Aptly named Cayman Express, they certainly steamed along to predictably win the Cross Island Relay by a full six minutes.
Defending champions the Bulldogs were tamed, as Marius Acker, team leader of Cayman Express announced they would be in the build up. He had toyed with the name Doghandlers but thought that the Cayman Islands Humane Society might be offended.
The 24-mile race from Collier’s Beach in East End was in six stages. Some of the top runners had to do two and even three stages if there was a late shortage. In the blazing early morning heat that was tough, but Cayman’s weekend warriors are real soldiers.
A record number of teams participated in the Cross Island Relay, organised by the Hash House Harriers and sponsored by Fidelity.
There were 93 teams and more than 500 runners, quite an achievement considering the logistics of getting everyone in the right place at the right time.
Cayman Express were not derailed. Never looked likely to be, in fact, after Dominic Corbin with legs comparable to a giraffe’s, powered to the fastest split of the day in 21 minutes, 23 seconds on the first leg.
Mike McDonald (24:52) kept the momentum going for Express, then came Acker (23:13), before Jonathan Shillito (24:43), James Ogden (22:54) and finally David Walker finished in 22:50 for a final time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 55 seconds.
The Bulldogs had their tails between their legs from the off really because David Shibli Jr. is simply not as fast and his gallant 25:17 was never going to compare with Corbin’s blistering speed.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs did not fall back much further and there were solid runs from Neal Coleman (25:07), Tom Gammage (25:45), Jason Saunders (22:24), Neil Ainscow (23:32) and finally Derek Larner in 23:58. Bulldogs panted to a time of 2:26:03.
Sole Sisters were the first all-female team again, finishing ninth overall. Lauretta Bennett (29:07) sped off for the Sole Sisters and then came Beth Florek (26:37), Julie-Ann Pearson (27:23). Laura Knox-Clingerman (27:54), Pam Abbott (28:50) and Megan Kelly (28:15) to bring them home in 2:48:06.
KPMG were back with several teams trying to hold onto the corporate title, but bragging rights went to Maples Marauders, who won by nine minutes over Walkers Running and KPMG Uno third.
Despite winning comfortably, Acker did not take victory for granted. “Running in a team is never easy as it’s a team effort, runners normally rely on themselves and for this event you have to rely on others for your final result,” Acker said. “Being on a team with such experienced runners gave us a lot of confidence, but there is always the risk of injury and illness by teammates.
“My team lost a Cross island Relay as a result of an injury and illness a couple of years ago of just one member after we had been in the lead for most of the race,” he added.
Corbin’s leg obviously gave Express a lovely cushion but Acker still did not relax. “Losing was never in my or my team’s mind. As team captain, I had confidence in my team’s abilities,” Acker said. “Our aim was to put a leash on the wild running Bulldogs, who made Cayman team running relays their own for the last couple of years.
“Dom did the fastest run of the day by more than a minute, so having him at the start was a great advantage and it certainly might have taken away any hope of rival teams.
“Jason Saunders (Bulldogs) ran the second fastest time followed by Dave Walker and James Ogden who had outstanding runs for our team,” he added.
So Bulldogs got tamed after all. Why didn’t they call themselves Doghandlers? “As team captain, I gave the team some name options and I think we had inflicted enough pre-race pain already by our team selection. The Cayman Express was firing on all cylinders on Sunday and made history by setting a new course record.
“That was confirmed by race organisers afterwards who pointed out that the 1982 record still stands, but that record would not be achievable if the same route is not being followed.
“This event can definitely grow to a 100 teams if we can get some of the other local sports to enter. Like, soccer, rugby, basketball and netball to enter teams.
“There were also no school teams. It would be good to get the next generation involved and excited about running.
“What makes it so special is the difference in scenery for runners and the team format brings out a camaraderie in a sport that is normally based only on your own efforts.”
The friendly atmosphere is always augmented by the amusing names some teams choose. They include Grumpy Old Men, Not A Very Creative Bunch of Runners, Time Wounds All Heels, Walkers Running, Wait, I Thought This Was A Pub Crawl?
There was also Go Won Go Won Go Won, Cross Hares, CITCO Snails, Running On Empty, Ivory Coasters, Run Hit Wonders, Will Run For Beer, Wecandoits, Drinking Team With A Running Problem, My Pace Or Yours and Where’s The Pub.
Florek and the Sole Sisters were in perfect harmony. “There was a big increase in the number of teams this year and to place ninth is something we are very proud of,” she said.
“We are also happy to have won the all-female team division again this year with about a 15 minute lead over the next all-female team.
“We beat our time from last year by around three minutes, which works out to an improvement of 30 seconds on each leg.
“In any race, I would rather run a fast time and get beat by a ton of people, than run a slow time with a higher finishing placement. The relay is no different.
“Any time the quality of the field is more competitive is a good thing for all participants and makes the race more exciting.
“This is only the second year that we’ve banded together to run in the all-female division so all in all, I would say it was a very successful race for the Sole Sisters.
“Of course, you always wish you had run faster but everyone on the team was happy with their leg times. Lauretta has been battling that awful flu that’s been going around and Jules has been dealing with a lingering hip injury so they were slightly concerned about how they would do.
“The rest of us were quite confident in our abilities and not surprisingly, they both ran really well and managed to pull off great times that really helped out the team.”
“The heat and humidity probably hurt the times of those running the later legs once the sun came up but it’s an even situation because every team is dealing with the same conditions. Had it been cloudy or cooler the times for the later legs for all teams might have been quicker.”
Florek thinks the target of 100 teams is achievable next year.
“Every year there is more and more participation and the jump from last year’s number to a record breaking 93 this time highlights this possibility.
“This is such a fun event and every year people who participate tell their friends about it and get more people to enter through word of mouth.
“That cycle seems to repeat itself every year. The Cayman Hash do an incredible job organising the relay and it’s because of their flawless execution that so many people walk away with a positive experience, recommend the event to others and keep coming back year after year.”
The Cayman Islands Intertrust Marathon has plenty of relay teams. Florek could run a relay first leg in the marathon if she chooses to but prefers the solo event which she has won five times in a row.
The Cross Islands Relay is a perfect opportunity for her to enjoy the format.
“The relay is such a special event because it’s the one race each year where every single person is part of a team,” she said.
“You’re not running just for yourself but to help out your team. It brings a good and different kind of pressure to do your best because othe
r people are depending on you.
“There’s also the opportunity for a little friendly competition between teams. The start out in East End means that you get an opportunity to run in areas you normally don’t get to if you don’t live out there.
“That change of scenery is really nice. Another highlight of the relay is all the interaction you get to have that you just don’t get in other races.
“At the relay exchange points there are dozens of people gathered around, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their team-mate for the hand-off.
“When teams drive from one leg to the next they’re able to stop and cheer their runner on. There’s also the exciting aspect of not knowing what will happen each leg and if one team will pass another and if they do, will they be able to maintain that lead.
“Finally, at the finish line, there are so many people gathered around and every runner that crosses gets huge applause for making it.”
The next local race Florek is likely to do is the Irish Jog 5k in March. “I’ve missed that the last two or three years, but hopefully I’ll make it back this time,” she said. “After that, I have the Boston Marathon in April.”