuff happened, including the death of Ed Whitlock, which clearly took precedence over anything else I might have to say. So good intentions and all, here I am finally back to writing a bit of my regular running stuff.

A couple of biggies are on the horizon, the London and Boston Marathons, and sometime in the coming weeks Nike is going to unleash its first attempt at getting one or more athletes under the magic and mystical TWO HOUR  mark for the marathon.

Here in Vancouver, the number of races on the immediate schedule is ramping up fast.  The Sun Run is almost upon us and before you can turn around, the BMO Vancouver Marathon, followed by a bunch of seasonal standards from the Lower Mainland Road Race Series and the BC Athletics Super Series. This short list is just to mark a few of the dozens of runs that are right on the horizon. For me and quite a few local runners, an alternate race to Vancouver is the Eugene Marathon. Personally, the Vancouver Marathon is still way ahead on the count of times I have participated (11 I believe – 5 full and 6 half), but Eugene is a favourite and I think this is going to be my sixth time in the 11 years it has been in operation.

Getting back to the international stage, we may be looking at some spectacular marathon performances in the next while (none of which will be by ME). Boston does not meet the requirements for world records, but it can still turn in fast and exciting times. Among the runners will be a couple of notable Canadians, Eric Gillis (2:11:21) and Rachel Hanna (2:32:09)! London is known as a place to do a time, and it counts. There, Canadians should be keeping an eye on Krista Duchene (2:28:32). Of course, there will also be the totally ‘set up’ attempt by Nike and its three athletes, to run the track at Monza for that two hour time. A test run at half marathon distance demonstrated that the looped course and all the preparations could produce a fast time. It is going to be exciting to see what happens when they do it “For Real”.

The thing about insurmountable times is that once someone does it, everybody wants to do it!

Example? The four minute mile. It was once said that you would die if you went that fast. A humorous quote from Sir Roger Bannister highlights this belief:

“Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.”

Bannister’s time when he broke through the physical and psychological barrier was 3:59.4. .High school athletes have now cracked four minutes with the official US High School record standing at 3:53.43!

Even if Nike is creating a completely set up situation, including designing a new shoe they claim can knock 3-4% off the elite runner’s time, IF any one of those boys breaks two hours or even comes close, like say 2:00:30, I predict times will soon drop in some race, to near that same time or even a bit faster. Pride may even push some people to drive through to an unheard of time, just to prove they are ‘better’ than the Nike team that has everything optimized for the performance. People are like that!

We seem to collectively adopt a belief about things like the four minute mile and the two hour marathon, and, until someone proves otherwise, it becomes the limiting factor. Who ever imagined that, Nike notwithstanding, the marathon record would be sitting at 2:02:57? It wasn’t that long ago that 2:05 was seen as rocket fast. Since we got to the 2:03 point there have been a number of results just over or just under that. Maybe we just need to know, really know, that something is possible for a whole lot of other people to become believers.

One record that has not proven to be that way is Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15 marathon time. The second best time to that is 2:17 and it was done by Paula herself. As a matter of fact, looking back at top women’s marathon times (not records, because once someone sets a new record, people who are faster than the old record, but slower than the new one, don’t show up in the records stats), out of the top seven times recorded by women, Paula Radcliffe holds FOUR of them: 2:15:25, 2:17:18, 2:17:42 and 2:18:56. The fastest woman in the Top Five (since Paula R became the record holder) not named Paula Radcliffe is Mary Keitany (KEN) with a 2:18:37. Paula’s record time was done at London in 2003. Wonder, fourteen years later, what London might have in store for us in 2017?

Based on my little theory about people showing the way, Radcliffe actually showed herself the way, posting one of her 2:17’s (breaking Katherine Nedereiba’s 2:18:47) before she recorded the 2:15:25. Looking at the ‘followers’, that makes Mary Keitany next at 2:18:37 or more than THREE full minutes off Radcliffe’s best. The men continue to steadily push the times down.  Come on ladies, how about giving us some excitement this Spring!?!

At least in American marathoning, we are witnessing a changing of the guard. Ryan Hall has said he is done, but decided seven marathons on seven continents in seven days was a fitting way to say goodbye to the distance. Meb has signaled he is done with competitive racing, although I notice he is registered for Boston, so we’ll see. There may be some newcomers on the scene, but none as yet that have signaled clearly they are here and ready to join battle with the best of the best.

Canadian distance running is being well represented by several runners on both the male and female side, but the big target in Canadian marathon running remains Jerome Drayton’s 42 year-old record. So many have flirted with it and the gap has been closed, but Drayton is still ‘the man’ at 2:10:09. A personal friend, Peter Butler, was second with 2:10:56 – for years! He has slipped now to the fourth fastest person, but sixth fastest time with two of the faster times being 2:10:55 or just one second faster. To give him his due, Reid Coolsaet owns three of the times that bested Butler and stands second-best only to Drayton with 2:10:29. The other guys slipped in between Drayton and Butler, without besting Drayton. Dylan Wykes (2:10:47) and Reid Coolsaet wedged between the other two. It is a bit ironic that Peter has not lost a second on Drayton but has dropped from second fastest Canadian man to fourth. Statistically, you would have to say that someone has to break the 2:10 mark and set a totally new standard for Canadian men, but just now it is hard to see who that might be. Eric Gillis is only just a step or two back of Butler’s time and still active. None of the above named (well, except Drayton and Butler) are completely out of the picture, but all three are on the down side of things, at least in theory. Wykes may or may not put himself back in that mix considering the injury issues he has had in the last few years. Just to be clear, winning races is different from posting times. All I am talking about here is those record times.

On the women’s side, Lanni Marchant has set a new Canadian standard (2:28:00) and runs well. However, some younger women showing promise, may or may not ever reach her level of performance. The good news is that there are probably three or four coming along, and you would not want to dismiss what Krista Duchene might do on the right day in the right company. I (and a whole lot of other people) will be watching Dayna Pidhoresky (2:40:38) and Rachel Hanna (2:32:08) because they both have a lot of future in them.

All I know with respect to Canadian distance runners, male and female, is that I am going to be watching for something interesting during the coming year. There are many who still have potential, notwithstanding theoretical analysis of potential performance. It always comes down to the right circumstances on the right day and look out!

I will also be watching me! I’ve hit what I really believe now is a critical point in my own running. I already mentioned Eugene on May 7. A big group is going down to do the Marathon or Half Marathon. I will be one of the people in the Half. I love the race, with the great route and above all, the finish on Hayward Field. I also have a score to settle from last year. Officially, you will find me listed 5th in my age group with exactly the same time as the chap who was 4th. Seems to me that is a tie, but even though I can’t see it in the results, they probably timed into the hundredths of a second. I don’t care! they gave us the same time. I calls it a tie!! Anyway, I was holding back a little bit last year because I had another half to run in just six days. No hanging back this time!  Going for a better time (and hopefully a better placing)!

