The Valentine’s Run has quickly become a favorite of the local running scene, and Sunday’s race in the third staging of the mile event was testament to that.
Around 250 kids as well as adults turned up at the Bayshore Mall in downtown George Town. Since it was an afternoon event, there were no bleary-eyed entrants who had to get up at a ridiculously early hour for the start.
Last year’s champ Dominic Corbin successfully defended his title in 4 minutes, 44 seconds, but Tahj Lewis, just 16, pushed him to the wire and was also timed at 4:44.
Jason Saunders (4:51) was next, with Marius Acker a close fourth (4:52). Neal Ainscow (4:55), 15-year-old Delano Callender (4:48) and Fabian McCallum (4:59) also broke the five-minute barrier.
In the ladies race, it was Tiffany Cole (5:27) who took top honors, just pipping last year’s champ Claire Critchley (5:28), and 15-year-old Kiara Mclaughlin (5:54) came in third.
Corbin said the race was not particularly tough, but he was surprised to see Lewis taking second place. “Credit to him, at 16 beating the other top runners on the island,” Corbin said, adding that he was just ensuring that he won and knew he was not going to beat any records in his current condition with troublesome knees.
“My goal was just to win the race, although next year I think we’ll see a new course record,” he said.
For the third consecutive race, the course was new. Being the leader did not worry Corbin about negotiating the route.
“Being in the lead is not a disadvantage for navigating,” he said. “The course this year was a lot easier than the previous.”
As the kids get faster, the 23-year-old Englishman is aware that they will soon be literally breathing down his neck. “I do have an extra gear and only when you have serious competition can you really hit personal bests,” he said. “Hopefully the kids will improve even more so no one will dominate the running scene.”
He has no immediate plans to race. “I’ll still be taking it easy from running, so maybe in a month or so I’ll get back into it.”
Corbin received a $300 Kirk Freeport voucher, as did Cole. Second- and third-place finishers received $200 and $100 vouchers, respectively. There were also numerous other prizes donated by Kirk Freeport and its associated companies.
Corbin said, “My voucher is always handy with Valentine’s around the corner!”
Race Caribbean’s Derek Larner put it all together again. “I am so excited with the Cayman Islands running scene right now,” he said. “Gone are the days when one athlete reigns supreme. Now the young guns are coming through.”
Larner said the new course got a positive response, although they may adjust the start since a lot of vehicles that were parked on the side narrowed the road.
He was pleased that there was a close finish for both genders. Larner, an accomplished road warrior himself, has coached some of the runners for a few years and gains immense pride from seeing their development. “The kids are closing the gap with the best and are already beating the likes of Marius,” he said.
“It is far more satisfying when those I coach perform at these levels. These boys and girls have improved steadily over the last few years and will only get better.
“I’m very proud of all those I coach, no matter how well they perform, but the added satisfaction when they beat the adults makes it all worthwhile.”
He hopes to see at least three from his group achieve the standard to compete at CARIFTA over the Easter weekend – Cole, Lewis and Callender – but believes others are capable.
Larner is grateful to Kirk Freeport, the main sponsor, which donates gifts as well as personal time to this event.
“Volunteers who assist Race Caribbean are absolutely vital to the success of every event we are involved in, and they deserve a big pat on the back for helping us put on these races,” he said.
Larner lauded the volunteers of the race’s beneficiary, the Breast Cancer Foundation, who assisted with the race registration and the results process.
“Let’s not forget the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps,” he said. “They are a great bunch of kids who did an excellent safety role by marshaling traffic and also putting on the additional children’s race where all kids aged 10 and under could participate and received a medal for completing the run.”
Race Caribbean will be assisting next with Off The Beaten Track on Feb. 23, an ultra-distance run for super-fit endurance athletes or a relay with legs just over 5 miles.
This course is not the usual foot race. As the name implies, the route is mainly off road and takes runners to parts of Grand Cayman they never knew existed.