The finish line of the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon on Dec. 7 will be the scene of much excitement as marathon, half-marathon and relay runners celebrate significant milestones achieved and personal challenges overcome.
Ems Melland will join the elite 2 percent of the world’s population who have ever run a full marathon of 26.2 miles and hopes to motivate others to join the club too as a result of her journey.
She will also be raising funds for Cayman Acts of Random Kindness.
Melland, 27, completed the half-marathon last year, then decided to go for the long run this time.
“Running a marathon is always something that I have wanted to do, but if I am completely honest, I never thought I would actually do it,” she said.
“I did the half-marathon last year thinking that would probably be the furthest distance I would ever run. When it got to race day, I was very nervous because due to some injuries, the furthest I had ever run in training was nine miles.
“However, as soon as I ran past the first water stop, I got into my stride and I enjoyed every minute. The support from the crowd and the volunteers was so inspiring that when I finished, I knew I wanted to do it again.”
Melland then ran the Cancer Society’s Stride half-marathon in January with a clear goal that if she ran that one without any problems she would go for a full marathon. “I haven’t looked back since!”
The Cayman Prep and High School music teacher advises anyone who is thinking about training for a marathon to simply “do it,” but she also has some practical insights to share.
“I would suggest running a half-marathon first and building on that. Start training early so you don’t feel panicked if something doesn’t go according to plan [like being injured].
“Also, make sure you are fully committed and that you have your close friends and family on board. It affects them just as much as it affects you.”
She said that her husband had to endure the process through her but has also been a great source of support, keeping her inspired and grounded at the same time.
“Training for a marathon means giving up parts of your social life, feeling guilty about missing out on social events and having your mind invaded by running stuff for a long time,” she said.
Melland added, however, that “it is an amazing journey and you learn so much about yourself in the process.”
She said that newbies should not compare themselves to other runners.
“It’s your own journey. A mile is a mile, whether it takes you seven minutes or 14.”
Melland, who is training with another first-time marathoner, also highly recommends incorporating cross training into marathon preparations.
She attends the running boot camp around Camana Bay on Tuesday evenings and says not only is it free, but it also offers exercises such as sprints and stair workouts that people might not necessarily do on their own. She also swims.
Clocking those long distances gives people a lot of time to think, and for Melland, those many hours spent pounding the pavement have been invigorating, both physically and emotionally.
“I have learned so much about myself since I began this journey,” she reflects. “I have learned that the only thing that can get in the way of achieving your goals is yourself. Your mind is so powerful.
“Every time I go out for a run, I imagine the marathon day itself and that keeps me going.”
She has also learned that she enjoys her own company, and even on three hour runs and with no music, she is pleasantly surprised how quickly the time goes.
“My mind feels both active and refreshed after a long run.”
Melland, who came to Cayman from the U.K., cites the humidity and the mosquitoes as aspects of training she dislikes.
She is most nervous about the humidity on race day, even though she has gradually become used to running in the heat and contends that there probably isn’t a part of her body that has not been bitten by a mosquito. Dodging thunderstorms also makes the list of training dislikes.
Melland does not have a target time in mind, to avoid putting too much pressure on herself on race day, especially since this is her first big one.
“It is amazing how many highs and lows you go through when you see how long it took you to run a mile or a certain leg,” she said.
“I am going to try and run by how I feel on race day – start slow, build it up gradually just over halfway and then push near the end.
“I know in my heart that I ideally would like to make it under five hours and make it as close to 4:30 as possible.
“My mum was the same age as me when she ran her first marathon and her first time was 4:47. She’s since completed some pretty impressive times after that. I would be lying if I didn’t say that time is in my head.”
The public is invited to come out and support Melland and the other 1,400-plus expected runners.
The race starts at Breezes by the Bay on the Waterfront at 5 a.m. and loops around South Sound twice for full marathon runners.
Registration for the marathon, half-marathon, four-person relay, CUC High School Challenge and the Kids Fun Run is open online at CaymanIslandsMarathon.com.