Handicap favorite still not clear

Wednesday nights are particularly special for many runners in Grand Cayman because it’s the chance to stretch their legs at a running club created by Tony Watts a few years ago. 

They meet outside the World Gym in George Town every Wednesday night at 6 p.m. and run between three and five miles, excellent preparation for both domestic and international events they are tuning up for. From absolute beginners to elite, everybody is welcome.  

Watts created an annual handicap race soon after he founded the Wednesday Night Running Club and on Wednesday the second in this year’s three-part series takes place.  

It’s from the old World Gym site on Lawrence Boulevard from 6 p.m. over a 5K distance.  

The first one, held two weeks ago, had a good turnout of more than over 30 participants and Watts expects more for the second and third. He is monitoring results with fellow triathlete Justine Plenkiewicz. Marco Gaspar is the first race leader.  

“The first race is always a bit nerve-wracking from an organization point of view because you’re never quite sure how the handicap will unfold,” Watts said.  

“The start times for Race 2 and Race 3 are based on the previous race so are more reliable.  

“Race 1 start times are based on times from other events from earlier in the year or just our knowledge of how someone runs on a Wednesday night. 

“If everyone finishes within a few minutes of each other, then that’s a success. If someone finishes five minutes ahead or behind, then we got their handicap wrong.  

“Over the three races, things usually even out and the overall winner is the one that improved the most.” 

The leaders after Race 1 often do not fare so well in the second and Race 3 becomes the decider.  

At the moment, everyone still has a chance, although last year’s winner Evelin Ritch has a bit to do to get back in contention. Lauretta Bennett is one of the fastest women who could be pushing for the title.  

Neal Ainscow is the fastest in the field but, because it is a handicap, he is only sixth overall after the first round. His time of 17 minutes 41 seconds was much faster than Ronan O’Keeffe’s 19:55 and Scott Ruby’s 20:05.  

Of the past winners, Pam Abbott is pregnant, Pablo Costa is no longer on island and Brad Marquardt has yet to appear. 

“It’s a busy time of year with lots of popular events coming up on and off island,” Watts said.  

“Most of the regulars on a Wednesday night have some kind of event on the horizon.  

“A few people are going to Chicago for this weekend’s marathon and most will be doing something in the Cayman Islands Marathon, half marathon or team relay at the beginning of December or the 10-10-10 run at the end of this month in East End or next month’s triathlon.  

“Lots of people are looking forward to the Mercuryman Triathlon at the Reef Resort in January too, so happy days for anyone who likes to swim, bike and run.” 


Racers of all abilities have a chance of being handicap champ. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD