Conrad Proud has established himself as one of the top runners on the Island and if there were any doubts the fact that he won last year’s Off The Beaten Track is testament to the Englishman’s toughness.
At around 50 kilometres it is a few miles longer than the 26.1 of the marathon and a lot more exacting because as the title implies it is over rough terrain that even aged Caymanians have never seen.
Racers set off on Sunday 24 February at 6am, on a new route and an exciting new finish line at Tiki Beach. This unique off-road trail run cuts across beaches, the bush and back roads of Grand Cayman.
While the physical demands of the race are significantly more challenging than a typical road race, team relay members only run a fraction more than five miles each.
Proud and compatriot Lizzie Berns were the individual men’s and women’s winners in the gruelling race last year. Proud finished in 5 hours 6 minutes and 15 seconds. Berns did the course in 6:18:50.
The fastest all male relay team was The Leftovers in 3:43:24. Fastest coed relay team was Marco’s Marauders (4:20:47). Fastest all female relay team was Ogiers Girls (4:47:57) and the top corporate relay team was RBC Wealth Management (4:50:03).
Title sponsor and organiser KRyS Global’s CEO, Ken Krys says: “There are a great many runners here in Cayman, and I urge all of them to come out.
“The team aspect allows everyone of all levels to participate, while experienced marathoners can choose to run solo. Another unique aspect is the actual course is not revealed until the week before race day.”
No stranger to challenges, Krys faced the Antarctic Ice Marathon and Amazon Jungle Run in 2011. Last year he braved dog sledding in Norway, the 42km Marathon Du Finistere in France, and recently the 212 km Manaslu Mountain Trail Race in Nepal.
All proceeds raised from the race will go to charity. Facing Africa, the primary beneficiary, is an organisation that sends teams of surgeons and medical supplies to Sub-Saharan Africa to battle a devastating disease called Noma, which causes deformities of the face in predominantly young malnourished children.
This year’s local beneficiaries are Cayman’s Ark and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.
Proud found Off The Beaten Track course exhausting, naturally, and is looking for fresh challenges this year, but as the annual event approaches he slightly regrets not defending his title.
The 36-year-old trust manager at Rawlinson & Hunter has been in Cayman for four years. He is originally from County Durham, in the north of the United Kingdom, although he was in Jersey, Channel Islands for a number of years before moving to Cayman in 2009.
“Mostly I’ve played amateur football back in England and Jersey and initially for Sunset in Cayman, but as I’ve got older I started to enjoy it less and the need to find something new took over.
“If I was any good at golf I might have settled for that. With the running – and cycling and swimming as I am also intending to try my hand at triathlons this year.
“I can train whenever and to whatever extent I want to, which suits me better, especially now I have a 16 month old daughter and those commitments to consider.
“It’s also nice to be getting better at a sport again. The other thing I like about running is that whereas with football you are always restricted to opportunities to the level of ability you have, with running no matter how serious you take it or how fast you are there are opportunities to run in some of the largest events in world, it is an inspiring experience to line up with thousands of people from all over the world at the start of a marathon.”
He has mapped out his schedule for the first half of the year already.
“Last year I only entered Off the Beaten Track as it provided a rare opportunity to race at a longer distance as part of my training for the Comrades ultra-marathon which I ran in June.
“While I’m not planning on running as an individual in this year’s Off the Beaten Track, that is more to do with my decision to try triathlons instead of marathons, I am hoping to put a team together for the relay as it’s a great event.
“It is a lot of fun to run and having sampled the experience the last two years in the relay and as an individual I don’t want to miss out.
“It’s testament to the event that most of the individual runners from last year will probably be on the start line again this time, hopefully with some first timers as well.
“It would be great is to see a lot of the teams that enter the Cross Island Relay follow on and enter their teams in Off The Beaten Track. It can seem quite daunting, but when broken down it’s an average of five miles per leg and gives people the chance to run in areas of the Island they wouldn’t normally consider.
“There is a lot of support as well and the challenge of learning your route adds to the event and sense of achievement at the end.”