Bennett makes super-fit scream

Cayman’s growing reputation for having some of the Caribbean’s fittest athletes continues to grow, and now there is another event for weekend warriors to test their mettle, the inaugural Ironshore ultra-marathon.

It is a straight 53-mile road race starting from the tip of Barker’s in West Bay and finishing across the North Sound at Starfish Point. The course is simple, if long, just keep the water on your right.

It is on Saturday, Jan. 4, so anyone wishing to enter only has about five weeks to prepare. It is Cayman’s first fully-on-road ultra-marathon, double the 26.2 miles of the standard marathon distance, enough to make even the toughest ultra-distance runner worried in these sweltering conditions.

Teams can enter in four-person or eight-person groups and roughly run 13 miles or six-and-a-half.

Chief organizer David Bennett says that running this event is entirely social and support will be limited since it is the first year. All runners will need to provide their own hydration and fueling. Solo runners will have the assistance of vehicle support.

Teams must be self-sufficient and will need to provide their own transport, hydration and fueling. Handover markers are on the map and will be marked on the road.

“This is an ideal training event for teams preparing for the Off The Beaten Track event,” Bennett said.

He believes this is the perfect time of year for endurance events in the Cayman Islands. The climate is at its most favorable for these types of events, he reasons. Many would have trained for this Sunday’s Cayman Islands marathon, whether full, half or relay. Another positive is that the Ironshore ultra-marathon may prevent some from over-indulging over the festive period.

“The Ironshore will act as a great training event for those taking part in the MercuryMan triathlon at the end of January and Off The Beaten Track in February,” he said.

Entry for this year is free as Bennett is trying to gauge the level of interest. He does not have a sponsor to date, although one would be welcomed.

A keen triathlete himself, the 42-year-old Englishman did not get the idea during a sweltering training run in the mid-day sun, contrary to widespread rumors.

Bennett used to be a lardy couch potato before beating a painful and traumatic spell of testicular cancer which necessitated surgery and chemotherapy and made him re-evaluate his lifestyle and attitude to fitness and general health.

“Ultimately, I was bitten by the endurance bug a while ago,” Bennett said. “I love the body versus mind challenge of endurance sports, such as runs, biking and triathlons.

“The simplicity of running is also very compelling. A further seed was sown a few years ago when the “Jasperthon” was completed by the legendary Jasper Mikkelsen.

“This was a run around the island plus a swim across the North Sound. Maybe one year my swim will improve to tackle the “Jasperthon.”

“As long as I survive this year’s Cayman Islands marathon, I shall be running as a solo competitor.”

Bennett is grateful to Team Ruby – athlete Scott and his wife Miles – for their considerable help.

“They will give fantastic logistical support for the solo runners and providing much needed motivation to all runners. Endurance gurus Justine Plenkiewicz and Tony Watts (Wednesday Night Running Club organizers) are also assisting with the organization.”

The team entries will be required to be self-sufficient regarding transport and provision of hydration and fuel. Miles Ruby will be out supporting the solo runners. Depending on the success of this event, they will be looking for volunteers for next year.

So far, solo entrants are only Scott Ruby, Plenkiewicz and Bennett. There is one team registered and a few others looking to join teams.

The solo runners are expected to start at 4 a.m. and the teams at 5 a.m. The theory is that the solos will be good targets to chase down.

Registration is available through www.caymanactive. It is a friendly and relatively informal event suited to those who want an unusual challenge, and perfectly suited for solo runners or teams on an unfamiliar course.