Then, later in June, I will run what may well be my last marathon, The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. I am not going to say I will never ever participate in another marathon, but unless I trip coming out of the tunnel and roll all the way to the bottom in a BQ time, I’m pretty sure it is going to be my last ‘serious’ marathon, meaning with a time I can be pleased with as the best I could do. I do love marathons and everything about them except the training and hard work of running one for time, so I may do like a lot of people I know, and switch over to an experiential approach. By that I mean a slower time and less rigorous training program (which is really what is getting to me in terms of fatigue factors). There are a good many events in which I would like to take part, and today that is a huge ‘thing’ with a lot of people quite happy to run slower than I would, even on a slow day. I may need to become one of them. It is all relative, you know.

With that Tunnel Marathon behind me, my intention is to switch my focus to shorter distances, at least for the rest of the year. That may mean around 10K as the upper end, barring the odd 10 miler or 15K event that may or may not appear on the horizon. After I determine if not training ALL the time for the long races, gives me back some of the energy I now seem to find lacking, I may put some serious training back in for a Half Marathon now and then, but only one or two a year. This all fits with some other running challenges/opportunities coming up that I’m not ready to talk about just yet – soon, but not now. I’m very excited about this new personal ‘era’ and you will soon be able to see why when I can talk about it openly. Won’t be long now!



Finishing my very FIRST First Half!

Finishing my very FIRST First Half!

When 2016 started, I didn’t have any BIG plans. Well OK, maybe one or two, and therein lies a cautionary tale and some other musing(for later). First, the personal stuff and all about MY 2016 of running.

First up was running my very first First Half Half Marathon!  (I like writing “first First Half Half Marathon” because it drives the auto-correct feature crazy seeing the double repeat. FIRST FIRST HALF HALF MARATHON.   Bwahahahahaa!

For those who don’t know, the “First Half” as it is more popularly known in these parts, is one of Vancouver’s best half marathons (as in it usually sells out in hours) and I was the Race Director for four years and Stage MC for five more. Never able to run it – until this year, and let’s face it, there aren’t all that many things you can say are ‘firsts’ when you hit my age. The full title is The First Half, Half Marathon (which form calms the software amazingly – just one tiny little comma can DO that). Back in the dark, dark days of ancient (20th Century) running history, when pretty much ALL races were club organized, the Pacific Road Runners agreed with Lions Gate Road Runners that they would stage a couple of ‘training’ or prep half marathon races for runners aspiring to run the Vancouver International Marathon. Thus, in 1989 the “First Half” was born. As an aside, Forerunners was the first and ONLY run store sponsor of the First Half, continuing right up to today AND Peter Butler (co-owner with wife Karen) WON the first First Half. Anyhoo, it turns out that staging a really first class race is a fair bit of work and somehow, the “Second Half” never happened. EVER. Hint: There’s still time PRR! You could do it!

Giant's Head Run 2016 (so very, very HOT)

Giant’s Head Run 2016 (so very, very HOT)

The family that runs together!

The family that runs together!

I am always thrilled to be able to run with Charlie, our grandson. That was something I was able to do twice this year, once in June at the Giant’s Head 5.4K and again in Victoria at the 8K race included within the whole Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon weekend. It was a huge thrill to run with him in Victoria as his uncle and our son-in-law also ran as well. Charlie’s Mom (daughter, Danielle) was supposed to run the half marathon, but sustained one of those last minute injuries that just blew the possibility out of the water. She still gave it a brave try though. She started and was doing fine for some 3-400m until she had to make the first left turn. End of story for this year.

Getting ready for bigger things to come!

Getting ready for bigger things to come!

Also in attendance were all kids and related spouses plus our other grandson, Jonah, who isn’t quite ready for full on competition, although we did have a bit of a run together at Whistler in the summer. His legs are very short! But, that is changing fast and does he ever have form. Already gets ‘air’ when he runs and isn’t even two yet.

Almost ready for the Eugene Half Marathon. And, toasty warm, with Judi Cumming.

Almost ready for the Eugene Half Marathon. And, toasty warm, with Judi Cumming.

Most of my other 2016 racing developed kind of organically (as we like to say these days). I am a big fan of the Eugene Marathon and they favoured me with official designation as an ‘Ambassador’. It was a lot of fun promoting the race and then getting on down there to volunteer at the Expo and finally, actually run the half marathon.

My wife and I decided that we could gainfully employ a bit of time-share accommodation with the fact there was a brand new Revel race just outside Las Vegas, so we just kept going and a week after Eugene, I ran the inaugural Mount Charleston (Half) Marathon. It was a fabulous event and made all the better by the fact that I actually managed to win my age group.

Finishing up Mount Charleston Half, for the age group win! (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Finishing up Mount Charleston Half, for the age group win! (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

I’ve been having a lot of fun telling people I am the age group course record holder for M70-74. Why? Well, because I am. I mean, whatever time a person might do, if you win your group and it is the FIRST race, you kind of have to hold the record. I’m not really planning on it holding up much past the next running, but we’ll see. I kind of doubt that I would go back to ‘defend’ my title. If I do go, it will be to give that ever so enticing marathon a try. Revel races are downhill events (big time) and I do love downhill racing. No promises, but stay tuned.

The traditional team with the Mountain photo (Canucks to the Coast - 2016)

The traditional team with the Mountain photo (Canucks to the Coast – 2016)

One of the really big deals for 2016 was getting a team into the Hood to Coast Relay. As usual, I was the captain and had so much fun with our intrepid group of Mixed Sub-Masters. Considering that Canucks to the Coast was strictly about the fun, we did OK, coming 26/107 in our division. Man, was it HOT though. Well, until we got to the beach! Friday was so hot it was a bit of a worry for runner safety. By the time we got to Seaside on Saturday it was cloudy, cold, breezy and not really that much fun to be sitting about a beach drinking beer. I didn’t say that we DIDN’T sit on the beach and drink beer, but we didn’t stay as long as one might otherwise do. We had a few veterans, but also quite a few newbies. Apparently most had a pretty good time because when I tried to assemble a team for 2017, it took almost no time to recruit enough runners to warrant the application. The unsuccessful application, that would be. I’m over it now, but it would have been my 10th Hood to Coast run on the 30th anniversary of my first. I suppose if it is really, really important I could still go hunting for a spot on a team. I could, you know!  We’ll see.

Looking a lot better than I felt at the finish of Forever Young 8K

Looking a lot better than I felt at the finish of Forever Young 8K

Too soon after Hood to Coast, I decided to run the Forever Young 8K in Richmond, BC (for a ‘time’). It is a kind of fun event for people 55+. That was a pretty warm day too, but I just hadn’t counted on how beat up my legs would be from the relay. Never mind, this one was also all about the fun even if it didn’t start that way. This is also the beginning of the ‘cautionary tale’ mentioned in the beginning.

Shortly after running Victoria with all that family around, I gave the James Cunningham 10K a go. Any excuse to run around Stanley Park is a welcome one. It was a beautiful day to run and lots of fun.

