Not quite an Irish jig more an Irish slog

So I believe I reported a couple of columns back that it was my intention to participate in the Butterfield Bank Irish Jog 2010.  On March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day – I put my money (or rather my feet) where my mouth was, and prepared to don my sneakers for the 5K race amongst the grassy knolls of the Grand Cayman Beach Suites Golf Course.

On March 16th I only used the Elliptical in my workout – didn’t want to push the jogging muscles too much in advance!  Anyone would have thought I was preparing to run the marathon.  I couldn’t get to sleep that night, tossing and turning until about 4:00 a.m.  I got up the next morning, grabbed my folded pants, sneakers, fresh new socks and fully charged iPod.  Any hopes I had had earlier that week of dropping out quietly had been dashed when sister-in-law Danni texted to firmly inform me that she had signed me up and would meet me at the starting line.

As the day wended on at the office, I stretched my calves from time to time.  Isn’t that what Rocky did?  Come 5:00 p.m. I had changed into my gear, unique participant number pinned to the front of my T-shirt. I hopped onto my motorbike and headed down the bypass, a green blur, steadfast and focused.

The area around the golf course clubhouse was a controlled zoo.  It suddenly occurred to me that it might have been an excellent plan to agree to meet Danni at a specific spot, as “Have you seen Danni, she’s wearing a green T-shirt?” would have only been greeted with laughter.  It was a sea of green, with some attendees sporting oversized St. Patrick’s Day hats and even the odd fake beard.  There were children of all ages, and people older than myself that clearly meant serious business, putting their sinewy legs through some preparations that looked more strenuous than the task before us all.  Volunteers held up signs like tour guides trying to organize a group of cruise ship passengers.  The first wave was to be the runners, the second wave was the joggers and walkers, and the third wave was anyone pushing strollers and children under the age of ten.  Just as I was about to give up on ever finding Danni, she suddenly appeared to the left of me.  We barely had time to acknowledge each other before the runners were given the go, and started off in the direction of the condos as though the hounds of hell were on their tails.  I could have kept up that pace for about 30 seconds.  It was upon us, and we were off!

Anyone who has done any kind of exercise will tell you that you’ll have good and bad days for reasons you just can’t fathom.  Luckily it looked as though this was going to be a good one for me, despite my four hours of sleep.  We were keeping to a comfortable speed as we wound our way past all the apartments, made it to the end, and then started heading back in the direction from which we had come.  There was such a great atmosphere, people waving at each other, children jogging or walking beside their parents.  Why hadn’t I ever done this before?  As we got back to the clubhouse, I felt invigorated.  I pretended to punch the air, showing off to the organizers under the tent to our right.  Danni and I gave each other the thumbs-up signal as we turned into the entrance to the golf course.  And then I got an inkling of how far we still had to go.

As we headed along the narrow tarmac path winding its way through the grass, I began to notice that there were little inclines here and there.  A person enjoying a leisurely walk might not have even acknowledged their presence, but as we went on and on and on and on through this expanse that was beginning to more resemble Hobbiton than the greens of a course, I could have sworn that we were almost starting to tackle hills.  We came to the first water stop, for which I was immensely grateful, and I grabbed a cup of cold liquid, determined to keep going.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a seasoned runner, or maybe this happens to everyone, but me trying to get any of that water into my mouth as I jogged was reminiscent of Stryker’s drinking problem in the brilliant Airplane! film from the 80’s.  On the first attempt I managed to chuck a piece of ice at my cheek.  On the second, I nearly blinded myself.  A few drops made their way into what I’m sure many would agree is a very large target, but for the most part I was liberally dousing my face as I plodded on.

We had to be about halfway through by now, but it was difficult to tell.  Every time I thought we were at the stage where we should turn back, another corner followed by further yards of path presented itself.  I kept valiantly hoping that those small green objects ahead of us in the distance were leprechauns, because if they were people we were a long way from the final flag.

With approximately two-thirds of the Jog behind us, I was really beginning to feel it.  The smile was gone from my beetroot face and not even Lady Gaga pounding into my eardrums was helping.  I had to stop and walk for a few seconds, which we did so I could get the wheezing and panting down to trauma level.  I had to give some of these people their due, as we were overtaken by a few joggers pushing strollers no less!

Back to the jogging again, and as we came to the fork in the path, we could now visibly see the end of the race.  The sun was lower in the sky, mercifully dropping the temperature, and as we approached the final turn we found out that we had done it in 37 minutes.  Woo-hoo!

Within five minutes of it all being over, I felt 400% better – exhausted but happy.  I had wanted to jog the whole thing without walking once, but realizing that an ambulance would have only reached me with difficulty had helped me err on the side of caution.

If you’d asked me in the last half of that race, I would have shot you a withering look, but now I can honestly say that yes, I will try it again next year.  The road rose up to meet me in places, but I survived!