This report will start with a bit of an introduction as to how we got to be here in the first place, then there will be ‘race-reports’, firstly by David and then by Sharon. It’ll also be fairly detailed as it’s not everyday you fly part-way round the world to go running.
Two years ago this past weekend David ran his first half marathon, and a year ago Sharon ran her first ‘half.’ They were both at Bedford, and were rather cold. Well, back in February of this year we heard about the 25th Anniversary Run Barbados festival taking place in early December. As Sharon and I love Barbados having visited the island first in 1994 and then for our honeymoon in 1998 it was only fair to head back there a week after our 10 year wedding anniversary, but this time to take part in the Run Barbados Scotiabank Half Marathon race!
*** Training – David ***
So, training wise things have been absolutely terrible for me. They were looking good until in early September when I twisted my ankle whilst out on an easy paced training run. It seemed to make a quick recovery in October and I was able to race (well, not really race) over 10 miles at the Cabbage Patch 10 on 19 October. A week later I ran at the Bushy Parkrun (BPTT) and my ankle started hurting again, together with calf pain that I’d not experienced before now. At that point I thought that it was in my best interests to take an enforced break from running for at least a month, to try and give my ankle (and calves) a chance to heal. During this time I visited the gym once or twice a week and did a few long bike rides.
In summary, my training has been rather poor to say the least!
*** Training – Sharon ***
Well, training for me had not been good either. Since June I seem to have one injury followed by an illness, then another injury…and so on. I had managed to run a very slow 11 or so miles a couple of Sundays prior to the race, so I took a little confidence from that as the past 12 weeks or so I had only been running once a week. So, training very poor from me too!
*** Beautiful Barbados ***
Well, fast forward to early December, and it’s a Saturday morning in beautiful sunny Barbados and I’m running a half marathon the following day. As I’d not run in 6 weeks I thought I’d have a little easy run to see how things were and after two miles at an easy pace I was happy to give it a go at running 13.1 miles. After all, we didn’t travel over 4,200 miles just for a holiday, did we!!!
On Saturday afternoon Sharon and I jumped on a bus from our hotel and headed into Bridgetown, the island’s capital. The buses here are amazing – they cram you in, it races around sharp corners, and the conductor guy (who’s job it is to get more people on the bus, as more people = more money) hangs out of the side door all the time. There was lots of heated discussion about English football going on – none of it I could understand because of both my lack of football knowledge/interest and their Bajan dialect!
After starting the carbo-loading of ‘rice and peas’ and ‘macaroni pie’ at a lovely little food place in town we strolled to the Run Barbados starting area to watch the 10K race which was being run that afternoon. Waiting for the start it was great to do some people watching – there were school relay races being held as well in the afternoon and seeing many local children in their team vests, but bare-footed or with non-running shoes was sad to see. There’s no doubt some great talent amongst them but without the right kit, it must be an uphill battle. Before long we met up with Wally and Brian from Ranelagh Harriers – our first claim running club from back in England. They’d both travelled over to take part in the 10k race (as well as a holiday of course) and we’d bumped into them when registering on the Friday. We also met up with Patricia, a member of The Stragglers (our second claim running club) who was also running the 10k.
The Barbados Tourism Authority tries to encourage overseas participants in this event and there were a fair few English and American people around with their families for support. There was also lots of local support, with schools and individuals supporting the 25th Run Barbados festival.
The weather during the day of the 10k had been baking hot and rather humid, but shortly before the 4:30pm start it had clouded over which was a good thing. The race started and around 300 people headed off, into and around Bridgetown on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Before long (29 minutes and 57 seconds later), the winner of the mens race finished to huge cheers from the crowds. A few minutes later the first lady started heading for the line. We both recognised her and when we saw her name in the paper the following day it made sense. Wendy Nicholls, who finished the 10k in a time of 35:57 is a second claim member of Ranelagh Harriers. Here she is heading towards the finish with fellow Ranelagh Harriers member Hugh Jones (and I believe official course measurer) of the Run Barbados events and (more importantly winner of the 1982 London Marathon) cheering her to victory.
