Report by Sportsworlds Caribbean Correspondent Trevor Sweeney
Photos by Holiday Trevor
So what’s it like to race in Jamaica, I hear you ask, well it’s like running in a sauna, with someone holding a heater facing towards you in full blast, you guessed it, it’s HOT. Therefore, races are usually organised early in the morning to avoid the burn factor, even though it does get hot early here, so for a white guy from Ireland, not a chance.
I decided to run only my second race in Jamaica since arriving here 7.5 months ago, I know, seems only like yesterday since I left Irish shores, aahhhh. Race starts at 6:30am, yes you read correctly, that’s morning, and for those who know me and how I could never turn up on time for training in the phoenix park at 9:30am, my making it to a race at 6:30am is truly unbelievable. But alas I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30am, not bad considering I only got to bed at 1:30am, after 6 straight days working, I know insane, just to run this 5k…..a race I actually didn’t even register for, so I had to borrow someone else’s number, who just happened to be female (F25), sure who’d have guessed J. Wrong gender, colour, age…….yup makings of a good race.
Our female under 25 race reporter on her way to bed at 1.30am
Got a lift to the race, parked, but by the time we came back out from the car park, someone had managed to crash right into a massive light post (which to be fair was in the middle of the junction, wasn’t hard to miss, plus the sun was up so nice and bright), but alas someone still managed to cream right into it, completely totalling their brand new car in such spectacular fashion, and right in front of the cop who was actually there to steward the race…..perfect witness. Now seeing as this is 6:10am, one can only summise the driver was DUI, not that the cops mind too much, but when you total your car, it sort of draws a little unwanted attention.
So after the initial drama, we mosied on down to the start line. Not that this initial drama was to be outdone, but then again this is Jamaica. It was the law enforcement torch run, and needless to say in a country where guns are a little easier to come by, a torch was brought out to mark the occasion…..but only after the army decided to do their drills, just before the race chanting something like it was out of platoon (“I don’t know what you’ve been told…….”). Not sure Emily would be encouraging that sort of race prep!!!!
6:30am arrives and in true Jamaican fashion, there was no sign of the race starting (could have stayed that extra 10mins in bed). The warm ups begin though in earnest and twenty mins later everyone decides to head for the start line. Mindful of the fact that people here think they should be up the front even if they’re only walking the 5km, I was already at the start line, keeping me spot (got caught in my first race having to traverse through 10,000 people in order to get across the start line, even having to avoid one lady who stopped dead, after only running a few feet, so as to take a phone call, WHAT, “ya man, I’m in a race”)
Race finally kicks off, and the initial flurry occurs as people race out through the narrowest of gates onto the main road, with luckily no one getting crushed, miracle. I start off at a steady pace, thinking best to ease into it, but mindful that you need to watch the person in front, cause you’ve got to watch out for the unexpected, like stopping when you’re running directly behind them just so as to straighten their knee support!!!!! Come on, pull over. Plus you get to enjoy watching some of the more unusual running gear people wouldn’t be known to wear in a race back home, like someone running in flip flops for instance, hats off to that lady, she actually finished the race.
I get into the flow and start passing a few, here we go I thought. Moving nicely along but can’t judge how it’s going yet as no km markers to be seen. Came to the first water station and there’s a marker saying 3k to go….now that’s not unusual, but it sort of is when you feel like you’ve run a lot further than 2km, and to be sure, when you check your watch, you have indeed covered more than 2k. In Jamaica they like to stretch out the first few km’s (so you’ve probably done 2.5km) and then shorten the last few, to kind of motivate you into thinking that you’re flying to the finish line…..hmmm, not sure I’m in total agreement with that philosophy. Another thing you’ll notice here is that you’ll see people pulling up, who are actually probably good runners, but they’re just not used to running more than 400mtrs. Ah Asafa.
So there I am getting through the km’s, and yes the last two are more like 1.5k……catching a few people (bet you’re proud of me Emily J) but as I get past this guy, we’re coming up to a corner and the guy pushes on past me. No problem I thought, I know there is about 100mtrs to go after the corner (cause it’s a 5km race, right), so I’m readying myself to blast past him to the finish line once around the bend…..yea right.
That’s another thing you learn about races in Jamaica, you’ll never actually run a race that covers the true distance it’s supposed to be. Some are shorter, some are longer, but they will never be the distance you entered for. They decided to put the finish line directly around the corner, I mean you turn the corner and there it is…..100mtr dash dream destroyed, he got across the line just ahead of me by 1 second…..ggrrrrr. But no harm, I finished in a respectable 18:17mins, which in this heat here, that’s okay. 14th overall, F25 category, first lady cross the line (and before you ask, no I didn’t go up to collect my prize).
Holiday Trevor in Lanzarote
Race over, time to chat to the other runners….whom in fairness are the friendliest you’ll meet anywhere. Well, that’s a little flava of what it’s like to run a race in Jamaica, ya man. Home to bed, cause it’s only 7:30am J.