Elite and social runners alike are deep in training for the Cayman Islands Intertrust Marathon which is only seven weeks away.
American Justin Grunewald came from nowhere last year to win it in a record time of 2 hours 36 minutes and 24 seconds, ahead of Steve Speirs, the champion the previous two times.
Both will be back on 2 December for the 5am start as will women’s champ Beth Schreader who was third overall in the gruelling 26.2 mile race. It starts and finishes at Breezes by the Bay on the waterfront.
In the half marathon, newcomer Dominic Corbin wants to improve on his ninth place last year and be in the top three. On early season form he could well do that and even push for victory having beaten Marius Acker in all three Fidelity Fun Run races.
Acker is Cayman’s half-marathon record holder who was beaten by Jason Saunders last year despite the South African’s faster chip time. Acker arrived at the start several minutes late and finished fourth yet still ran the fastest 13.1 mile time. Abby Anderson was second and Chadwick Webster third in last year’s half.
The magic mark of a combined 1,000 runners was reached last year through all the marathon, half and four-person relays. This time organisers Kelly Holding hope to top that by another 200.
Celebrated ultra-distance runner Paul Staso is competing too. Staso is one of few people to have run right across America and he has also championed running programmes in schools. He recently moved to Cayman to live.
Rhonda Kelly is the race director. Along with business partner Laurie-Ann Holding they have built the Cayman Marathon up to into an internationally renowned event. Bev Sinclair completes the permanent Kelly Holding team with her marvellous PR work and general ‘can do’ attitude in a multitude of skills.
Kelly said: “It’s going fantastic. We have over 200 registered runners which for seven weeks out is really good and much higher than we were at this point last year.
“We have a big group coming from Canada and they’re not included in that number. There’s usually the last minute locals too, so we’re excited and hoping to get 1,200 this time.
“Justin Grunewald has emailed us and said he wants to come back and defend his title. That’s exciting. I think having competition is always good. You never know who’s going to show up from overseas. “Justin came last minute last year. That’s always the good side of it. And also the bigger side of the marathon is the masses who come out and they just want to accomplish something and do what they’ve never done before and challenge themselves.
“They are the biggest numbers. At this point we’d really like to see more people coming out to walk the half. At this stage you can still do that. The teams too.
“Our focus is really to reach out to a bunch of people who have never done this kind of thing before and don’t think they can do it.
“There are a lot of local gyms on the Island who are doing marathon training programmes.
“Paul Staso is here and he’s going to be doing some fantastic things. He’s doing some fantastic things for runners and especially for the kids run too.
“We’re going to create a log for the kids and get it out to all the schools who can download it and the kids can get their teacher, or mum or day, or uncle, whoever, to sign every time they complete a mile.
“They can run it or walk it and can do a quarter-mile, or half-mile, whatever. And they’re going to do twenty-five and a half miles then bring their signed sheet for a cool prize draw and then they’re going to do the last half mile in the kids run to complete the full marathon. That idea really came from Paul Staso and what he’s done with kids in the States.
“It’s a great way to really connect the kids to the marathon in a really exciting way. We’re really hoping that will bring the numbers up. We all know that the health of our kids is vital. We’ve seen the statistics about obesity and need to get them moving. This is a great way to do that and it’s a way of getting them moving for two months as opposed to just one morning.”
Kelly is still appealing for volunteers. She said even if volunteers are not available for the Sunday morning there are plenty of things that need to be done the previous day and in the days leading up to the event that they can help with. “If you just have two hours we can find something for you to do.”
Holding said: “The part I really enjoy the most about the day is when I go onto the course and see all the water stops interacting with all the runners having fun.
“It takes a lot to come out at 4am to set up a water stop and stay there almost up to 11 if runners are still out on the course. The water stop volunteers really help the runners. They wear costumes and cheer them on, call their numbers and even call their names.
“We give all the water stops a list of runners and their bib numbers so that they know their names. A lot of the feedback we get from runners is how much they love the water stops and all the other volunteers because everybody’s so friendly and they feel part of a family.”
Holding encourages anyone running to try to help a charity because not only does it raise money for a worthy cause it also keeps the runner motivated when training may not be going as planned.
“You feel like you’re doing something that’s going to benefit others. It makes you more motivated to train and to actually go out there and get funds raised.”
The Cayman Marathon is hailed as one of the most attractive on the international circuit. Holding agrees. “Rhonda and I have run a couple of half-marathons and I think our course is absolutely beautiful. Flattest course and best course.”
The magic mark of a combined 1,000 runners was reached last year through all the marathon, half and four-person relays.