Half-Marathon - Cayman Style

The silver light from the full moon provided runners with a cool start to the 15th Intertrust Cayman Islands marathon, half-marathon and relay which kicked off at 5 a.m. on Sunday 3rd December 2017. This super friendly, super flat course is a must for any locals or visitors to Cayman in early December who enjoy a bit of running. The half-marathon is also totally doable for walkers as you have a six-hour time limit in which to complete the course.

Some 1,200 runners lined up to start the race outside Breeze’s Restaurant on Harbour Drive. According to the results, 99 people bravely completed the full marathon, 621 the half-marathon and 85 the relay. (It’s also worth noting that later in the day there’s a Kids Fun Run which gives youngsters the chance to join in).

As a veteran in my ninth year of running the half-marathon, I’m always struck by the friendly and intimate atmosphere of the event. This year there’s the extra delight of arriving at the starting line with my friend and training buddy Tigger. We’re both half-asleep and amuse ourselves by questioning the sanity of why anyone would pay good money to get up so ridiculously early to run 13.1 miles!

I receive a warm greeting from Warren who I finished the race with last year. He asks me with a big grin “Have you managed to get your husband out of bed?” I reply that just like last year I’ve left my husband fast asleep under the bed-covers! Warren is jubilant as he introduces me to his wife who he has persuaded to run the half-marathon with him. With a big smile I promise Warren I’ll try and match him next year and get my husband running.

Then there’s a lovely lady called Katie who is dressed as an egg! You can’t help but ask her why and her response is one that inspires. A friend of hers had an egg-sized tumor removed from her brain and Katie is running to help raise funds for cancer research. In the warmth of our Caribbean weather it’s a pretty impressive feat wearing any kind of costume and I wished Katie the egg all the very best.

As the countdown to the race begins a local DJ blasts out some pumping tunes to get us all psyched up. Participants naturally fall into their own self-imposed pecking order. Serious runners head to the front whilst walkers and those dressed as eggs head to the back. Tigger and I place ourselves somewhere in between.

Marathon Cayman

The clock counts down and we’re off! My mantra is to always start at a good pace as I figure I’ll only get slower. This year is no different, Tigger and I are determined to run solidly for the first two miles as we head out along South Church Street towards South Sound. It’s a magical feeling as you fall into the swing of the race, all you hear is the gentle sound of running feet, the road is well lit by the glow of George Town's street lights and this year there’s the added bonus of the magnificent silver moon. The advantage of the predawn start brings to mind my second mantra "It will only get hotter!"

Tigger spots a bystander dressed as a dinosaur, he/she is soon followed by a male police officer and we share a chuckle as we speculate on the originality of the officer's "costume" and whether he might be a strip-o-gram posted for our entertainment. One gets a bit imaginative when creating motivational reasons for running. A little before the one-mile mark, we run past the fabulous home of Maurine and Maxine Bodden. Every year, they go all out with Christmas decorations and their festively decorated yard resembles a mini-Las Vegas strip with high voltage flashing lights and fabulous illuminations.

As we hit the first mile, we are warmly greeted at the first water-station by enthusiastic volunteers offering us water or Gatorade. Organizers of the event have placed water-stations every mile along the route and volunteers manning the stops compete for the honour of being the “best” water-station. This means that the sponsors really go to town in terms of their outfits, sound-systems, decorations, signs and enthusiastic cheering! I cannot tell you how fabulous these volunteers are. Every time I approach a water-station I start to run faster, and I literally feel my heart lifting. This year I was greeted by a splendid Statue of Liberty, some gorgeously dressed Hawaiian dancing ladies, the red carpet of the Ritz-Carlton, an airport ground-controller with flashing lights and a guy with a 4ft billboard declaring: “The only marathon I’ve ever done is a Netflix marathon!” Not only do these guys keep us hydrated (super important as the temperatures swiftly start to rise) they also add hugely welcome sparkles of motivation.

Around the 3-mile mark Tigger and I parted company. We hooked up again briefly at the mid-way point on Old Prospect Road where the course loops back on itself, but by this point we were both in "survival" mode, each going at her own pace. At the turn around the temperatures really start to climb and the dark night sky falls away to the pink hues of the awakening day. It’s truly beautiful as you run along the ocean front, but in previous years the heat can also be hard work. This year a welcome breeze helped to keep us cool – albeit that it also contributed to a slower pace as at times we met with the wind head on.

The last mile or so is not quite as scenic as the course shifts from along the waterfront towards the built-up, commercial area of Walkers Road. However, there are more supporters as local people start to wake up and sit outside their houses cheering you on. One man offers to spray us with his hose-pipe as we pass him by and this year I was also offered some “home-made, natural Gatorade” from two lovely ladies sitting in their deck-chairs!

As we head into George Town and the final stretch, we cannot help but quicken our pace as we turn along North Church Street and head back to the starting line – which has transformed into the finishing line. There’s always a throng of cheering supporters to spur us on, plus energetic music and encouraging words from the emcees as they welcome each runner by name across the finishing line.

After receiving my commemorative medal, I was chuffed not to have to bend down to get the chip off my shoelace as in previous years. New for 2017 is a disposable timing chip that attaches to runner’s bibs. Once in the runner’s area I sought out water and a bag of crisps. I admit I passed on the opportunity of claiming my free beer! Once Tigger and I were reunited, we made our way over to the massage tent. I must confess the lady from Eclipze who massaged my shoulders and back instantly became my new best friend and I reluctantly left her company when a full marathon runner's needs became more apparent.

All in all the Cayman Islands half-marathon is a highly enjoyable and well-run event. This year I was also really pleased to complete the course in 2 hours and 57 minutes.

Next year will be my 10th year and if you fancy a challenge it would be all the better if you'd be there running it too!