Ex­otic Des­ti­na­tion

Reg­gae Marathon, Ne­gril, Ja­maica

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 -

Run­ners sport glow sticks and vi­brant Caribbean out­fits and cars parked along the course blare Bob Mar­ley’s reg­gae to a beat that will match a racer’s pulse.

Hu­mid air is a wel­com­ing hug when trav­el­ling south to the Caribbean from Canada at the be­gin­ning of win­ter. Ja­maica re­ally brings the heat and the beach­heaven town of Ne­gril is balmy even in the pre-dawn hours of race day. Wak­ing up at 3:30 a.m. on the morn­ing of the Reg­gae Marathon, it’s ev­i­dent that it’s go­ing to be a hot one but the iconic Seven Mile Beach and icy co­conut water that wait at the fin­ish line are prizes that set­tle any pre-race worry. Ac­tu­ally, this lazy town is the place to be for any run­ner who suf­fers from the jit­ters – the slow is­land vibe, sooth­ing mel­low ac­cents and na­tional slo­gan “Home of all right” are per­fect an­ti­dotes to dis­si­pate a case of the but­terf lies.

In De­cem­ber, this trop­i­cal Ja­maican spot is par­adise. While a run in Canada at this time of year re­quires nav­i­gat­ing ice-en­crusted streets with ex­pert bal­ance, the cliff-side Ne­gril hosts views of tin­sel-sparkly wa­ters and sun­shine. To over­look the beach pasta party on the eve of race morn­ing is a rookie mis­take. Strings of twin­kling bulbs light up the beach mak­ing it a Pin­ter­est-ready scene. Drum­mer boys on stage bang out a steel drum an­them. Laid out in rows along the sug­ary sand are huts where lo­cals are busy cook­ing ev­ery type of pasta imag­in­able – bolog­nese, lasagna, seafood, veg­gie, you name it. If carb-load­ing is king, wel­come to the palace.

The Reg­gae Marathon has been a mag­net for travel-savvy run­ners for 17 years. A sam­ple of the crowd on race day will fea­ture run­ners from Canada, the U.S. and Ja­pan as well as those from down the beach. Not marathon fit? Don’t worry about a thing: run­ners can sign up for the half­marathon or 10k.

We start run­ning at 5 a.m. in the dark. The scene at the start line may look like night­time to the un­trained eye, but the en­ergy in­di­cates it’s any­thing but. Run­ners sport glow sticks and vi­brant Caribbean out­fits and cars parked along the course blare Bob Mar­ley’s reg­gae to a beat that will match a racer’s pulse. It may be the wee hours but neigh­bours crowd the course to cheer and sing. For a few min­utes, a girl about 10-years old, leaves her front yard to match my pace. When trav­el­ling, most of us don’t want to waste a minute. Work­ing up a pro­fuse sweat on a run into sun­rise would be a good ex­am­ple of mak­ing a va­ca­tion in Ja­maica worth­while. The 10k will take you on a gen­er­ous tour of Ne­gril. As you near the fin­ish line, you’ll have ex­pe­ri­enced a morn­ing sat­u­rated in Ja­maica’s rich one-of-a-kind cul­ture. In the fi­nal steps, an an­nouncer shouts out each par­tic­i­pant’s name and home­town. When you hear yours, it’s time to head to the beach. Seven Mile Beach in the morn­ing is shrouded in a dusty pink sky. A dip in the water is the ul­ti­mate re­ward for hard train­ing and a fast race. But be­fore you go, break the top off a co­conut and take a re­fresh­ing sip.

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