2:30 Pace Group - Fall Classic Half Marathon

2:30 Pace Group – Fall Classic Half Marathon

After that, I signed on for something I had never done in over 32 years of running. I took on pacing duties in the Fall Classic Half Marathon. I’m not going to reproduce things I’ve already written about, but was pretty amazed at how much pressure I was feeling to get it done right. There is a big difference between finishing on a target time and holding a particular, relatively steady pace to achieve that time. It was a real pleasure to assist people with THEIR goals rather than concentrating mostly on my own. In the end, I finished with only two of the people who started with me, still running with me in the last kilometre. One took off with a few hundred metres to go, for a slightly quicker finish and the other stayed with me to the bitter end. Most others had not kept up even though I was a bit slow on the specified time. I was so glad to have done it and would surely do it again.

My Reggae Marathon medal collection (2011-2016)

My Reggae Marathon medal collection (2011-2016)

As always (of late), the grand finale for 2016 was a trip to the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. I just wrote a really long post about that, even longer with the number of photographs, assuming you count each picture for ‘a thousand words’! In the end, I wound up running the 10K, mostly because ‘all the other kids were doing it’ and because it was just a wee bit extra hot/humid compared to normal. For me, nothing beats the Reggae Marathon and I even dragged a non-running friend along to experience the whole thing with me.

So, that concludes the brief annual recap of running, but if you think I’m done, you must be new to this blog!

One of the things I do love about running is the travel for racing aspect. I actually didn’t set out with any big goal to combine the two (racing and traveling) this year, but it happened anyway. I ran in 10 events in 2016. Five were ‘away’. In order, they were: Eugene Marathon (Oregon – May), Revel Mount Charleston Marathon (Nevada – May), Hood to Coast Relay (Oregon – August), Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (BC – October) and Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K (Jamaica – December). I also just noticed that I am a bit of a man of habit. Only one of those five races was new for me. I guess that when I find something I like, I stick with it. Here’s another little statistic – the number of times I’ve done one event or another at each of these places: Eugene (6), Hood to Coast (9), Victoria (12) and Reggae Marathon (6). No wonder I’m not getting far with ‘number of places raced’!

I said there was something of a cautionary story that evolved this year. It is something I need to pay some attention to and that maybe other ‘seasoned athletes’ can learn from. First, you need to know that I normally run to the best of my ability when I race. That doesn’t mean I’m fast, or that I don’t take into account that I might be running races pretty close together. For instance, Eugene and Mount Charleston half marathons were only six days apart. I ran Eugene knowing Mt. Charleston was coming right up, but then was able to run Mt. Charleston (the actual goal race) for whatever I could manage. It showed in the results. What I am generally not, is unconcerned about my performance. I run as hard as I am able.

I did run two races this year with Charlie, where the result was ‘whatever it would be’. He is not quite able to go my pace, not for the moment, but I count the days until THAT changes and then I’ll be shouting “Wait for me, Charlie!”. The reason I say all of this is that I realized, possibly too late, that after Hood to Coast, I was just too tired to go how I would have hoped. I was a bit upset and disappointed in my own performances until I realized that at some age, you just can’t keep pounding away and expecting things to carry on as normal. Apparently, for me, seventy-one IS that age!  Recovery becomes huge, both between races and as a part of rigorous training.

I have a number of older (even older than me) runners I quite admire and who turn in some pretty amazing times. Turns out that most of them don’t race all that much. I also know some admirable older runners who do ‘race’ a lot, but do it more as a participatory thing with just getting it done as the main goal. I am feeling like I may never run another marathon, and I have to admit that while there was no plan involved, there is something ‘poetically satisfying’ about having done 26 marathons. Get it? 26 miles. 26 career marathons. Still, if I can’t get my head around a deliberately slow time, just because I love the vibe of the marathon and WANT to do the event for the experience, then I think I should call it quits. And, even if one runs simply to finish, this is still one event you MUST respect and put in the training for, or pay a price.

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

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

All of that said, I kind of do like those podium finishes that come once in a while now (two in 2016), as I apparently age slower than the competition. Just for fun, I looked at a couple of the other races where my times were nothing like what I expected of myself, and at least one or two would also have resulted in a podium finish had I just done what I (reasonably) thought I could do.

BUT, I didn’t do those times because my legs were fatigued, something that was my own fault. You can’t really ‘train’ your way out of that situation. While you don’t have to stop running, you do need to stop pushing, at least for a time. For me, it isn’t just the racing, it is also the training for racing that is part of the issue. I see the real solution if I want times I can be proud of, is to simply be more selective about the races I do for personal performance. Up to this point I kind of fall in the category of a guy who has never met a race he didn’t like (ie wants to run).

Joe Henderson was waiting at the finish on Hayward Field, to congratulate this old slogger.

Joe Henderson was waiting at the finish on Hayward Field, to congratulate this old slogger.

While at Eugene, I had the chance to spend some real quality time with Joe Henderson (a contributor to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes) and a legend in the world of running. We had the time for a long coffee, just the two of us, well away from the event venue, where there is never really a quiet moment. I think Joe has already conquered the challenge when you can no longer do what you used to do and he had a lot of useful things to share. I think it must be time to put some of that into personal practice.

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

Getting ready for the Sage Rat Half

I’m not without some experience in creating perspective re my running efforts (even if I’m not really good at it yet). A couple of years ago, after becoming your basic Marathon Maniac, I decided I needed to get up, at least, to the second level. I set out a plan to run six marathons in six months. I knew it wasn’t going to look all that pretty, but the goal was becoming a Two Star Maniac. (Some of my friends and family will be very surprised that it is only ‘two’. They already think I’m way beyond two stars in the maniac department, but I think that’s different.) I pulled off that ‘level up’ fairly reasonably I think. Similarly, when I decided it would be good to join Half Fanatics, I looked at the challenges and set a goal to reach the Fourth Level (of 10), which involved running three actual half marathons and a 25K trail race in 14 days. Again, I was very aware of the challenge. It was to get those four races done, not to go fast or win anything. Well, there was something to win – my new HF Level, and I did that. And, it WAS fun. The best part was meeting me a giant Sage Rat on the weekend when I ran the Sage Rat Half Marathon on Saturday and the Dirty Rat 25K trail race on Sunday. Oh, and by the result of circumstances, I did get a second in the half and first in the 25K. We won’t go into how many ran though. I always say you can only race those that show up.

So, what does all this mean for me, and maybe for anyone reading this and wondering about their own goals and aspirations? Well, here is what I’m thinking. Sorry, you will have to consider your own situation for yourself!

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

A forest trail on Mount Frosty (Manning Park, BC)

Well, I aspire to keep on running, whether I ever run another race or not. That one is pretty darn firm. I will run as long as I can, and maybe when I really can’t run anymore, I’ll hike or walk.

Goals are another thing, and a lot more precise. While I don’t have anything specific that can now be graved in stone for 2017 I do have a few thoughts forming. First of all, I am going to reduce training volume on a year-round basis. If I decide to target a long race (full marathon) it will either be because I want to participate in some special event, or have decided I could run one more ‘quality’ race. Either way, I will target something specific and train for THAT race, that ONE race, not every race that could come along.

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

I am thinking I will soon pick out and settle on maybe three serious races (whatever distance I choose) and train seriously for them. I may pick out another three or so that will just be because I want to do them and will focus on finishing and having fun. Which ones? Not sure right now. A running buddy from the training clinic is organizing a BIG delegation to go to Eugene in May. Unfortunately, the one race that is beckoning to my competitive instincts is the Mount Charleston Marathon. Yes, marathon. The goal won’t be a BQ, but rather as good a time as I can manage. Eugene is the week after. I won’t be doing both. Wherever exactly it may happen, I do look forward to another race (or two) with Charlie and other family members. The Reggae Marathon has become such a tradition that while I can’t commit now, it certainly has my attention as a strong possible. Maybe the place to start is one ‘serious’ race in the Spring and one in the Fall, and then just go from there to fill in the blanks.

2017 is going to bring a new challenge in the coaching/mentoring aspect of my running. It will involve the new Forerunners store on Main Street in Vancouver and you can trust me when I say there is going to be more to say on that subject in the New Year. It will involve working closely with Carey Nelson and Peter Butler, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the opportunity. That is definitely going to create a major and welcome change of focus and I’ll need to factor that into the rest of my plans. I’m looking at it as a super positive opportunity, including for my own running.

So, that’s it for now. Planning is ongoing and at least you know HOW I’m thinking even if things are only just starting to shape up.

Thanks to those who follow my ramblings, give personal encouragement and support (especially my family).

And from Running in the Zone, all the very best for a wonderful 2017!


Celebrating Reggae Marathon #6 early morning, Dec 3.

Celebrating Reggae Marathon #6 early morning, Dec 3.

Well, I’m trying to ‘bask’ but it is a bit hard with the current weather in Vancouver.

Running in Vancouver a week later and 50F colder!

Running in Vancouver a week later and 50F colder!

Upon returning from a few days in Montego Bay, after the race time in Negril, I discovered that winter had come to Vancouver. While cogitating on this factoid, I got thinking about the contrast. When we left MoBay it was 82°F. That was Thursday afternoon around 3:30pm. Saturday morning, maybe 36 hours later, I led a small but brave pace group at the Forerunners marathon and half marathon clinic. The temperature was 32°F. You can do the math, just as I did. That is a difference of 50°F!  FIFTY DEGREES!!!!! And then, it got colder.

Undeterred, I am just letting warm thoughts of the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K keep me in the Jamaican moment. You can tell how much you like a vacation experience by whether or not you start looking up real estate listings. I looked. Of course, I never do anything about it, but if the place has enough charm and good stuff to make you think about moving there, you know you must have had a good time.

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

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

Negril is not a new experience for me, nor is the Reggae Marathon (regardless of which of the three races you actually run). 2016 was my sixth Reggae Marathon in a row. I guess you call that a streak. Speaking of ‘streaking’, that (or as close to it as you can reasonably come on a public beach) is what I love doing, at least as much as the actual race. Running the beach in the early morning with little more than a pair of shorts is magic. I have a rule that I don’t run barefoot until the race is over. It turns out that until you toughen up your feet a bit, shifting sand can work up a nasty blister in an amazingly short period of time. After the race though, the shoes stay behind and you just takes your chances. Most times out there, I will be with friend Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy). We’ve had some great beach runs over the years, including the time we, plus Jetola Anderson-Blair and Navin Sadarangani, put on a running exhibition for ESPN Latin America. They were doing a feature piece on the Reggae Marathon. We were ‘runners preparing for the big race‘. I’d love to put up the link but it seems to have been taken down for good and all. Too bad; they did a good job.

Negril 2011 - Judi and Dan, recreating the pose from 1969

Negril 2011 – Judi and Dan, recreating the pose from 1969

The first time I went to Jamaica for the Reggae Marathon, my wife Judi went too and we made a two week vacation of it, with a week in Negril and another in Ocho Rios. The first time I almost actually RAN the marathon.

Negril 1969 - Judi and Dan

Negril 1969 – Judi and Dan

I was registered and everything, but a little personal episode of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” conspired to see us arrive at the start about two and a half hours late. Some would say in Jamaica that was kind of normal, but it doesn’t fly at the Reggae Marathon because that event starts dead on time at 5:15. It was even four seconds early this year, according to satellite time. Anyway, in 2011 and after only a wee bit of begging, I was allowed to go run the 10K and get my time and race adjusted to be a 10K (officially). If you really want to hear the whole story, the link is right HERE.

Modeling UBC "Aggies" jackets (1966)

Modeling UBC “Aggies” jackets (1966) YEP, That’s us!

After that first time, I have gone alone (until this year). Well, not really alone in the sense that all the usual crowd is there, including the Four Amgos who now count a collective 26 Reggae Marathon races. But, alone in the sense of traveling there with someone. This time I asked my friend Al Helmersen if he would like to come and see why this has become such a ritual with me. Al and I met in third year of University, way back in the last century! We have known each other for more than 51 years and have been good friends for all that time, even though we have but seldom actually lived in the same place. Sometimes, like now, not too far away, but sometimes on separate continents and once, nearly half way around the world. Our families are similar in structure with them having the first kid and then just alternating, although we did slip in one more than them. We stay close as family friends and while Al and I have known each other the longest by just a little bit, both our wives go back to the same era (as our then girlfriends). So the women have known each other almost as long. Anyway, Al jumped at the invitation and in due course, off we went to that Island in the Sun (cue Harry Belafonte). Al is not a runner, but thought maybe he would walk the 10K, since you can easily do that while all the rest is going on. It is one course, one start and one total allowed time (6 hours) for completion.

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming patiently waiting for final transport to Negril!

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming patiently waiting for final transport to Negril!

We decided it was too far to go for what might be a ‘long weekend’ strictly focused on the race. Some people who come from closer will often just arrive Thursday and depart Sunday or Monday. OK, those who live closer and those who are actually gainfully employed and have jobs to do back home. We departed Vancouver on a red-eye through Toronto to arrive in Jamaica about 2:00pm, with immediate transport to Negril. Because the transport service thought there were going to be a couple more passengers, there was nothing for us to do but wait patiently. That was when Al, got to have his first Red Stripe in the land of its origin! In the end, it turned out nobody else appeared and off we went in an over-large (for just two of us) mini-bus, with a very knowledgeable driver who was able to do a pretty good travel narrative as we passed through the outskirts of Montego Bay, past various notable locations, through the very old village of Lucea, then Green Island and Orange Bay, finally sweeping around a corner (just where the half marathon turns back toward the start) and the first of the Negril resorts. I have this very personal relationship with Negril and I always get a wonderful feeling of being ‘home’ when I get there. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been to Jamaica before (or a lot, like me) locals will often say “Welcome home!”. I think I’ve become what they call “100% Jamaican by Association”.

Early Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

I haven’t lived all this long without figuring out a few things. I was very aware that beauty is always in the eye of the beholder and therefore, a little worried that friend Al might not see it at all as I do. Jamaica and Negril both have plenty of warts. And, the ‘fun’ I have with my Reggae Marathon friends is somewhat unique to us. It is the main reason my wife, Judi, elects not to go (although I think there was a bit of last minute wavering this year). As it turned out, my worries were without foundation. While I’m not going to claim Al enjoyed Jamaica on the exact same basis that I do, he found his own high points and was very glad to have gone. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Late afternoon sun outside Rondel Village - Day 1

Late afternoon sun outside Rondel Village – Day 1

Because I can, I like to take a few extra days and with my buddy along, they were well spent in getting our own experience going before the rest of the usual crowd arrived; the Usual plus others, this time. Rondel Village is, in my opinion, the perfect choice of local resort and we had some time to appreciate that with our early arrival.

Three 'Winterpeg' runners ready to rock the Reggae Marathon

Three ‘Winterpeg’ runners ready to rock the Reggae Marathon

While I expected a large group of familiar folk, at the very last minute there was a Winnipeg connection via a running friend who used to live in Vancouver and run with our running group where I live. Suddenly, there were three more who wanted to meet up and join us for fun and frolic. Funny enough, the ‘connection’ wasn’t among them!

Mmmmm. Escoveitch of fish with bammy!

Mmmmm. Escoveitch of fish with bammy!

I made good use of the early arrival to have a few short runs along the road (the route of the race) and also on the beach (with shoes). Al and I sampled the food and wandered about to get the lay of the land, so to speak. By Wednesday afternoon, That Runnin’ Guy was on the scene and I was able to make first introductions. It turns out that Chris’ current occupation and Al’s former professional interests revolve around the marketing of things. They were soon off and running without much assistance from me. Chris was soon explaining to Al, all the ins and outs of the social media promotion of the Reggae Marathon.

Friend Al, talks social media marketing with other friend, That Runnin' Guy

Friend Al, talks social media marketing with other friend, That Runnin’ Guy

By Thursday, we were over at package pick-up and started to meet runners arriving for the big event. Friday afternoon involved more of the same and MORE , many more friends (old and new). Friday night is the pasta party, which is normally right at the same venue as the package pick-up, but because of some ongoing construction, had to be moved across the road to Cosmo’s, a beach restaurant and day visit complex. I gather some liked it and some not so much, but I personally thought it was pretty darn good, with a very nice Negril sunset laid on to impress the visitors. Poor old Al was now starting to get a bit inundated by Reggae Marathoners, but he seemed to be coping.

Easy Skankin' 2016 (Karen, Larry, Candice and Charles)

Easy Skankin’ 2016 (Karen, Larry, Candice and Charles)

Easy Skankin’ showed up again, which itself is a given. What we are never sure of is ‘how many’. I think they hit a high at one point of about TEN. And, of course the newly-weds, Navin and Daivati were there ‘in the house’.

Chris and I had to slip away to the media briefing, which seems to get bigger each year. This year there was a team from China and a Japanese sister-city delegation which involved the winner of their marathon, competing in Negril with the Jamaican winner of Reggae Marathon heading for Japan to compete there.

Of course, this is all just the build-up to the main event: the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. As already mentioned that would be at a non-negotiable starting time of 5:15 AM, just outside the Long Bay Beach Park. One of the best parts of that start is the walk to the start from our quarters at Rondel Village. It is something like 2km and with the balmy temperatures, even at 4am or so, enough to get a little bit of a sweat going. After the usual ritual of dropping off a gear bag and finding your way to the line of porto-potties, there is not much left other than to find a place in the starting corrals. While I never really take the run time too seriously in an absolute sense, I do like to do my best in the circumstances and to get a decent placing if I can. Of course there is the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge.

RRHMC award day photo from 2014, when there was a big field.

RRHMC award day photo from 2014, when there was a big field.

THAT is serious business! All the bragging rights fall to the winner of that little event within an event. In a nutshell, it started years ago and not even at the Reggae Marathon. In Spring of 2012 Chris, Larry and I (the Reggae Runners) discovered we were all three running a half marathon in three different races, in three different places (Toronto, New Jersey and Vancouver) on the same day. We decided we would just age-grade the results and have a winner. We even had prizes! That was in May and because it was so much fun, we took the idea to Negril in December and have followed through ever since. Normally, because various people have been running different events through the gamut from 10K to full marathon, we ‘normalize’ the event to half marathon (you can do that with well known calculators) and THEN age-graded. However, this year everybody, with two exceptions, were planning to run the 10K. The two who were doing the half marathon agreed that as much as you shouldn’t theoretically run the first half a lot faster than the second, the practical reality is that it is usually significantly cooler before the sun comes up, so most people try to take advantage of that. There is a timing mat at 5.8 miles that everyone crosses, but where you get an official time. We agreed it would be a fair point of comparison and that we would just age-grade that official split time. Oh, what, you want to know how that turned out?  OK. Larry was FIRST, Navin was Second and yours truly, was Third (gotta love the age grading!). And, with me dropping down to 10K there MUST be a shout-out to Karen who stuck it out through the Half Marathon, just as she said she would. Bravo, Karen!!

Part of the race route when there isn't a race happening.

Part of the race route when there isn’t a race happening.

The race was shortened by an hour this year because it actually shuts down the main (only) road through Negril. Because of this the organizers instituted a rule that if marathoners did not pass the half point by a certain time, they would be diverted off the course to the finish, BUT would have their time switched over to the half marathon and would be given a medal for completing the Half. Not every race is physically set up so this can work so simply, but the Reggae Marathon is. Not only that, but it also works for the half marathon and 10K. So, they just said runners could voluntarily ‘Step Down, and Be Alright’. You just had to tell the official at the finish that you had switched races and provide your name and bib number. Well, long story short, even though I was registered for the half, for a variety of reasons, when push came to shove, I elected to cut off at 10K. I was probably not committed enough in the first place but as I was about 8k or so into the race, the humidity more than the temperature was getting to me. While I knew I COULD stumble through the second half of the Half, I was also pretty darn sure it was going to take quite some time and would NOT be a whole lot of fun once the sun was up and temperatures started to rise along with the high humidity. As it happened, there was a thunder storm in the later afternoon and once that passed the humidity dropped like a stone. Would have made a huge difference, but it is what it is.

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

Reggae Runnerz in the house at Rondel Village!

Friend Al discovered the Reggae Runnerz (about 350 0f them showed up this year). Several years ago they keyed on this event and have come in numbers ever since. Many (most?) are members of Black Girls Run, an American movement of empowerment and fitness. With those numbers (not including others who accompany but don’t run) they fill up a lot of resort space (including a fair number of rooms at Rondel Village). There is a fair component of walkers and walk/run participants among them so Al found himself walking and talking as he went along the way.

Proud first time Finisher

Proud first time Finisher

In addition to not being a runner, he is somewhat hindered even on the walking front by a bum knee that requires a brace and regular treatments to keep him going. He took it very easy and just enjoyed the experience. I KNOW he enjoyed the experience, partly because he told me so, but all you have to do is check his expression at the finish line!

