Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reggae Marathon Report

In 2007 I had just finished the NYC Marathon and was recovering in Negril, Jamaica during our annual Thanksgiving vacation. The Reggae Marathon was happening following the weekend we were leaving. Our driver pointed out part of the course heading back to the airport. I said to Dave that this is one marathon I will never do. This course is awful (hilly and hot).

Fast forward to 2011. Due to some circumstances at work we would find ourselves in Jamaica during marathon weekend. Of course I had to sign up, right? Not only that but I convinced Dave to do the 10k!

We got to Jamaica a week and a half before the race and stayed at an all inclusive in Montego Bay. It was a week of overeating and over drinking! Not sure how this was going to work out on marathon day. I did hit the non air-conditioned gym a few mornings and kept up with my taper run schedule. I hoped the heat of the gym would prepare me for the heat of the race.

We got to Negril on Thursday and the race was on Saturday. We stayed at the Sea Wind Resort which was very close to the Pasta Party and a short walk to the start/finish of the race.  The staff was very nice and they had a great bar and very good breakfast.  On Thursday, we went and picked up our race packets.  Just standing at the registration table we could feel how hot is was. Our goodie bags included really nice T-shirts and a drawstring bag as well. 

That night we enjoyed sunset and live reggae at Rick’s CafĂ©  then had a great dinner at Xtabi on the cliffs.

Friday was a quiet day for us. I was really getting nervous. I was drinking water all day, trying to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We went to the free pasta party and it was great. There must have been 20 different types of pastas, salads, and breads. There was a steel drum band as well and they were fantastic. We headed back to our hotel early for a good-night’s sleep since the race started at 5:15am.

Race morning and we are up and out of the hotel by 4am. We started walking to the race start as it was only a half of a mile away. It was a bit dark on the road and we were glad when one of the race’s shuttle buses picked us up and took us the rest of the way. The race area had port o potties that took some getting used to as they flushed and most of us didn’t know this. Use your imagination. The race start was great. There were drums beating and tiki torches lining the course. Reggae music was blaring and we were off. They changed the course since 2007 so I wouldn’t be doing the awful part up the hills that I saw years earlier. This was now a loop course. There was one loop for the half marathoners and two loops for the full marathoners.

It was warm already at 5:15am but at least there wasn’t any sun yet. It didn’t take long for me to get in a groove and I felt pretty good. I was keeping a good pace and felt like it wasn’t hard so I felt ok about making it the full 26.2. I saw Dave at the one turn and he was looking good on his way to the 10k finish. The sun came up around mile 10 and I was still feeling good. They had the best hydration system. They handed out pouches of water and their version of Gatorade (Hi-Lyte). The pouches were plastic and they were cold. I would take two and use them as compresses on my neck and face and wrists to keep me cool. Then rip them open and dump one on me and one in my stomach! It definitely worked to keep me cool. I wish we could have these in all of our races.

Water and sports drink in pouches.  Photo from

At the end of one loop I saw Dave and said, boy, I wish I was doing the half, I feel great and we would still have the whole day ahead of us. But I kept going. Around Mile 16 I started to feel hot and yucky. I was doing math in my head to see if I could start walking and still make the seven hour cutoff time. But I really didn’t want to walk 10 miles! So I decided to try some of the Hi-Lyte.  I declared it Hi-GREAT! I started to feel better but still dialed back my run walk pattern to 3:1. I saw Dave again at Mile 19 and said that I was really hot and was going to slow it down. At about 20 I went to walk 3 minutes and run 1 minute instead of the opposite. It was just too warm and I wanted to be able to enjoy the race.

I met 3 young Jamaican boys around mile 22 and they were great. They asked me what I was listening to and when I said Tarrus Riley (a reggae artist) they loved that and we became running buddies. Whenever my interval timer went off they said, “it’s time to run!” and we would all run together for the minute. They really helped me. They asked about how easy it is for us to go to stores and get what we want. They asked if we had kids and I said no and one of the boys said I should order one! I said I have a dog and that is enough for us. They loved that his name was Rufus. We had a great time and they left me at mile 24. I am so thankful that I had them along with me, especially at that point as I was struggling. They shared some great tips on Negril and I can’t thank them enough.

The finish was a mile away now and this is Bob’s mile. Named for Bob Marley and they have his lyrics on signs along the way. It was very motivating and inspiring. I passed a reggae band and they started playing the song Sweat by Inner Circle (“Girl I want to make you sweat”), I sung along and laughed.

I finished strong and was pleased with my time 5:46. I got my cool medal and used the wonderful misting tent set up where I was doused with ice water. It was great. The only negative was the race had run out of all food and drink. No bananas, oranges, nor the traditional whole coconut that they talk about. I was very disappointed. You couldn’t even buy a Red Stripe! This is something the organizers have said they will work on in the future.

I did take the traditional swim in the sea and it was great.

We then took the walk down the beach back to our hotel and I pretty much spent our last afternoon of vacation in the water with Red Stripes in my hand. It was a great race and I would recommend it to anyone. If I came back I would do the half but if I didn’t do the full this time I wouldn’t have gotten the real Jamaican experience.

Here's our video from the race

There's a longer version available at our youtube channel: raceandwdw


  1. Nice race report Holly. I remember seeing you out there on the course. Just realized after heading back that you were a MM; had i known earlier, we would have surely caught up. You did have a great race i gather Holly, awesome job on making new friends and sticking it out in the heat and having a great Jamaican experience. See you around. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for all the reposts Navin. Wish we had a chance to say hello in Negril.