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A consensus among runners I talked with was that the Reggae Marathon was the best overall experience they ever had. "An experience like no other."
We all agreed that, once you are on the course; mile 3, mile 10, mile 20, whatever; it is between you, the pavement, and the environment. You could be in Washington, DC or Negril, Jamaica. What differentiates the race is the organization, the amenities, the on-course support, the start, the finish, and the post-race festivities. Of course, in Jamaica the people make a big difference. And that is where the Reggae Marathon shines. It is rated one of the ten best in the world.
Very few packet pick-up expos can be done in the Caribbean sun, with gentle ocean breezes and 80 degree temperatures. Although I hate to shop, the bright, exciting Jamaican colors, and hand-carved crafts make Christmas shopping for unique gifts a pleasure. Packet pick-up is a great deal of fun: exchanging war stories with other runners, and sipping a Red Stripe beer in a warm, comfortable setting. The environment quickly changes Friday night. Reggae music blares across the Couples Swept Away resort sports complex, while many resorts compete for bragging rights to serve the best pasta at the "World's Best Pasta Party." The handle is not just a marketing tool: it IS the "World's Best Pasta Party."
The start of the Reggae Marathon took place under a bright moon with Rastafarian drummers, the song "One Love" played, and torchbearers raised their flaming bamboo torches. The runners chatted and laughed as they ran the first few miles in the dark. The beach road to Negril was alive with the sounds of steel bands, cheering tourists, and locals. The marathon is becoming a signature event for a small island full of hospitality. This is all part of the experience that makes the Reggae Marathon one of the best races in the World.
If you have experienced it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you have another opportunity: in December 2010 the Reggae Marathon will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. As the logo reads: Once you go, you know.
Washington Running Report
To everyone that contributed to the organisation of Reggae Marathon 2005, I salute you!! This was my first ever marathon and it was something I will never, ever forget. It was so, so well organised and it was well worth making the effort to get to Negril to do it. Things that stand out for me particularly are the pasta party (what a feast!), the torch lit start, the reggae bands and sound systems en-route and the helpfulness and cheeriness of all the organisers and volunteers right from the start to the finish line. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry my way round, it was such a wonderful experience.
There were two things that are imprinted on my mind most. The first happened at mile seventeen. Unfortunately, because of tendinitis in my foot, I had to stop training six weeks before the marathon. It was touch and go whether I would be able to do the full event, but when I got to the start line, I knew I wasn't going to stop until I'd done 26.2. After seventeen miles I was hitting that wall. Then along came two young volunteers from Kingston, Philip and Sasha, and, after handing me Gu, Gatorade and water, they decided to help me along and ran a mile alongside me. I cannot thank them enough for their help and encouragement. If you can, please pass on my sincerest thanks to them and tell them I will see them again next year!
The other major memory was at mile nineteen when my body started flagging again. I was then joined by a volunteer in a white car with a mobile sound system who followed me all the way to the finish line. That man will never know how much he helped me through the last few miles as, when I turned round to thank him after I'd crossed the line, he had driven off. Again, if you know him, please convey my absolute gratitude to him. He was amazingly patient and sorely needed!!!
During the final four miles my friend and greatest supporter, Rebecca Wiersma, joined me and marched alongside me. I felt like the Queen of England covering the final Glory Mile with Rebecca, my mobile sound system, an ambulance, a volunteer on a bike and a policeman!! After six hours and fifty two minutes, my marathon was over. But the memories will never be gone. Thank you so, so much. I will most definitely be back again next year. Very, very well done, Jamdammers!!!!!