As I said, I cut short on my race, so was there to greet him on arrival and introduce him to the joys of the fresh coconut, Red Stripes at dawn and a few other things like live Reggae music on a beach. We met up with various folk from our usual group as well as lots of others. Al got to meet Lawrence Watson, a fine runner who won his age group in the half marathon and who would soon be our host at his Castle Vue Bed and Breakfast  in Montego Bay.

To my surprise and chagrin (because I didn’t realize it until it was long over and done), a Vancouver runner – Karen Warrendorf, who I know, won the women’s marathon. Felt a bit sheepish about that! Well done, Karen!

Four Amigos demonstrating the 2016 'count', now at 26

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

A big feature of each of the last five Reggae Marathons (big for the Four Amigos) is the official finger count of total races run. Three of us, Larry, Navin and I can count SIX, but Chris is now up to EIGHT. This year we hit a total of TWENTY-SIX (26). I think this is the first year in which all four of us is wearing the same coloured ribbon on our finisher medals. Navin usually runs the full marathon, so of his six, I believe five are marathons. Chris ran the full marathon his very first time at the event, but after that has been strictly a 10K guy. Larry has been almost 100% half marathon, except this year and I am even up at three each. So, that looks like about Six X Marathon, Eight X Half and Twelve X 10K. That is a lot of Reggae Running, 542km to be precise! And that doesn’t count the other people in our challenge who have not been there every year or participated every time.

Post-race playing on the beach with Larry, Daivati and Navin.

Post-race playing on the beach with Larry, Daivati and Navin.

For me, the Reggae Marathon isn’t really over until the beach experience is over. The white sand beach is just outside the finish venue and many people stay around to play in the sea and enjoy the sun, not to mention a Red Stripe or two! Once that part is done, the journey back to Rondel village is pretty much ALWAYS barefoot along the water’s edge at a slow stroll. The pace is partly because legs are tired from the race, but I think mostly to keep it from really being over. Imagine all of this happening, racing, partying, recovering, beaching and then strolling ‘home’, all to be at your accommodation for breakfast at about 9:30-10:00am!

Mwaka Kaonga (one of the Winnipeg crew) and Me in the West End

Mwaka Kaonga (one of the Winnipeg crew) and Me in the West End

Ove the last few years, the final, final part of the Reggae Marathon Experience has been the One Love bus tour of the West End of Negril. OK West End funky local bars! The object of the exercise is to be there for the sunset and usually, that is accomplished. Unfortunately, I think it was the only night out of seven that Al and I were in Negril that there wasn’t a sunset (just a bit too much cloud). The Winnipegers showed up for this part of the fun and showed that they know how to have fun in the sun!

Monday, the beach party was over many and we all started drifting in different directions. Chris had to head home and back to ‘real life’ while Al and I got to stay in Jamaica, but changed the venue to Montego Bay for a few more days. Conveniently we all managed to ride together as far as the airport.

My ‘Polish Connection: Malgorzata and Maciej at Castlevue

Al and I headed for Castlevue and a surprise meeting with a Polish couple who had also done the Reggae Marathon. In their case, they both really did do the Marathon. Lots of fun stories were shared. I really only know Lawrence Watson through running and the fact that I stayed at his BnB a couple of years ago. So, it was fun to meet up with a chap he worked with in the US and his wife and adult daughter. I know Lawrence as Lawrence or just ‘Watson’. I’m older than him so don’t have to call him ‘Mister Watson’ if I don’t want to! It was kind of funny (to me) when his friend and work colleague kept calling him ‘Larry’.

The Barracks - near Robin's Bay, JA

The Barracks – near Robin’s Bay, JA

As it turned out, we wound up hiring a car and driver to take us over to Ocho Rios for the day,  including lots of history and geographical stories from Sydney, our driver. We made a stop at Dunn’s River Falls (last time was 1969). It has changed. Had a great lunch in a little local backstreet restaurant and took a drive through Fern Gulley. In the end it was more a driving trip than anything else what with it being hotter than a couple of people liked and Al’s limited ability to walk and clamber about. The one thing I kind of hoped to do was make a return visit to the family related location near Robin’s Bay. That didn’t happen. It was a bit far and without doubt the roads near the site were pretty poor, so after some discussion we agreed it would have to be another time. Oh well, I have photos from the visit that Judi and I made in 2011.

The View from Castle Vue as flights leave Montego Bay

The View from Castle Vue as flights leave Montego Bay

Too soon it was time to head home, but not before a couple of walks through downtown Montego Bay and a couple of visits to the Pork Pit, a fine source of jerk pork and chicken and smoked sausage. Accompanied naturally, by a Red Stripe or two.

Castle V

The View from Castle Vue as flights leave Montego Bay

The View from Castle Vue as flights leave Montego Bay

ue sits high on a hill above the airport and we could watch the planes taking off, from above. Wonder if anyone up there watched us take off? Guess I’ll have to ask the next time!

Soon Come!





Well, maybe more like the gang’s all arriving for the Reggae Marathon weekend. Buddy Al and I are safely ensconced at Rondel Village, waiting for

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

Registration and Package Pick-Up and Chris

That Runnin’ Guy to arrive. I mean, it doesn’t truly get going until Chris shows up to crank up the social media from Reggae Marathon action central in Negril. Thinking back, hanging out with Chris has got me into an ESPN (Latin America) TV piece on the Reggae Marathon and onto Jamaican radio (live). Wonder if anything amazing is going to happen this time? Well, of course ‘amazing‘ is going to happen!  The whole thing is amazing. What I meant to say was ‘unusual‘.

The original race banner with Diane Ellis and Alfred "Frano" Francis

The original race banner with Diane Ellis and Alfred “Frano” Francis (2015 media briefing)

It also doesn’t get going until the main organizers arrive from Kingston. As a runner, it actually kind of feels like Christmas and waiting for Santa. Last night there was a news blast that the trucks were on the road (full of race gear), headed for Negril. Had the feel of “Santa has left the North Pole with a sleigh full  of presents for good girls and boys!”

I’ve been good! I’ve been good!

We’ll soon be seeing Frano, Diane, Gina, Jessica and the crew. This is one of the best organized races I’ve ever participated in, over the years and the many places I’ve run/raced. These people (and others un-named) are the reason why.

This time, we are even going to be celebrating a marriage. Yes, Navin Sadarangani, the last of the Four Amigos has tied the knot. I think it wasn’t a done deal until Daivati did the 10K last year, but I guess it’s all good now. Big stuff happening when we all get together!

Speaking of getting together, it is Wednesday as I’m writing this and from experience I know that the bulk of Reggae Marathoners are about to start arriving, some today and lots more tomorrow. Negril is pretty quiet right now, but that is going to change – soon.

Easy Skankin'

Easy Skankin’

Don’t forget about Easy Skankin’. Larry Savitch and crew (not even sure how many this time or who for sure) are headed this way again. Can’t really have a party without Easy Skankin’!

And then there will be the Reggae Runnerz, hundreds of them, under the able guidance of Lisa Laws.

Also starting to feel like a real veteran here! Coming down, I ran into Dave from Toronto, who apparently made a last minute decision to come. Met him a couple of years ago, and touched base again last year.

