Noel was full of festive spirit

The Cayman Marathon generated lots of interesting human interest stories last month and one of them was Noel Tucker’s who ran only her second 26.2 mile race – exactly 30 years after the first.

Tucker who, turned 48 on 23 December – hence her name – ran the first as a teenager. “My first marathon was when I was a senior in high school in Dallas, Texas Whiterock. I went on to run 10k and 5k fun runs, sprint triathlons and play soccer.

“I ended up herniating a couple of discs playing indoor co-ed soccer and thought I would never run again. It took several years to recover. Dealing with back issues and starting a family, finishing law school and a busy law practice kept me from running.

“Over the last five or six years I have been working on strengthening my core so I could stabilise my back and start running again. The last few years I have been able to participate in sprint triathlons and shorter runs. Another American Bar Association Family Lawyer talked me into running the Rock and Roll Chicago half marathon a couple years ago during one of our conferences.

“I have been running half marathons ever since and decided to challenge myself to another marathon. Since I thought it may be my only one I wanted it to be a special location. My husband and I have enjoyed several visits to Grand Cayman since 1993. We love the island and the people. Our wedding anniversary is 1 December so it seemed like a great way to celebrate.”

Tucker came with husband Phillip and daughter, Sydney, 10, who ran in the kids run. Also on the trip was Noel’s sister Pam and Noel’s in-laws, Barbara and Virgil. Noel, an adoption and family law attorney, celebrated her 18th wedding anniversary with dinner at The Wharf. The Tuckers live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Will she wait another 30 years to do another? “No. My schedule was so hectic during September and October I didn’t get my long runs in to prepare for this marathon. I really hit the wall the last six miles and walked through the last six aid stations and ran very slowly between them. I was disappointed with myself for not enduring more and pushing through a little harder.

“So, I am seriously considering one training marathon in September or October next year so I can return to Cayman and run the whole race without walking through aid stations.”

Besides numerous Oklahoma 10ks and 5ks, Tucker also participated in several sprint triathlons. “I have run several of the Rock and Roll series half marathons trying to decide which I like best. I’ve also run in Las Vegas, Phoenix, New Orleans, San Diego, Dallas, Chicago, Virginia Beach and the Route 66 half marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.”

Cayman was a fitting place to do her momentous second marathon. “I love the Island so I naturally loved the course and people. It was definitely runner friendly, partly due to the size. It is not fair to compare it to the 25,000-45,000 participant races with their large Expo’s and course support.

“I did like the small, relaxed feel of the event and friendly aid station supporters. Unfortunately, this is the first race I have ever had to make use of the porta potties during the race. They were clean and available about every three miles so that was great. Starting the race, under the stars with the sounds and smells of the Caribbean sea was magical.

“Just in case you thought it didn’t feel or smell like Christmas we passed the house with the yard full of amazing Christmas lights. I don’t know if they left them on all night or turned them on early especially for the runners but it was really appreciated and made the beginning of the race that much more special.

“This was something like my tenth trip in 17 years to Cayman so we had already seen a lot of the island. On this trip we really enjoyed hanging out at the condo up Seven Mile Beach and just enjoying the beach and weather.

“Queen Elizabeth Botanical Gardens, Stingray City, Turtle Farm, Rum Point and the Butterfly Farm are usually on our agenda. However, this trip, we relaxed on the beach, shopped in George Town and drove around the East End but really didn’t venture much farther.

“Abanks, now Paradise Grill, Margaritaville and The Wharf are always a must. We were sad to see the Butterfly farm close. We enjoyed participating in local activities like the Governors Square Christmas party and came across a Digicel fundraiser downtown.”

Noel has two favourite memories of the Cayman Marathon. “Noticing the bright stars at the beginning of the race and thinking wow, what a spectacular way to kick off the Christmas season enjoying God’s creations of the stars and sea and then coming upon the yard full of Christmas lights.

“The second was taking my ear buds out of my ears as I approached the run along the shore to listen to the waves then never putting them back in because the sound of the ocean and the island was perfect and peaceful. Of course, you realise I felt pretty darn good at this point and was running a pace 30 seconds faster than I should have been.”

She shouldn’t be so hard on herself, considering she finished just outside of four hours and was 26th of the 62 finishers.