Off The Beaten Track is a unique ultra-marathon designed to emulate the atmosphere of the distance race run in the hot sands of Morocco every year – the Marathon des Sables.
The event consists of relay teams of six running a distance of about 50 kilometres.
The course crosses the beach, unseen back roads and uncharted bush. For fit and seasoned runners, the race can be challenged as an individual, which undoubtedly is a testing experience in the sizzling sun of Grand Cayman.
The proceeds raised are donated to the charity Facing Africa, with the local Cayman charities benefiting and this year Cayman’s ARK and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations have been nominated.
It is on Sunday, 24 February and finishes at Tiki Beach, where it also starts at 6am.
The founder and chief organiser, who also participates, is businessman Ken Krys, who did the Marathon des Sables a few years ago and regularly does ultra-distance events around the world.
His latest was in Nepal in November in the Manaslu Mountain Trail Race.
It was more than 150 miles and lasted nine days. So tough was the race that only 32 entered and 14 finished, including Krys.
He said that the location and the challenge inspired him to take on the Nepal event.
“The high point was visiting the monasteries and temples along the way,” Krys said. “That was serene. The scenery was fantastic as well. The low point was running down the mountain. Lots of rocks and I beat the hell out of my toes. Lost five nails.”
So experienced is he at these huge challenge races that he did not, at any point, have a crisis in the race and want to pull out. “Not in this race,” he said. “In fact, I felt really good throughout the entire run.”
Krys is not sure when his next event off island will be. “I haven’t picked one yet. Work keeps getting into the way.”
But Krys is looking forward to the next Off The Beaten Track, the fourth. “I don’t have the latest numbers of entries, but we’ve got a brand new course this year and we’ve been getting more inquires than usual. We’re expecting record numbers.”
It competes with lots of other events around the time, but Krys feels there is no danger it will get lost in the mix.
“I don’t think it will. It’s so unique and out there that people can’t help but get excited. And with runs like the Cayman Islands Marathon and Cross Island relay just a month or two before, it’s a great part of that series.
“I think it has the ability to get really big,” he said. “We’re only limited by how far people can reach deep down and challenge themselves.”
Krys said he is pleased that Tower Marketing has confirmed its support and sponsorship of Off The Beaten Track.
Lynne Byles, managing director of Tower Marketing, said: “Tower is proud to have been a major sponsor of this charitable trail run since its inception.
“This unique event gives us a sense of pride and achievement and reflects our firm’s strong belief in giving back to the community.”
Byles reminded all running enthusiasts, both new and experienced, that Off The Beaten Track is not strictly for marathoners.
“While the premise of the run gives competitors an opportunity to participate in something different and travel across some real diverse parts of the island, it also encourages participation from all levels – accepting both relay teams and individual registrants.”