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani

Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani

Lawrence Watson, I’ve known since the first time in 2011, but we will stay at his BnB (Castlevue) in Montego Bay when the running weekend  is done. He is a great host and even better runner, although he took pity (didn’t run his usual pace) on me the last time I stayed with him in 2014. He took me out for a Saturday morning run and post-run porridge (Peanut Porridge seemed to be the rage that day, but since it would have killed me, I opted for cornmeal). See how all this is intertwined? I met Lawrence because he is a friend of Navin’s, a running buddy from when Navin lived in Montego Bay.

Even the hotel staff, not to mention some of the vendors seemed to recognize me. Of course it is good for them to act that way, but when they know you are from Canada without being told, well, maybe they actually do know!!

Then, there are new people asking my advice and for me to help them get sorted with other people and activities. Yep, I think I’m almost an ‘old hand’!


Negril Beach scene, just before sunset on Day One.

Negril Beach scene, just before sunset on Day One.

Six years. Sixth year in a row, this old (seasoned) blogger is in Negril, JA for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Interestingly, the only time I signed up for the actual marathon was the first time. That didn’t work out and if you really want to know why, well here is the link to that story. I ran the 10K that time. Then I ran the Half for three years. Last year I actually signed up for and ran the 10K.

Seems like there is something about getting around the full course (marathon goes twice around) that is special. The first and second halves of the Half Marathon are just completely different. The first 10K is done essentially in the dark, while the second 10K happens (for me anyway) after the sun rises and in full sunshine by the time of finishing. I have to admit that even with a slow time in respect both of advancing age and rising temperatures on the course after sunrise, it is strange to nonetheless FINISH somewhere between 7:45 and 8:00am!

Garden scene at Rondel Village

Garden scene at Rondel Village

Anyway, all the race stuff can come later. Right now it is just about being here and settling in, getting used to the heat and humidity, and getting into the Jamaican vibe. Negril claims to be the “Capitol of Casual”. Probably is, too! Hmmm. If you are claiming ‘casual’ can you also use exclamation points? I’ll just leave that to you. I am just going to be over here relaxing.

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

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

Now that we’re here, we have a few days to just get dialed into Jamaican time, life and food. For five of the six years I’ve been coming to Negril for the Reggae Marathon weekend, I’ve stayed at Rondel Village. It is a local resort right on the beach and just has everything I want. I am really excited to show my friend Al, what it is that brings me back year after year. I do hope it works like I would like it to do, because we can never forget that one guy’s amazing can be another’s ho-hum.

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming enjoy local beverage while waiting for final transport to Negril!

Al Helmersen and Dan Cumming enjoy local beverage while waiting for final transport to Negril!

We’ll start with the food and surely a Red Stripe (or two). You can get thirsty on a long flight and shuttle ride along the NW coast of the country. Fortunately that did not turn out to be a problem.

First and foremost, there was watching the sunset (see below). A Negril sunset is always a spectacular thing, even when it is kind of ordinary. Then, a wee drink and dinner.

Rondel has a nice mix of Jamaican and ‘other’ menu choices, but we got right into the Jamaican side with a little ‘stamp n go’, followed by red pea soup and curry goat. Got things off to a great start!

I am looking forward to a short run in the morning, just to start getting the feel of the place well before Saturday. Haven’t decided if the first run is on the road (well, the path beside the road) or on the beach. If it is on the beach, it will be WITH shoes. No matter how great it is to run barefoot, I’m not risking the sneaky, nasty blisters you can work up if you have soft tender feet like me! Anyway, that will be for a later report.


Later the same day!


Bolting! - Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Bolting! – Apparently, he took part in the school 10K Challenge

Here I am with just two ‘sleeps’ left to departure for Jamaica and one of if my #1 favourite races, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. If you want to be picky, it will be three sleeps until I’m in Negril, but there is no saying there will be much sleep on the red-eye I usually take to get from Vancouver to Montego Bay. From here, there is always the trip East, then the trip South. I usually go through Toronto or New York. This time it will be Toronto. I actually quite like the trip. It isn’t as hard as some might think, and let’s face it, when I get there it isn’t like I have to do much but rest and ‘recreate’ for the next several days.

img_2459In truth, the trip could be of much shorter duration if I just wanted to go for the race, but coming from so far and Jamaica being such a great spot to vacation, it seems wrong not to add some time before and after race weekend. This time I get to show my friend of more than 50 years, what I love about this whole thing. We may even have some time to go check out my roots in the more easterly part of Jamaica.

Near Robins Bay, JA. Who knew I had heritage here?

Near Robins Bay, JA. Who knew I had heritage here?

Yep, my great-great grandparents were stationed in Jamaica for about 5 years just around 1840. He was a gunner with the Royal Artillery. Their oldest was born in Jamaica. The first time I visited and ran the Reggae Marathon event, my wife Judi and I visited the area and had a bit of a wander. One of the craziest things was that way back in 1969, we made our first trip to Jamaica and stayed in a village, Highgate, with a university friend of Judi’s who was teaching with CUSO. She took us to Robins Bay a couple of times for a cooling splash. Little did we know that we must have passed right by the ruins of The Barracks that we visited in 2011, and pictured here. I’m hoping for another visit this time, but not quite sure just yet, if it will happen.

Early Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

First and foremost will be Negril. Until the other racers start arriving later in the week, Al and I will have time to explore the area and for him to get a taste of the food. I’m not sure we are going to be there long enough to do the Jamaican cuisine justice, but we’ll do our best.

I know he loves fish, so escoveitched fish is on the list, maybe a steamed fish dinner, and since we arrive later Monday afternoon, there WILL BE ackee and salt fish for breakfast on Tuesday. You never just get the fish. There is always other stuff, so it is pretty likely a bit of fried plantain, maybe a bit of boiled green banana and a bit of festival will show up. Of course there is a range of jerk food, but particularly pork and chicken and while everybody and his brother seems to have jerk chicken on offer, I have one place in mind for the real deal, Ossie’s Jerk Centre. But, we need to leave time to get us some patties too! That may require a trip to Nallah’s or we could just let the ‘patty man’ come to us out on the beach. Wouldn’t be the first time!

Oxtail with rice and peas.

Oxtail with rice and peas.

A couple of my favourites include curry goat and oxtail. Mustn’t forget the ‘food’ though. You probably thought that was what I was talking about already, but you’d be wrong. Usain Bolt claims it is what fuels him and makes him fast. “Food” tends to be a whole range of starchy root vegetables. Some form of it will likely show up in the meal, whatever else may be there.  Hmmmm. Maybe that’s what I need for the race on December 3. Mind you, I expect to be running the half marathon and Bolt-like speed isn’t really what is required.

