The tenth staging of the Cayman Islands Intertrust Marathon was always going to be a challenge for the organisers, events company Kelly Holding, but they pulled it off super-smoothly again and can now put their feet up for the Christmas break.
Actually race directors Rhonda Kelly and Laurie-Ann Holding and coordinator Bev Sinclair are already wrapping up all the follow up stuff from this one and working out how to make the next marathon on 1 December 2013 even better. They work tirelessly around the year to make this event excellent. And it shows.
There seems to be no time to even draw breath, but that’s how they operate and why the Cayman Islands Marathon is internationally renowned and why so many overseas runners enter every year.
Despite the heat and humidity consensus is this is one of the most beautiful places to put your body through the agony and when it comes to hospitality and comfort, the recent survey that named the Cayman Islands as the friendliest place on earth was not a mistake nor fluke.
The build up to this event had the hallmarks of an old cowboy gunfight showdown because last year’s champ American Justin Grunewald, who smashed the old record, confirmed his entry late and Cayman’s world class runner Jon Rankin entered even later, a couple of days before.
It was actually a breeze for Rankin because Grunewald – who did admit that he wasn’t as fit as last year – pulled out at around the 18-mile mark, leaving Rankin, who led from the start, to coast home in 2 hours 43 minutes and 08 seconds. It was almost seven minutes slower than Grunewald’s 2:36:23 time of 2011 but with no one to push him there was no point in racing flat out.
Rankin has had a turbulent time with illness and injury for four years to the point of pioneering stem cell surgery for a rare kidney disease. He was hoping to qualify for the London Olympics in the 800 and 1500 metres but injury and illness prevented that. Now, he says, he is fully fit and looking forward to the world championships next year.
Welshman Steve Speirs, winner of this 26.2 mile race in 2009 and 2010, was predictably second in 3:03:37. His Scottish wife Ally ran the half marathon, as usual.
Canadian Geoff Riggs was third in 3:05:19.
She had reigned supreme for four years and Beth Schreader had many more reasons to celebrate winning her fifth title, because she wed fiance Dan Florek two days earlier and ran under her new married name.
Mrs Florek had a hectic week, making last minute preparations for the wedding, socialising and breaking her normal dietary habits, yet she ran two minutes faster than last year. Maybe she should adopt all those bad ways for future races!
Three visiting Canadians came next – Lindsay Taylor-Watson, then John Kelleher and Steve Mattina was seventh. Taylor-Watson was the second female finisher.
Local runner Stephen Peel was eighth, ahead of Karen Warrendorf and Mansour Alzaharna, an American who rounded off the top 10.
The racing actually began from Breezes by the Bay on the waterfront, with a wheelchair showdown between Paralympics athletes Ryan Chalmers and Brian Siemann, five minutes before the 5am marathon start. Siemann won by a slim margin last year and Chalmers was focused on reversing that even though he did the 55-mile Push Across Cayman a week earlier.
This race between the 23-year-old Americans was tight too, with Chalmers edging home by 0.6 of a second in 55 minutes and 52.0 sceonds.
This was the first year that personalised bib numbers had been introduced and the general response was that it is well worth continuing because onlookers can shout encouragement. Many ran for charity, particularly champion fundraiser Derek Haines who raised tens of thousands. There were two children’s fun races and a drill demonstration from the Cadet Corps, one of the recipients of the event’s proceeds.
Marius Acker overslept before last year’s half marathon, turned up late, ran the fastest 13.1 mile distance on the day but still finished fourth. This time the 42-year-old South African had multiple alarms, bells, whistles, klaxons, fog horns and loud hailers in place to ensure no repeat and he too grabbed the title with ease, finishing in 1:19:31 ahead of another local ex-pat, Jamaican Jason Saunders (1:22:00), last year’s winner.
Dominic Corbin has been a sensation recently in the short distance races. Unbeaten for three months, that sequence ended a couple of weeks ago in the Out to Hell and Back 10k which Acker comfortably took.
But Corbin got over his hell raiser and at 23 the 6ft 6in computer technician at Cayman Free Press can only get faster. He was satisfied with his third place finish in 1:23:32, considerably faster than last year’s.
Chadwick Webster was fourth, 29 seconds behind Corbin and Mark Hogan, last year’s third place finisher in the marathon when he was a resident here, returned from the sub-zero climes of Calgary, Canada to run a fast half marathon in 1:26:45.
The British Bulldogs predictably retained their four-person team title through having Steve Speirs doing a leg, plus the speedy trio of Derek Larner, Neil Ainscow and Tom Gammage. Ainscow came in for the injured David Shibli this time.
The Bulldogs wore their T-shirts and plastic hats adorned with the Union Jack, with pride after. They are hoping that by pulling off a third consecutive win next year it will warrant an invite to one of Her Majesty The Queen’s garden parties. Larner has bought his tux already in anticipation.
The Phoenix Athletic Club finished second in the team race and third were The Mdr A Team who were also the first mixed team. There were some great names in the team event, including Thong Distance Runners, S&M At It Again, Bateman and Robyn, Here We Glow Again, Not Fast – Just Furious and Is It Time For Brunch Yet?
Overall, it was another wonderful experience, accommodating a record 1.200 runners from last year’s high of 1,000, with ease. That record figure was partly because of the Canadian Diabetic Association returning with three times the 40-odd of last time.
Including athletes, back-up staff, family and friends, Team Diabetes brought over around 140, a significant boost for sports tourism.