Ronan O’Keeffe is a typical example of someone who was a casual runner in his homeland, and became enamoured with the sport in Cayman after adapting to the glorious weather and thriving running scene.
O’Keeffe started running merely for fitness while living in Ireland, but it was only when he moved to Cayman that it became his No. 1 sporting interest.
“I enjoy the freedom that running gives and being able to unwind after a stressful day. Or I like feeling like I’m running towards the sunrise,” he said.
A member of the Wednesday Night Running Club, he is training for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 11 and is aiming to compete in the Cayman Marathon in December.
So far he has gained the most satisfaction from two events. “It’s tough to choose between the 2014 Cayman Marathon or Off The Beaten Track earlier this year. I found OTBT very tough, but coming third and achieving my goal time was the cherry on top.”
Of all the many events he enters locally, the buzz on marathon day is the best. “It seems like everyone on the island is involved in some way, be it the runners, the volunteers, those giving out water and most of all the supporters along the road.
“Everyone is in high spirits – especially after the post-race massage.”
O’Keeffe would love to accomplish all of the major marathons some day. Besides Chicago they are Berlin, Boston, London and New York.
He plays touch rugby during the summer and intends to join the men’s rugby league again this year. “I used to play Gaelic football but think it’s best that I stick to just running and the rugby.”
O’Keeffe was not very sporty in school, but began learning tae kwon do toward his final years and during university. He continued in martial arts for several years before getting into running.
“We would go for runs after training to improve fitness. I suppose that sparked my interest in running and I haven’t stopped since I moved to Cayman in 2011.”
The 33-year-old civil/structural engineer has no particular sporting hero, but to him, friends in Cayman and Ireland who have already raced or are training for Ironman triathlons are worthy of the “hero” title.
“I’m also always impressed by those runners who run up to 50 marathons back-to-back to raise money for charity.”
O’Keeffe was surprised when he moved here by how much variety there is to choose from. “There is a sport out there for everyone. It seems like there are 5K or 10K races most weekends and it’s great to see so many out there on the roads.”
He would like to see some competitive trail runs here, similar to Off The Beaten Track. “Being able to avoid the noise and traffic and just run free would be wonderful.”
As for increasing Cayman’s sporting profile, O’Keeffe feels the larger events could be marketed better to tourists. “I know, there is already a large international contingent that travel to Cayman for the marathon, but events like OTBT, the triathlon series among others could be promoted to tourists. Who doesn’t want to swim, cycle and run alongside the Caribbean Sea?”
Once the Cayman Marathon runners set off on Dec. 6 at 5 a.m., O’Keeffe will relish the colorful water stops along the route. Jerome Ameline’s Revolutions won the best water stop last year, but they are all excellent, particularly the Red Cross, the Indians, RE/MAX and Pinnacle Media’s (owner of the Cayman Compass).
“I enjoy the water stops immensely,” said O’Keeffe. “They are always so supportive and cheer everyone on – from the first to the last. I suppose there have been some quirky water stops over the years.”
His advice to anyone considering taking up running is simple. “People sometimes ask me how, where and when to start running. I tell them simply ‘just run, you can only improve once you start. Run, just run.’”