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Reggae Marathon #6 - Race Day

by Paul Shanley
Friday 28th August 2015
Tags  Reggae Marathon   |   Jamaica

Special feature: Everything you want to know about the Reggae Marathon. Running by moon light, heat, lots of music and a great vibe - in his race report Paul Shanley raves about a genuinely Jamaican experience

Reggae Marathon #6 - Race Day

After a magical evening at the World's Best Pasta Party (HERE) race day morning came around pretty quickly as I had to get up at 3.30am to make it to the start on time. Due to the heat and humidity the race starts at just after 5.00 in the morning and we were staying some distance from the start line so an early start was needed. One of the plus sides of staying in a large all inclusive resort (HERE) is the fact that it is open 24 hours so there were a few different options for breakfast before the run (I could have even popped into the nightclub which still in full swing!). 

When I got dropped off at the start line in Negril, where the race starts and finishes, I couldn’t help but notice how warm and humid it already was. There was a full moon, which helped add some light, but for it to be so warm and yet so dark I just knew that this was going to be a warm run. The thought of running in the heat actually had a really big calming effect on me, as I felt less pressure to run quickly. I can’t remember a time when I was as relaxed on the start line of a marathon. I felt sure this was going to be a real "experience" and the pressure of trying to do a good time/pb was off. I also suspect the friendly laid back atmosphere of the race also helped. Like the night before, the staff and volunteers for the race were really friendly and helpful and within no time at all I had dropped my bag off at the bag drop and was soaking up the atmosphere (and the heat) at the start line.

All three races start at the same time, the marathon is a looped course which runners complete twice, the half marathon is one loop and the 10k is just under half a loop. 

At the start line there was Reggae Music blasting out to get us in the mood and I am sure I got a whiff of a Jamaican cigarette at one point. (The Rastafarian movement is allowed the spiritual use of cannabis). In the low light you could just make out your fellow competitors and there was a great atmosphere, with everyone looking happy and enjoying the music. Just before we were about to set off a helicopter flew fast and low, directly over our heads - I am not sure if it was a pre planned fly-over, but in the dark at that time of the morning it made all the hairs on the back of my head stand up. 

I had decided to head to the back of the start line up as I knew it was going to be a long day and I wanted to get into my own race pace. This is always wise when you are running a marathon and others are doing different distances as you can get drawn into other peoples races and it would be pretty painful to battle against someone and then watch them head into the finish after 10k! 

Before I knew it the clock had hit 5.15am and we were on our way, running over the start line and through a procession of flame torches. The first part of the course, took us down to Negril roundabout for the first turnaround (which is at 5k). As you can imagine this race is all about music, so at each mile there is a music point, either provided by a band or a car stereo as they call it (a car stereo is actually a car with a massive sound system next to it or on top of it, with a DJ playing music). As well as music they also have an aid station every mile, which when reading the race day instructions before flying out, I thought was a bit excessive, but with the heat I was wishing they were every half mile - it was hot and humid and I was already sweating heavily and looking for a drink at mile one. 

Reggae Marathon #6 - Race Day

Running in the dark and heat was already making this quite an experience, but then add to it that we were running past some luxurious resorts, complete with Christmas lights and decorations and it was almost becoming surreal.

You would think at that time in the morning everyone would be in bed but there was a good number of supporters on the course - I suspect it is difficult to sleep with 13 odd music points blasting out music.

As I mentioned, on the start line I was as relaxed as I have ever been and that continued into the race. I really just wanted to enjoy this race and take in the sights and sounds along the route and I pretty much fell into a nice relaxed running rhythm which I knew I would be able to run at for most of the day. The roads are nice and wide and can easily accommodate the 1,600 runners and there were plenty of friendly faces from all over the globe (this year's race had runners from 36 countries). 

Although dark there was a full moon out, so on parts of the course everything was moon lit which was pretty special. To add to this I was lucky to witness a moon set over the sea, which again was a pretty special moment. Watching the sun rise is a something I do enjoy, but I don't often get the chance to see it, so to see it after watching the moon set is something else. 

The course is nice and simple to follow and it wasn't long before we had gone through 10k and watched the 10k runners finish as we headed up out of Negril. The road is close to the beach, so as well as running past resorts, houses and the odd shop (including a Harley Davidson dealership) you do get stretches where you are treated with a lovely scenic coastal view.

Support on the course was good and with the music and aid stations every mile, you are not on your own very often and there was plenty to keep you entertained. The music stops were mostly playing reggae but a couple of them had a very random playlist including Madonna and a few other 80’s classics which added to the fun. 

