Cayman’s running scene is its most
vibrant in years. There doesn’t seem to be a season any more as major races are
being held virtually every month.
Scott Brittain, the island’s
fastest runner, loves it. The 33-year-old Aussie has seen a dramatic increase
in organised runs since arriving in Cayman nearly three years ago.
Winner of the Cayman Marathon in
2007 and 2008 in record times, Brittain welcomes the increase in popularity.
“Events are being both publicised and
reported on by the local media very well, through the Caymanian Compass, Cayman
Net News, Cayman27, Radio Cayman and Cayman Active who are all heavily involved
in promoting the sport.,” Brittain said.
“As it is always in the news,
people become informed and subsequently interested to get involved.
“Secondly, the running of these
events is improving which comes with experience. The organisers are taking note
of what makes an event successful and what keeps the participants happy and build
on their event each year. People such as coach Jerry Harper and others put a
lot of time into the sport.
“Also, there seems to have been an
emergence of running groups, either formal or informal on the island. When I
first got here I didn’t get a feel that this was available.
“Now there are groups such as the
Wednesday Night Running Club and I train regularly a few times a week with a
core group of about a dozen runners.
“I think the camaraderie keeps you
motivated and also leads to improvement. I’ve seen quite a few people take
quantum leaps in their performances since being here.”
Brittain thinks events like the
Cayman Marathon, Irish Jog, the Fidelity runs, To Hell and Back Run, rugby’s
annual Scary 5k Fun Run and Cross Island Relay can get much bigger.
The Irish Jog is on Wednesday and
Brittain, if fit, is favourite to win it yet again.
“These events have different targets
and appeals to runners. The Cross Island Relay is truly a local event and
should remain that way,” he said.
“It’s great to see it grow in team
numbers year on year. The organisation and quick publishing of results this
year was also impressive which will only benefit the event next time too.
“I’m sure organisers would love
more teams again but there must be a point where consideration needs to be
given to closing sections and lanes of roads. For this reason, the event should
“The marathon however should
continue to focus on both the local and international runner.
“The team at Kelly Holdings has
done a great job on improving the event’s profile and it should continue to
grow in the future as the word spreads both here and abroad.
“I know Rhonda Kelly (the race
director) would love to see 1,000 runners on the streets of Cayman in the
future. (It is half that). I think they can do it!
“The only downside is that you will
have difficulty attracting really good overseas runners to this event (say the
sub-2.30 and sub-3.00 male and female athletes).
“Athletes of that pedigree will
only target two or maybe three marathons a year. Because they only have limited
opportunities to race, they are not going to target a marathon at a destination
where conditions are not favourable for distance running.
“You have to remember that for
world class athletes, athletics is their job. So just as a world class doctor
is well compensated for their performance and skills, world class athletes
would have to be well compensated to attract them.
“I’m not sure Cayman could afford
to attract world class athletes as they come with a big price tag, but organisers
could try elite international athletes should they wish to.
“Appearance money, travel costs,
accommodation costs, prize money or a combination of these is what elite
athletes look for when choosing an event.
“The other draw cards are fast
courses and good competition. We have seen triathlon, cycling and tennis
attract elite competitors over the past few years through these type of incentives.”
Brittain was a semi-pro runner in
his homeland and would like to see more international competition but doesn’t
see it as a significant factor in improving overall standards here.
“Road running is still a very
social, fun, non-competitive scene on island. I think it will always be that
way so international competition isn’t necessary from a competitive perspective.
“There is definitely no harm in
international competitors adding to the overall flavour of the event however –
the more the merrier.
“But as far as trying to encourage
competition, I’m not sure any of the better runners on island would change
their approach knowing some strong international competition was running in one
of the road races. Personally, five years ago I would have but now, nah!
“As a non road running side issue, I
think international competition in Cayman for the track season would be very
beneficial at the youth level.
“This is the time these teens
either commit to the sport or gradually drift out of it.
“Exposure to strong international competition
for Cayman’s youngsters can positively influence their determination and commitment
to the sport, leading to an improvement in the overall standard of track and
field in this country and hopefully producing further Olympians.
Cayman holding the CARIFTA Games
next month is the best boost to young track and field this country could ever
wish for. You may be watching Caymanian athletes at the London or Rio Olympics
and recall their major breakthrough at the 2010 Carifta Games in Cayman.”