Ex­otic Des­ti­na­tion

Run Bar­ba­dos Marathon

Canadian Running - - FEATURES -

Each De­cem­ber, the Caribbean is­land of Bar­ba­dos plays host to a week­end filled with run­ning. Race or­ga­niz­ers Kristina and Zari Eve­lyn have cre­ated what could be called a “marathon of events,” with run­ners en­cour­aged to sign up for mul­ti­ple races, teas­ing Dis­ney-like spe­cial medals if you fin­ish three in a week­end.

The week­end kicks off with the nigh-time mile race around the his­toric Gar­ri­son, a unesco World Her­itage Site. The mile is a low key in­tro­duc­tion to what run­ning in Bar­ba­dos is all about. Chill tunes echo out of the speak­ers on the back of the lead ve­hi­cle, as a few hun­dred run­ners cruise around the pic­turesque streets of the orig­i­nal 17th cen­tury Bridgetown set­tle­ment. It’s dark, but you can still make out the vi­brant pas­tel-painted row houses speck­ling the city. You’ll be happy you’re get­ting your is­land run­ning ini­ti­a­tion sans the sun, as the heat gets in­tense mid-day on the is­land.

The week­end also of­fers a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full 42.2k for those look­ing to run a marathon in a unique en­vi­ron­ment. The en­tire is­land is 34 kilo­me­tres long, mak­ing its western coast­line the ideal path for an out-and-back half-marathon. Mer­ci­fully, Bar­ba­dos is re­mark­ably f lat com­pared to the oth­ers in the re­gion. The en­tire land­mass is made of limestone, pushed up by a few mil­lime­tres per mil­len­nia at the mid­dle of the is­land. And although the or­ga­niz­ers have kept the cour­ses along the wa­ter, there still are a few mild ups and downs along the way. A spec­tac­u­lar co­ral reef crowns the is­land, adding to the colour and beauty to keep you com­pany if you choose to do the marathon, which is two laps of the 21.1k route. It’s a good thing that these longer events start at 5 a.m. be­cause once the sun comes up it will be warm. The race is pre­pared for this though. There are am­ple aid sta­tions with elec­trolyte drink, wa­ter and gels. The or­ga­niz­ers even send out rov­ing sup­port cy­clists on course, of­fer­ing you a gel if you are wilt­ing in the sun.

All the ac­tion starts and ends in the cap­i­tal of Bridgetown. “Town,” as the lo­cals call it, is a bustling lit­tle is­land me­trop­o­lis of about 110,000 peo­ple tucked away in the south­west of the nose-shaped is­land. The area gets its name from the indige­nous bridge that the first British set­tlers found when they first ar­rived on the de­serted is­land. The bridge forded a the Ca­reenage mar­sha­land. The 17th cen­tury orig­i­nal set­tle­ment area was named an unesco World Her­itage Site in 2011, and in­cludes a house where Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton once spent some time.

Each year a group of Cana­di­ans, hosted by Canada Run­ning Se­ries, head to the marathon week­end for a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence. crs founder Alan Brookes first at­tended the race back in 1984, in just its se­cond year. He even stepped in as as race di­rec­tor for a cou­ple of years in early 2000s to help re­vive the slump­ing event. Since the new or­ga­niz­ers took over a cou­ple of years ago, Brookes feels that the event has reemerged as a premier race­meets-va­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence. “It’s the per­fect year-end re­ward,” Brookes says. “It’s re­ally about the va­ca­tion. It’s the run that gets us there. It’s about re­lax­ing on Bar­ba­dos’ world-fa­mous beaches, go­ing for a day out on the spec­tac­u­lar azure Caribbean wa­ter, likely on a cata­ma­ran. The races are the vic­tory lap for your year.”

Last year, Olympians Natasha Wo­dak and Lanni Marchant took their own vic­tory lap af­ter rac­ing at the Rio Olympics by tagged along to hung out with the group for the week­end. They both raced the 10k and their fin­ish went vi­ral when a video showed them des­tined to tie for the win, only to be caught at the line by Trinidad and Tobago’s Tonya Nero, which has been viewed nearly 14 mil­lion times. Both will be back with Canada Run­ning Se­ries this year, and no doubt will check over their shoul­ders be­fore fin­ish­ing off their rac­ing sea­sons.

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