They came through unscathed and have the bragging rights to rank themselves amongst the toughest athletes in the Cayman Islands.
It was the fourth staging of Off The Beaten Track two weeks ago and the weather was mercifully overcast and occasionally rainy toward the end for the intrepid runners who braved the pain in Grand Cayman’s most gruelling sporting event.
It started at Smith Cove at 6am and finished at Tiki Beach, where a marvellous brunch awaited the deserving weekend warriors.
At 50 kilometres – about 30 miles – it is four miles longer than the Cayman Islands Marathon. And because most of the running is conducted over rough terrain the course was far more arduous than routine road races.
The course was designed to mirror the torturous standards of the Marathon des Sables ultra-distance race held each year in the hot sands of Morocco. Ken Krys, whose firm Krys Global was among the major sponsors of the Cayman outing, competed in the des Sables a few years ago and he has used that experience to help set the makeup for local conditions. Tower Marketing were the other major sponsors.
All proceeds raised from the race go to charity. Facing Africa, the primary beneficiary, is an organisation that sends 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.
The first individual home was Andrew Keast, a relative newcomer to the running scene here, but one who is improving so rapidly that others are beginning to take notice.
“Finishing Off The Beaten Track was very tough, especially leg six,” Keast said. “I have never run that far before. I haven’t run the race before, but I heard about it last year and I really enjoy participating in races on island.”
Keast has really plunged into the running circuit during his two years here and, surprisingly, only entered Off The Beaten Track on a whim.
“I was already signed up for the Fort Lauderdale marathon a week before the race so I backed off my training for that, although I only registered for the race on Friday as I was not sure how I would pull up after Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “I did my first sub-three hour marathon in Fort Lauderdale (2 hours, 57 minutes), so I knew that I was running well but I have never done more than 42km or a trail run and there are some amazing long-distance runners in Cayman.
“I am not quite sure what my time was for Off The Beaten Track,” he added. “I think it was 4:31. I guess I was just happy that my body didn’t give out after Fort Lauderdale.
“I decided to try and run it like a normal marathon, which made the sixth leg very painful and at that stage I was just willing myself to finish.”
Jens Pankalla was the second individual male to cross the finish line, while James Murray was third. The fastest woman was Helki Weber, followed by Kerry Kanuga and Sally Moseley.
Cayman Cruisers posted the fastest team time, while Aon Off Road finished second and UBS 2 third.
Keast got several prizes, which he said partly made it all worthwhile. Surprisingly, he has no real sporting background and only took up running seriously since arriving in Grand Cayman.
He has run about six marathons in various places, including the Cayman Islands Marathon. The 37-year-old Australian, who is a senior associate at the law firm Maples and Calder, said he feels ready for a break.
“I ran the Miami marathon in January, then did the Fort Lauderdale marathon and Off The Beaten Track, so I am overdue some couch time,” he said. Hopefully, he will be in the Cayman Islands Marathon again in December, and may even be amongst the contenders.
“Thanks, but I think I am a wee way off that yet,” he added.