My first Reggae Marathon in 2009 was my last Marathon. Here’s my running story.
I’m a runner, not a marathoner. My marathon friends have given me grief over the years and at first I took offense. I’ve grown accustomed to the friendly ribbing because I simply like running. Running keeps me healthy both mentally and physically and other than the occasional injury (usually self inflicted) I’ve been at it over 35 years. And as long as I can stay upright, I’ll keep running. But I’m not a marathoner.
Back in the day when 10K’s were the rage, I raced virtually every weekend. Loved it! No finisher medals in those days but I amassed a now long gone collection of participant T shirts. I read about marathoners and thought they were crazy: Run 26.2 miles! There was a nagging feeling though that I was missing something.
One year I got up the nerve to try a Half Marathon. 13.1 miles sounded achievable. I didn’t take training seriously and paid the price with super sore muscles afterward. I still have the finisher photo from that race and the pained look on my face communicates my state. But I was bitten. Determined to improve, I trained at longer distances and over the next few years raced and enjoyed a number of Half Marathon events.
The nagging grew louder: “You’re not a real runner until you’ve run a Marathon”.
Needing to prove that I could run a marathon, I bit the bullet and signed up for my first Marathon. I actually trained a bit more intensely but was super nervous when I lined up at the start race morning. From the start things went downhill. Every rookie mistake in the book forced an early end to that race: I went out too fast, I hadn’t dressed for the conditions, I didn’t hydrate properly and totally messed up with the electrolytes (bars instead of gels). A disaster-in-the-making ended at mile 14 when I dropped out. 20 years later I am still unable to fully describe the woeful feeling on the bus ride to the finish area to collect my bag. None of my fellow dropouts made eye contact or spoke for the entire 45 minute ride!
That was that I thought. I’m not a marathoner! But the nag never completely went away.
Fast forward a few years to 2008. I found myself in Kingston with an opportunity to around the Mona Reservoir out by the UWI Campus with my cousin. He shared that this was a popular location for running and that a running group called ‘The Jamdammers’ ran there regularly. With a little research I learned that they put on an annual race in Negril, The Reggae Marathon. Hmmm…now that sounded interesting. With not much thought or planning, I signed up for 2009. Little did I know that it would be the start of a 10 year experience to-date!
I trained hard in the 6 months leading up to Reggae Marathon 2009. I was pretty confident that with a 10 and 1 race strategy (10 minute running, 1 minute walking) I’d finish. I was worried about the heat though. Jamaican sun is intense, even in December. I knew it would be a mental as well as physical challenge. With help from many running friends and lots of research, I settled on this: Hat, Neck scarf, Camelback hydration, gels, waterproof sunscreen. Plus, and this was a BIG one, I’d take advantage of the plastic pouches of water at each mile aid station: Some to drink, a lot to pour over my head to keep both head and neck cool.
I lined up at 5:15 am race morning with butterflies in my stomach. What would the morning bring?
- I started slowly and stuck with my 10 and 1 plan. Despite the temptation to change…a wise decision that payed off later in the race
- I stopped at every aid station. All these years later, I am still grateful for the words of encouragement, especially after Mile 20.
- Bob’s Mile at Mile 25 meant everything! I was going to make it!
I was pretty emotional when I crossed the Reggae Marathon finish line that day. “Got ‘er Dun”…I was a marathoner! But there was something else. After hobbling through the cooling tent and getting some electrolytes into me, I wandered out to the beach directly into the Sea. Running shoes, Finisher Medal and all. I’d not only done my first (and last Marathon), I’d done the Reggae Marathon! It’s an experience that has kept me coming back year after year.
Yes I expect to be in Negril again this December 2 for my 10th consecutive Reggae Marathon Experience. I’ll run the 10K again and will be around the finish area looking to meet up with as many of you as I can as you finish your personal Reggae Marathon…Full, Half or 10K…First or 15th!
Until next time…
Reggae Marathon RunninGuy (aka Sugar ‘Tuff Gong’ Bong)