After (waiting a little longer) and watching ‘our team’ of Brian, Wally and Patricia finish Sharon and I headed back into town to catch a bus back to Holetown (where we’re staying) and found somewhere that would serve us up some lovely pasta as final preparation. We even skipped the local Bajan beer and drank water instead!
*** Race Day… ***
Race Day… Sunday morning dawned, well, more like Saturday night. The alarm was set for just after 3am! We had a couple of slices of toast and headed off in our mini-moke car into the darkness. We were at the race start area, which is right by the main government offices (which have a beautiful sea view over Carlisle Bay – at least during daylight) by about 4:15am, giving us plenty of time to get our electronic chips for our shoes, and to make use of the facilities.
More and more people arrived and reggae/soca music was pumping out of a large sound system on the back of a truck – very cool – especially at 4:30 in the morning! A few minutes before the start we all made our way onto the road and got ready for the starting gun. A couple of wheelchair athletes headed off first, then it was the start of us, the ‘masses’. Both the marathon and half-marathon races were being run together, with the half-marathoners turning around half-way up the west coast of the island (just as you reach Holetown) whereas the full distance runners continue all the way to Speightstown before retracing their steps back to Bridgetown.
*** Race Report – David ***
As we headed off, it was still pitch black – in fact it would be for at least 45 minutes or so as it was way before sunrise. It was truly bizarre – here I was, running through the streets of Bridgetown, Barbados, in humid (humidity was in the 80 or 90 percent range) and 25+ degree temperatures, in the pitch black darkness!
There were policemen at just about every road junction making sure the roads were clear for the runners and that we didn’t turn down the wrong way. At around every mile there were people handing out water and Powerade drinks, and I took advantage of a sip or two of water at every single stop. In direct comparison exactly a year ago I was running the Bedford Half Marathon in the freezing cold England with rain and sleet and I don’t believe I took water at any of the stops – you just opened your mouth if you were thirsty! Today was the other extreme.
Unlike half marathon races I’ve done ‘back home’, I rarely ran in a ‘pack’, and if there was a group of runners, there would be no more than two or three of us together. For most of the run I was on my own with perhaps a gap of 3-15 seconds gap in-front and/or behind me. I would say that the course is mostly flat, with a couple of reasonable inclines, especially one about 3-4 miles into the course.
As I headed towards the turnaround point, I saw the leader heading back towards Bridgetown (who finished in 1:08:07), and after a few other men the first lady headed towards me – it was yesterday’s female 10k winner and fellow Ranelagh runner Wendy Nicholls, who gave me a welcome shout of “Go on Ranelagh!” For info she finished 10th overall with a time of 1:20:57. I also saw a chap running back with dreadlocks literally down to his knees! That’s something I’ve certainly not seen before in a race – this guy was flying. As for me, I was taking it easy and steady. I planned to average just faster than 8 minute miling (which is the pace I normally do my steady Sunday runs at) and I was able to do this quite comfortably.
At the turnaround point, just past the Tamarind Cove hotel and just as we entered Holetown, there was lots of support. Daylight had arrived and many people from hotels and houses nearby were on the street to cheer and give support. As this wasn’t any kind of of a race for me (thanks to my lack of training for this), and as I wasn’t getting particularly exhausted (my cardio fitness is there, its just the untrained muscles that would be the problem) I was able to thank many of the locals beside the road for their support, which encouraged many of them to give me a cheer of support.
For the final three miles my quads were really starting to feel the pressure, and my calf pain had started. I just wanted to hang on in there and stay strong till the finish. During this time I was able to maintain pace with and overtake a few runners – maybe 5 or 6 of them over the closing stages, and before long I was in the finishing straight and crossed the line in 1 hour 43 minutes and 1 second to finish in 32nd place (out of 153 finishers). This was my slowest half marathon by about 10 minutes (my previous ‘record’ was 1:33:37 at Bedford in 2006) but I didn’t really care about that. I was just happy to get round the course without my ankle giving me grief – which was my biggest fear. I said before that I had a good solid second half and this was shown by my splits – at the half way point my time was 51:34 and my second half was completed in 51:27 – a very consistent run throughout.
