I first learned about the annual marathon in Jamaica early in 2010. Back then I was in the Bahamas and I wanted to use the Reggae Marathon trip to visit my brother & his family in Jamaica. During one of our training runs in March with my friends from the ‘Bahamas Road Masters’ running group, the topic came up and while a couple of others seemed interested too. By September I was committed to go solo and targeted a sub-4 hour time.
We drove to Negril on Friday morning, and headed straight to the expo on the eve of what was to be a fun marathon. I had the honour to meet Burt Carlson. He’s no ordinary individual. He started to run at the age of 57, and today at the age of 85, has run 332 marathons in 28 years. 54 of which are ultras, the most being an 84 miler during a 24 hour race. Of course due to my absent-mindedness, my camera remained in the bag.
The pasta party, besides being complimentary for runners, had a fabulous spread. More food than one could expect and consume, even though we were to carbo load up. We did our bit and headed back to our hotel only to nibble a little more carbs and top it by feeding those sweet tongues. Saturday morning saw us getting on to the 4:30 shuttle to the starting line – Long Bay Beach. There was a storm building up and that meant probable rainfall during the race. I was delighted on hearing that even though it only rained for 5 minutes after the 5:15 am on-time start.
More than 1150 participants started the day witnessing a tradition of drummers blessing the runners with a pre-race drum prayer and torches lit around. I was at the starting line with a few friends from Montego Bay who were doing the Half.
The race runs along the coastline heading eastward before turning at the 2.9 mile Negril town round-about. Brushing past the starting line within the first hour heading westward, full marathoners have 13 miles to cover before they turn-around at Green Island to for the final 10 miles back to Long Bay Beach Park.
Negril is famous for its 7 mile beach, all of which the course runs adjacent to on one side while witnessing reserves, plenty of resorts, gardens, a water park, an aerodrome and some country-side lush fields along the stretch. I managed to enjoy all this around while also monitoring my pace.
This event is an intimate race in terms of numbers, especially if you are used to running marathons in the U.S. and elsewhere where participation crosses 8000-10000 runners at ease. This marathon is organized by the Jamdammers, a running club in the capital city of Kingston. I had heard how well this race in all aspects is conducted. I can personally endorse the fact that everything that is written about the event is accurate and I plan on giving it my yearly attendance. Start-line ceremony, efficiently operated aid stations, sufficient medical support witnessed, bikers constantly monitoring & checking on us, arrangement of rejuvenating reggae music at every mile (live and audio play), cheering along the course by almost anyone who saw a runner, cup-free bags of water & Gatorade (far less litter and environment conscious), etc.
I was running my race as per plan. Clocking my miles, one by one, within 8:50 minutes. I didn’t feel all-out strained, my heart rate was moderate, nor did I find it a breeze. With the plan of sticking to a consistent pace, it was almost like having my legs on auto-lock mode and using other tools of maintenance – Garmin watch for pace, aid stations for energy, mind for total awareness (within and on the road) – to keep at it. I crossed the half at 1:55, and was looking at slowly but cautiously increasing the buffer. At that point, I was contemplating a realistic target of 3:54 while keeping 3:52 in the corner of my mind, only to look upon it at Mile 20.
25.3 miles and I see the first glances of the crowd and the finish line. Being one long stretch, I’m sure one could see it from a distance. Maybe I need to try out contact lenses on my next race! Less than 400 metres saw me sprinting towards the finish. Tristan was there at the side capturing these moments as I ran past him in smiles. Face packed with excitement, hands up in celebration, long shout-outs as I passed the marathon timer above me on 3:57. Down on my knees, kissed the sweet ground and thanked the man upstairs for “that sub-4 finish and ending my running year on a great note.
This guest post was written by Navin Sadarangani who achieved his goal of running a sub 4 hour Reggae Marathon in December 2011.
Until next time…
Reggae Marathon RunninGuy