The Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon always attracts a large chunk of runners from overseas and one who was happy to be here last month was American Noel Tucker who effectively came out of retirement after years as an observer. In fact, it was 29 years between her first and second marathon.
“Between law school, developing a practice, having children and dealing with chronic herniated discs in my lower back I have not been able to train consistently for about 15 years,” she says. “Indoor co-ed soccer caused the initial injury in 1997. My spine surgeon said I would never run again.
“After getting the other hurdles behind me I started concentrating on my core to try and strengthen and support my back. I’ve been doing sprint triathlons, 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. It was time to move on up and I couldn’t think of a better race than my favourite vacation destination.”
It took several years and a stress fracture later but the last couple years have been virtually injury free for Tucker, except lost toe nails. “But you know what they say about toenails and runners: ‘toenails are for cissies!’” she laughs.
The Cayman Marathon was also a chance for Tucker, 49, to celebrate her nineteenth wedding anniversary with her husband. They didn’t honeymoon until summer 1993 when they made their first trip to Cayman. Noel is a family law and adoption attorney in private practice with her husband.
She says: “We have been coming back ever since almost on an annual basis. Some years I get to the island a couple times. After my first marathon since 1981 I really wanted to break a four hour run.
“I just missed it in 2010 and my competitive nature made me come back last month. This was an easy decision considering how much we love the island. The run is also extremely neat – except for the heat and humidity.
“No other race do you start under the stars, listen to the ocean and see the incredible Christmas lights. It has a way of putting you in the Christmas spirit with a smile on your face. Unfortunately, my training was severely limited this year as I spend a considerable amount of time travelling to Colorado to care for my in-laws.
“My mother-in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in January. Between flying between Oklahoma and Colorado and our work and conference schedule I never managed any of the long runs and only ran about half the workouts I should have. It showed at this years marathon time which was 4 hours 16 minutes.”
The Tuckers love the friendly people and the island’s beauty and how scenic the course is. “It is also fun to be involved with your island holiday activities,” Noel adds. “The Digicel fund raiser on the Friday evening, Santa’s landing in Governors Square, Christmas lights in the tropics. I like the warmer climate although the humidity was a bit of a challenge this year.”
Tucker admits to being stubborn which is why she ran the full marathon of 26.2 miles instead of tackling the half. “I thought about changing to the half but thought I could tough it out. Since I have only been running half marathons I don’t have the history to temper by determination.
“Note I did not run any other marathons between these two. Other than losing a couple of toe nails I did not injure myself. So, even though the time was poor I was smart enough and conditioned enough not to injure myself which is the real risk of running unprepared.
“I also took nutrition precautions. I brought my own Gu and salt packets, otherwise, it could be very bad to run in those conditions, especially when not in the best shape.
“The race could really use finisher t-shirts. Any half marathon I have participated that has a full has a ‘finisher’ t-shirt for the marathoners.
The intention is to be here again for the 2012 Cayman Marathon on 2 December, the day after their twentieth wedding anniversary. “It is fitting that we spend in the Cayman Islands. The race is early enough in the month so we can get back in time for the Christmas family law rush.
“I am frustrated with myself and have already registered for the Little Rock Marathon in March and the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April.
I will try and participate in a fall marathon in September or October. I will be ambitious and hope to maintain an 8 minutes 30 second to 8:45 pace for a 3:41 to 3:47 finish. Of course, I will be pleased just to finish under four hours.”