Road runners team up for the Cross Island Relay this weekend in what promises to be its biggest and fastest ever.
The 41st Annual Fidelity Cross Island Relay, organized by the Hash House Harriers running club, this Sunday, starts at 6 a.m. near Collier’s Beach in East End and finishes at Smith’s Cove in South Sound.
A record 91 teams participated last year, all finished. This time a maximum of 100 will be admitted. Teams are made up of six runners who each run a 4-mile leg.
Of the favorites, Marius Acker is entering a team in and expects the MDRs kids who won the marathon relay to be strong and Flashy Nation to have a strong six too.
PwC are always one of the favorites in the corporate division who usually enter more than one team.
Tobias Muchene is one of the fastest in the field. He ran a 1 hour, 29 minute half marathon on Sunday at the Stride Against Cancer event, ideal preparation for his leg, the fourth, in this event as part of the Ritz-Carlton team. Muchene hopes to run inside 23 minutes, he said.
The Sole Sisters are the reigning all-female relay champs. Between Beth Florek, Tracey Walker, Joanna Mansi, Kym Bailey, Lauretta Bennett and Gill Comins, they look assured of retaining their mantle.
Mansi is the only newcomer, replacing Laura Knox who has moved to Bermuda.
Mansi is one of the most improved runners on island. She completed the Stride in 1 hour, 35 minutes as the fastest female. It’s an extremely demanding time for her, having done a half marathon in the Mercuryman Half Ironman the previous week in blazing hot conditions.
Completing half marathons in successive weeks “just builds up my fitness,” super-fit Mansi said, and added that she is aiming for personal benchmarks this year “times that people consider themselves as good runners, such as under 20 minutes for a 5k and 1 hour, 30 minutes for a half marathon.”
She added, “I’m still way off those times but would like to get closer. I’d also like to concentrate on shorter races and see if I can get faster. Short and sweet, then I can go home earlier and don’t have to get up so early.”
Kiwi Mansi worked as an archeologist in England until arriving here with husband Richard, a Brit. Both are keen members of the CrossFit 7 Mile gym. Now a full-time mother to their two little girls, she is waiting for them to get a little older before returning to work.
“CrossFit has really, really built my fitness up,” Joanna said. “I don’t normally have the time to do long runs every day, partly because of the heat here, so I go to CrossFit at lunch times about three times a week and do James Murray’s boot camp every Tuesday evening at Camana Bay.” Her big runs are on Sundays.
Mansi, 44, grew up in a rural, hilly place in Gore, New Zealand on the southern tip of the south island “where the penguins live” and ran barefooted everywhere.
She briefly lost interest in running as a young adult. “I wasn’t any good at hand-to-eye coordination so you wouldn’t pick me for your netball team, but I’ve always enjoyed running.”
She said that part of the fun of competing here is the friendliness of the running community. After the relays, Mansi will compete in Off The Beaten Track in a CrossFit 7 Mile team.
Derek Larner of Race Caribbean is a race organizer. He usually runs too but has just had hernia surgery and is out of action for the next month at least.
There is no British Bulldogs team, the usual winners that Larner runs with. He will be coordinating the leg changeover, volunteers, electronic chip timing and results.
Larner believes this event has grown so big because it is one of the oldest sporting events in Cayman, well organized and heavily supported by the running community.
“Four-mile legs seem to attract many runners as it isn’t too long,” he said, and added that he appreciates all the help given by sponsors and volunteers, particularly Fidelity, Helen McErlean, John and Ann Elliott, Roger Davies and Tom Gammage.
Trophies will be awarded to the first five teams in the Open division, the first three teams in the Ladies Only division, and the first three teams in the Corporate division, where all six runners must work at the same company.
Fidelity’s Tom Gammage is a keen Hash House Harrier and is competing. He said, “We are encouraged by the amount of support we get year after year.
“While the competition is fierce when it comes to winning that coveted Fidelity Cross Island Relay Champions trophy, people are also paying more attention to their health and becoming more active. That is what is most important.”
Pre-registration is available by logging onto www.caymanactive.com/register. Packet pick up and in-person registration is between midday and 4 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the base of the Observation Tower in Camana Bay. There will be no registration on the day of the event.
For more information, go to www.caymanhash.com or email [email protected]