The 9 mile turn around point is just before Salt Creek Bridge and the miles on the first lap seemed to pass pretty quickly and without incident. With the half marathon runners being mixed into the race there were plenty of runners around and as we approached the half way point I thought it would be painful to watch runners finishing when I knew I had another lap, but I actually found myself happy to carry on as I was enjoying the run so much. Starting on the second lap, the field had thinned out a bit, but there was still plenty to see and it was interesting to have a look at some of the resorts we had run past earlier, now in daylight.

It felt strange to see Christmas decorations on display in such tropical conditions and I couldn’t help but smile, thinking about the cold weather back at home. The heat had consistently risen and it was hot now, very hot. Without sounding too dramatic, it felt as though you were running on the surface of the sun and I was taking more and more water in at the aid stations (at one point I started to wish the aid stations were every quarter of a mile…). One of the neat things this race does, that I haven’t seen before, is serving water and the energy drink Hi-Lyte in sealed plastic pouches. You have to tear the pouch with your teeth, which I found hard to do at first, but after one or two you get the knack. Well into the race when the heat was up, there was something animalistic about ripping open the bag and getting a drink. 

The second lap of the race was not such a breeze, it was hot and a week of all you can eat and drink at the hotel was starting to show. I employed a well proven running survival strategy of alternating running and walking and took the opportunity of the more leisurely pace to chat to some fellow competitors who had also slowed down. One of the big upsides to running is making new friends and meeting people from different parts of the world and with very different lives.

One of the guys on the trip was Swedish runner named Anders Forselius who was covering the race for Runners World Sweden and following on from this run was flying that day to Costa Rica to run a marathon. What I didn't know at the time was that Anders was running the race with the ashes of two people he had never met in a running belt on his waist! Its an unusual and interesting story and well worth a read (HERE - The story was actually written by Roy Wallack, a larger than life American, who had me in tears of laughter on the trip with some of his travel stories). 

By the time I had made it to the finish line, after just over 4 hours 45 minutes, the post race party was starting to come to a close. I had missed the headline act, which was a young Jamaican singer called Iba MaHr, which was a shame as I wanted to see him sing (check him out on iTunes HERE). As well as having the World's Best Pasta Party (HERE) I think the Reggae Marathon has the World's Best Finish Line - well it certainly was for me. They have fresh coconut water served in the shell (a local chops the top off for you), cans of ice cold Red Stripe and if that wasn't enough, I got to drink them in the solar-powered misting tent! Add a soothing massage and then a refreshing dip in the sea and I was pretty much in paradise.

Sitting in the sea after the race I started to reflect on the experience and how it compared with other marathons around the world. My favourite marathon of all time is the New York marathon and although clearly much smaller in size I believe the organisers of the Reggae Marathon have created something just as good. Like New York, the Reggae Marathon was set up by runners for runners and that shows throughout the build up, during the race and afterwards. The event is set up to give the runners the best experience. New York goes through the five boroughs of New York city and you really get a feel for the city and its inhabitants. The Reggae Marathon is based in one area but they have managed to give you a real feeling of what Jamaica and Jamaicans are like. Its hard to describe a feeling or a vibe but let me tell you the feeling and vibe at the Reggae Marathon is good and an experience you need to experience. Yes it is unlikely you will run a pb here and if you don’t like early morning starts and the heat you will find it tough at times, but what you will get is an experience like no other - an experience of Jamaica. No other place in the world can give you this. 

The Reggae Marathon is a must do event. 

For those interested you can see the route and profile from my Garmin here: 

I did take a video camera around with my on the run and you can get a taster of the event HERE (a very jumpy view of the event as I was trying to film whilst running!) 

Reggae Marathon 2015

Entries are now open for the 2015 Reggae Marathon to be held on the 5th December in Negril, Jamaica. www.reggaemarathon.com

Men's 10k results

1 Dwayne Graham 32:57
2 Daniel Glave 33:03
3 Frith Obrien 33:05


Women's 10k results

1 Shanieke Watson 39:50
2 Lisa Buchanan 39:52
3 Danielle James 40:33


Men's half marathon results

1 Kirk Brown 1:11:32
2 Jassette Bromfield 1:16:29
3 Kemar Leslie 1:19:16


Women's half marathon results

1 Melina Frei 1:31:06
2 Juliett Dinnal 1:34:31
3 Heather Colasuonno 1:38:11


Men's marathon results

1 Rupert Green 2: 34.35
2 Arturs Bareikis 2:40.22
3 Gregory McKenzie 2: 45.16


Women's marathon results

1 Karlene Blagrave 3:37.51
2 Dana Martin-Kelly 3:50.34
3 Roberta Fontana 3:59.52


Click here for full results


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