After the race I collected my medal and spent some time just walking around supporting other runners who were finishing and trying to keep my legs from seizing up – which is what they wanted to do – they were really aching. After a while I saw Sharon heading towards me for the final straight – and I’ll pass over now for her comments on the race/run.
*** Race Report – Sharon ***
So I started at the back and fully expected to finish last. It was so bizarre running off into the darkness but the strangest thing was the humidity. I couldn’t believe it! For the first 4 miles I felt OK and there were people around and about me but then we all stretched out. I was taking water at every water station, walking through them so I could drink. When I got to about 5 and a half miles I saw in the distance David’s familiar running style. We had a high five in the centre of the road and I plodded on. This was one of my race low points (not the ‘high five’ I might add!), I knew the turnaround point was soon but I couldn’t see it and I was zapped of energy. I think I have decided that running in humidity is not the best for me! I went around the cone at halfway and pootled off back from whence I had come!
At about 8 miles, a Barbadian man asked me if I would rather spend the day with him than carry on! That made me laugh! The road-side support was fabulous and at a church at around 10 miles, there was a steel band, which was cool to run past. They are big into Christmas songs in Barbados and this was no exception…quite odd though considering the weather to be running along hearing Frosty the Snowman!
I got to 11 and a bit miles and I could hear some seriously loud soca music, I turned around and could see the leading marathon runner coming along (with the music coming from one of the support vehicles – a truck with massive loudspeakers on it). I was cheering him and clapping when suddenly I realised there were TV cameras, so I scuttled to the side of the road to avoid the shame of being on telly being lapped. I was finding it really hard by this point, as it was getting really really hot and I was struggling. My miling pace was dropping by the second and the only thing that was keeping me going was the thought of the medal. I had seen them the night before after the 10k and they were very cool and I wanted one around my neck. Soon enough, I was crossing line and I had that medal in my very hot little hand.
I managed to not be last, I was 140th out of 153 finishers. I reached the half way point in 1:14:11 and finished in 2:43:36, so you can see from that how much I fell apart in the second half! I was hoping to finish in under 2:30, the night before I had thought I might take 3 hours and on the day was pleased to scrape under the 2:45. Still, the only way is up now and I fully intend to not see the “wrong” side of 2:30 in a half marathon again.
*** After The Race ***
After we’d both finished we jumped in the moke and headed back to the hotel in time for breakfast – I guess that’s an advantage of racing at 5am! It was then time for a lazy day on the beach – which was a good job as my legs were not wanting to behave.
David: By the evening I was hobbling around in great pain and I could barely touch my calves without squealing!! I’ve never experienced post running pain like this before, especially only a matter of hours after a run. This is meant to kick in after a day or two, but within a few hours…
Come Monday morning and we were out in the car doing some sightseeing. Sitting down (and driving) was fine, but walking around wasn’t a great deal of fun. It really reminded me a great video I recently found on YouTube. One of the places we visited involved walking down some steep stairs – I hobbled down them like a man more than twice my age. It was not good! I think Sharon found this most amusing, and it was difficult for me not to laugh at my misfortune! A couple of days later and I was walking much better, but running was out of the question. Sharon was pleased that her legs seemed to work better than mine – but that was probably because she was much slower and did at least run a little before the race.
As well as gentle stretching to help recovery I found that a by-product of the locally grown sugar-cane worked wonders…. RUM, and lots of it!
Going forwards, I plan to ease very gently back into running with short slow runs and lots of calf stretching/massage to try and get them back into shape and preparation for the gruelling training I have planned for 2009.
Finally, would we go back and run this event again? Most certainly. I’d love to run the half marathon again (when I’m fit and uninjured) but I think the full marathon distance would probably not be on the cards – I’d much rather do that distance somewhere cooler.