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

The beach outside our hotel, Rondel Village, is made for taking the sun and just relaxing, but it is also great for an early morning run, or just a stroll while it is still cool (relative term, probably about 25C) and relatively abandoned. Actually, the Reggae Marathon has extended the tourist season for Negril. It doesn’t officially start until a week or so after the event, so the beaches are relatively uncrowded and there are plenty of runner types around.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

If you can get yourself up early enough the sunrise is generally amazing. Early in the morning there tend to be a few whispy clouds around, just enough to catch the first sunlight and turn delicate pink against an otherwise ever bluer sky. At least in my experience, the seven mile beach is never a place of hectic activity. It is almost always laid back and easy going. Because there is a reef a mile or so off-shore, unless there is a serious storm, there is no big wave action. All you get is gently lapping waves sliding in over the blue of the Caribbean.

Chris Morales

Chris “That Runnin Guy” Morales

By Wednesday/Thursday I expect the other Reggae Runners will start showing  up. That’s when I expect to welcome That Runnin’ Guy, Chris Morales to the party and to get down to serious exchanging of stories. We keep in touch all year, but live far enough apart that we never see each other except in Negril. For Chris, it is not really a vacation since he is the social media guy for the Reggae Marathon and official blogger. He’ll get most of a day with little to do, and by Friday noon, he will be ‘on duty’, but by then things are starting to hop at package pick-up at Couples Swept Away, followed seamlessly by the pasta party. That may not be so seamless this time because of some construction at the package venue. The pasta party is across and just down the road at Cosmos. It will be interesting to see how that works. It is right at the beach and right beside the start/finish venue at Long Bay Beach Park. The pasta party is always fabulous and with this venue may be even more amazing.

Early Morning Beach Runners - my Favourite!

Early Morning Beach Runners – my Favourite!

Whatever, I’m looking forward to it. AND, I’m looking forward to meeting all the other people we may or may not have found by then, or just run into (literally)  by chance. I can’t tell you how many times Chris and I have been out for a morning run, just for the acclimatization, and bumped into other running friends we’ve come to know over the years. For sure, the Four Amigos will hook up again at the pasta party.

All of this is going to be new for my buddy, Al. He has a knee issue and while not a runner, was planning to walk the 10K on Saturday morning just for the experience of the whole event. We’ll see how that goes. I really hope he can do it. There is no time issue. Lots of people walk the 10K and there is plenty of time. As I told him, stop for a coffee or a chat as you go. I’m going be running the half marathon, so even in that, there will be plenty of time for him to do 10K and still get there about the same time as me.

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

Christmas lights on the Reggae Marathon route.

There is truly something special about the start in the full-on dark (it IS 5:15am!) and then being out there as the dawn comes up followed by the tropical sun. I mean, you can experience that anywhere, but doing it on the move with a crowd of happy runner/walkers and all the energy of the race is special. It is hard, as it often is for northerners to reconcile tropical nights with Christmas decorations, but all along Norman Manley Blvd. (the race route) the hotels are getting out the Christmas lights and decorations. So, as you break out in an almost instant sweat as you head toward Negril town, you are soon running by lots of bright and festive lights signifying the soon to come Christmas/New Year season.

Sweet Reggae Music - so hard to resist!

Sweet Reggae Music – so hard to resist!

Getting down with the Reggae Sound.

Getting down with the Reggae Sound.

After crossing the finish, the party is on with live Reggae Music, or as they like to say, sweet, sweet reggae music. The sounds are infectious and while some people intentionally get close to the stage and dance, you can look almost anywhere and see people moving to the rhythm without even realizing they are doing it! Of course once Navin, Larry, Chris and yours truly have finished our respective races, we will assemble for the traditional ‘race count’ photo. That’s the one where we all hold up the number of fingers to represent the Reggae Marathon events we’ve done. Everybody is going to have to go to two hands this time. Three of us will be on six and Chris will be showing eight race fingers.

Strolling 'home' for breakfast.

Strolling ‘home’ for breakfast.

Once the post-race party is done, I am looking forward to the stroll back down the beach to Rondel Village. Usually, that is without shoes, just at the water’s edge and at a very, very easy pace. I mean, nobody has anywhere to go. Notwithstanding what we get after the race, by the time we get back to our home away from home, we are usually ready for a full-on breakfast. After that, it is back to the beach and a lot of nothing but sunshine, Red Stripe and a cooling dip from time to time.

Sunset from Rondel Village. Perfect end to a perfect day!

Sunset from Rondel Village. Perfect end to a perfect day!

And, if the sunrise is delicate and sometimes almost a spiritual thing, sunset can be fierce and blazing to end the day. Well, it comes pretty early so maybe not the end of the day, but end of daytime and start of the Jamaican night. Saturday night, that is. Runners are sometimes pretty tired, but if anyone is looking for a party and lots of music, you don’t really need to go far. There are plenty of live music venues up and down the beach/road, for those who aren’t ready to call it a day so early!

Lenbert looks after you on the One Love tour of the West End

Lenbert looks after you on the One Love tour of the West End

While Saturday night could signal the end of the experience, it has become a Sunday tradition to take the One Love bus tour to the West End and to several off the beaten path restaurant/bars. It starts mid-afternoon, with the intent of hitting a number of establishments, ending with another spectacular sunset viewed from the cliffs of Negril West End.

Dan Cumming, Larry Savitch and Chris Morales at Rick's Post-Race - The original RRHMC Trio

Dan Cumming, Larry Savitch and Chris Morales at Rick’s Post-Race – The original RRHMC Trio

This is the last time our group is likely to be all together in one place and is usually when we announce the big winners in the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge. That started years ago and actually didn’t have anything to do with what was happening at the Reggae Marathon but rather to three of the participants. It just happened that in May of 2012, Chris Morales, Larry Savitch and I were running three different half marathons on the very same day. We set out a challenge based on age-graded time. We even had custom medals and Chris got a prize of a pair of Puma shoes for the winner. So the title comes from three Reggae Runners, but the half marathon part was about the distance, not the race in Jamaica. After that (starting in December 2012), we switched the Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenge to Negril and included anybody from our greater group of friends. Because the Reggae Marathon also includes a half and a 10K, not to mention that some of  us were women and our ages covered folks in their 30s to one guy who at this point is well launched into his eighth decade. Yes, me. And this time, if he does walk the 10K, my  friend Al. We (OK, me) have a complex system of age grading and converting all times to a theoretical half marathon time. This time it may be easier because of all the people who may participate, at most there will only be two doing anything but the 10K. I am one of them. There is an official timing point at 5.8 miles (really the start mat, but you have to run back over it just before the turning back to the 10K finish, or as you head into the second half of the half marathon. We have collectively decided that this will be the official timing point and we will just age grade that time. Since I’ve never won (and don’t expect to this time) and because it is much cooler for the first 10K than the next 11K, most people do what you aren’t supposed to do, run faster in the first part of the race. This is one time it makes sense. Whatever happens, it is all just for fun and the trash talking opportunity anyway.

Negril, JA West End Sunset

Negril, JA West End Sunset

After Sunday, we start to drift away either actually going home or in some cases (because there are several of us with Jamaican heritage) off to see family. Al and I will head for Montego Bay and another part of our adventure. But, that is probably another story for another day.  For now, I’m counting down the hours to wheels-up on Sunday night!