Marius Acker is Cayman’s top triathlete and until last week was the fastest half marathon runner too. But a mishap with his alarm clock and a friend not notify him to get up for the 5am start at Breezes by the By on the waterfront led to the 40-year-old South African starting a few minutes late and having to settle for an unfamiliar fourth place in 1 hour 27 minutes and 28 seconds.
At least Acker had the hollow consolation of actually running the fastest 13.1 mile run because his chip time recorded 1:20:28. The winner, Jason Saunders finished in 1:20:55, which is 27 seconds slower than Acker. But had it been an out and out race and not a time trial, Saunders could possibly have run quicker. As it was, Saunders won easily, nearly four minutes ahead of Abby Anderson. Chadwick Webster was third in 1:25:04.
Acker said: “I woke up 4.58am, a mate was supposed to call me one hour before the start to check that I was awake but he did not check on me. I’m not blaming him, I overslept.
“In big events it may take minutes to cross the start line, organisers will use chip time and not gun time for final placing especially in the age group results of any given race.
“Big events have a separate starting block for elite athletes to ensure they get away from the crowds. Cayman does not offer this to athletes and novice runners line up in the front together with older athletes which creates a hazard for more experienced runners. Cayman has a very small field and the race rules states that organisers use the start gun’s time as the winning time and I accept that.
“If the Cayman race continues to grow they would have to change this rule as it will not be fair to those starting further back in the field. There is no seeding system for Cayman like other big races which guarantees more experienced runners a head start of the rest of the field. When I enter events in the US they will not use the gun time, they always use my chip time as qualifying time.”
Acker is under no illusions that he would have won again. “I don’t know the athletes who finished first and second in this race so I am not sure if they ran a tactical race. I basically stopped trying to catch up with five miles to go as I realised I would not be able to catch the first two in the half marathon. There was no need for me to keep on chasing as I knew what the split was between me and the first two runners.
“It was good to have the timing difference between me and the leaders during the race and it is vital to the outcome of the race. The Stroke and Stride series is an event where knowing the splits motivated me to chase the leaders but in this case I realised it was not a mathematical possibility for me to make up the lost time.”
Despite the frustration, Acker enjoyed himself. “It was great to hear the runners shout in amazement when I passed them from the back. I think they were in bigger shock than I was to see me so far back and it was good to hear them encouraging me to keep on chasing the lead pack. If I am still a resident in Cayman I look forward to returning next year.”
He will start the new year in busy mode. “I’ve been running a Winter race in the US within eight weeks of the Cayman half marathon over the last couple of years. This year I entered the Miami half marathon in January. A return to the marathon distance – my last one was in 2006 – is on my bucket list and I might be doing Chicago in October.”