We came, we ran, we - OK,Andy - melted
Well, with Michelle’s imminent new adventure, there was time to sneak a last holiday into January. The week decided, the destination was a choice based on where BA air miles and a free companion ticket could take us. Options ranged from Hong Kong, Dubai to the Turks and Caicos… Now, anyone who knows us would query why the people who can’t sit still would consider going to a small island where the biggest attractions are the beaches on which you are meant to, well... sit. The final decision was prompted by Michelle's desire for sunshine and a quick search which revealed the 'TCI Move-a-thon' which included a marathon, as well as 5km, 10km races half- marathon races on the last weekend; go on then.
Arriving on Sunday, we had a couple of short runs to acclimatise. The rest of the time was spent walking between the accommodation and various restaurants, beaches and shops, having decided not to hire a car. A silly idea that the walking would be good for us; its only a mere two miles to the nearest shop.
Having been kayaking for a couple of hours to see sea turtles in the mangroves and iguanas on Iguana Island on Wednesday, two days later - the day before the marathon - we find ourselves on a boat heading to different cays of the Turks and Caicos to go snorkeling off uninhabited islands. This started as a nice relaxing day. The last snorkel of the day was meant to be a drift snorkel, i.e. jump in to the sea adjacent a shipwreck, have a look at wildlife thereabouts and then head out in to the current to use that to drift to the edge of the T&C bank - a deep wall which drops 5,000+ foot vertically away below you. Sounds great: we jump in, spot a big stingray, faff around the shipwreck, and head out into the…oh, no current. A kilometre plus of finning later we reach the wall and get back on the boat to head back… Now, neither of us are good on the preparation point or indeed on the biomechanical effects of such exercise, but we noticed the effect on the legs the next day.
We made it back to our little rented one room villa, to find the race director had been true to her word and managed to interpret Michelle’s message; she had left bib numbers and t-shirts 'behind the inflatable pineapple on the doorstep to a little villa next to the house at the end of X lane’. An early night called after a little italian meal, Michelle adopting the standard T&C pre-race meal: grilled lobster tail with spaghetti ‘erbe’.
Alarm goes off at 4am…and it’s a race to head down to the coast ready for the 5am start line. Registration process nice and simple - we were all handed an orange wristband (for which, even now, we know of no purpose) and a rather funky red flashing light to clip on to the back of one shoe. The reason for this being clear when you realise it was not going to be light for the first 75 minutes of the race and there is minimal street lighting for the first part of the route; most light for the leading pack was given by a very efficient policewoman on a quad bike with the dimmest headlights out front but the brightest, eye-damaging, flashing blue and red at munchkin eye height behind.
The race instructions were brief: It’s an about and back course with half marathon doing one set and the marathon runners doing 2 sets, and do mind out for car drivers. (A worthy warning - T&C drive on the left like all sensible nations, however most of their tourists - principally American - don’t get on with this; something that is not helped by most of the hire companies importing their cars from the US with the driver sitting on the left hand side. Invariably this leads to chaos, especially when they have introduced roundabouts in to the mix…). The route was in effect 4 legs of 6.6 miles, heading from a children’s play park through the main hotel area, past our villa, to the far end of the island and the docks, and back Relatively flat with only 88m of height gain and all on tarmaced or concrete roads. It is fair to say it wasn’t the most inspiring of routes, albeit Michelle did spot a fine ice cream shop and we ran past a bar we had been recommended to try.
Drinks stops were regular, until the volunteers decided that they had run out of water and/or were bored…which meant the last 4-5 miles were unsupported by the time Andy came through. By that time, we had hit 27C, 82% humidity and Andy had decided never to sign up for more than a half-marathon where temperatures of 20C were expected!
That said,each runner was cheered through to the finish, having bemused the local and tourist population throughout the run. The standard questions the way being "what distance are you running?" and "why?". Oranges and water consumed in the shade, time for some photos and chilling off in the sea...50m away from the finish line. Bliss, quickly followed by showers, that bar and that ice cream shop.
Times (based on Garmin; official results may arrive sometime…it’s Island Time out here):
Michelle - 4:54:26 - 2nd female and 3rd overall
Andy - 5:31:23 - 4th male and 6th overall
The winner - an UK expat ultra runner with 100milers and Comrades under her belt - declared it was tougher this year; she was 40 minutes slower than her 2018 winning time. We'll take that... it was tough going and Andy melted.
OK hands up - the total Marathon field amounted to 7 people! In fact the locals seemed to think running, let alone a marathon, was a stupid idea; Andy doesn’t disagree.
In Michelle’s words - we were not last, and it is not our fault no one else entered. She’s going to be living off her podium finish (albeit there was no podium) for the rest of her life; she doesn’t expect it to happen EVER again!
A really friendly race with the set up of a much bigger event; we had a separate fenced off registration zone for the few marathon runners as if they eye expecting a few hundred. Police escorts accompanied the runners and everyone who had a clue what was going on was really supportive. Would we travel particularly for this marathon - it is very unlikely, but if you happen to be on the island, the half would be a nice run and a distraction from the beach and beers/ ice cream!
All change next week - leaving the beach behind later this afternoon to head back and hit the mud (and, hopefully says Andy, snow) on the hills of Wales next weekend for the Buff Winter Trail Half Marathon.
Until then, cool runnings...
Congratulations Andy and Michelle! It must have been tough going in the heat. A great report of an unusual marathon weekend and what to do the day before race day! 😀
What a fantastic write up, Andy - as we have come to expect from you two! Glad you survived and have another fantastic (almost literally!) memory for your retirement!