I return to Barbados to participate in the Run Barbados Marathon Weekend. With a totally new course on share the story off my last couple of races of the year.

Just over 5 weeks after running the Nice Cannes Marathon I headed to Barbados for my last couple of races of 2022. I was looking forward to doing Run Barbados as my last time running it was 2019. With no training on deck but a recent marathon banked was a much-needed confidence boost. I arrived the previous weekend and was grateful for down time and the chance to acclimatise. Previous years I had flown in and run the same day which wasn’t too bad as Friday’s race was always a mile, followed by Saturday and concluding Sunday. This year’s format was Saturday and Sunday which was welcome as it would give me a little rest. The first week was very chilled and I ran once which I kept short and sweet. Well, it was taper week, I was on holiday and the 30 degrees made it feel slightly challenging. With a few days of winding down it was time to wind up and get to work. Having worked with the race director to promote the event previously this year I was blessed to have been invited by the Barbados Tourist Board. Friday morning, I headed to the Hilton to meet up with the rest of the press trip attendees a bunch of sporty travel consultants. Late afternoon we collected our respective race numbers and headed to Friday’s main event the fish fry at Oistins Bay Gardens. It was so busy but we were fortunate to have a table booked that could fit all 14 of us. Imagine a food court where you can get varieties of fresh fish cooked to order and other dishes which you can eat while enjoying live entertainment. Oistins is that and much more. The food was great and even I had a great selection suitable for my vegan tastes. After the meal I went on stage, danced, we took a stroll, soaked up the atmosphere and headed back to coach to drive back to the hotel. Some continued to party in one of the hotel’s many bars but I decided to call it a day, have an early night and preserve my energy for the weekend.

I awoke early Saturday morning and took full advantage of the hotel’s gym and stretched and did some TRX. After breakfast later that morning, I led a group stretching session to get our team ready for the weekend. Think Tai Chi with guided stretching and mindfulness. After a late lunch at a restaurant on the beach we took around a 45-minute coach ride to the race start on the east coast. I have only once previously taken a coach to a race start and this one felt special. I sat near the front, soaked up the sights along the way and meditated on my mantras. We arrived at Barclay Park, St Andrew around 4:30pm and the area was already buzzing. On departing the coach, I felt the sun’s heat and a welcome cooling breeze courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean only metres away. I headed up to the park where there was a stage, picnic, stalls and live music. The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by the brilliant Euphony Steel Band and a DJ. I soaked up the vibes, took pictures and caught up with my celebrity coach friend Patrice from Jamaica who I first met during Run Barbados 2019. I then assembled our group and led a warm up by the beach. It was really quite surreal warming up with the ocean and palm trees as the backdrop. All warmed up we headed off to the start area to run our respect 5k and 10k races scheduled to start at 5:30pm. As it was a completely new course on different coast, I had no idea what to expect. I had mixed feelings about a new course but definitely welcomed running along the coast. I walked into the starting pen, greeted team members and exchanged smiles and words of encouragement with strangers. The music was still playing which helped calm my nerves and the atmosphere was energised. I have toed many start lines around the world and none were quite like this.

After the race director made his announcements, I went through my last-minute preparations, ensuring laces were tied, watches ready and headphones connected. As we would be running along the coast, I decided to run with my 360 camera. The countdown was complete and we were off heading south along the coast with the Atlantic Ocean to our left. My pace was sensible, my music was a low and I could hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore. We turned at Cattlewash, went north back up the coast and on approaching the I could hear the music and spectators cheering runners and finishers on. Having captured some 360 footage I gave my camera to a friend and headed up the coast empty handed. The 10k runners were ushered to continue running north and I was instructed to turn to complete the 5k. I was on the home straight with the Atlantic Ocean to my left once more. It was time for a sensible push and not so sensible sprint finish. My first time putting the Magic Speed 2 through their paces and they performed providing comfort, cushioning and propulsion. After the runs I went into Barclay Park, caught up with family, hung out in the VIP area, refuelled on delicious Barbadian cuisine, exchanged race stories, took pictures and soaked it all up. Later that evening there were great live performances from Soca Music artists Faith Callender, Nikita, Mikey Mercer and Alison Hinds. We were supposed to head to a restaurant that evening but the vibes were so good we stayed at the park and then headed back to the hotel.

Sunday morning it was very early start with the marathon and half marathons starting at 5:30am. The team assembled in the lobby at 3:30am where breakfast had been specially prepared. I opted for a banana and a of protein bars which I had brought from the UK. I wasn’t hungry as it felt just too early to eat. We boarded the coach around 4:00am and headed back to Barclay Park. The roads were clear and as early as 4:30am the surrounding areas were buzzing with people arriving on foot and by car. There were also buses arriving that were chartered by the event organisers to enable people from across the island to make it to and from the event. It was still dark but it felt cooler when we got off the coach which was conveniently parked metres from the start line. This gave many the option to leave kit on board rather than utilise the bag drop. I decided to leave my recovery package including a massager and protein drink on board. My only hope was that I would be able to navigate the steps after the marathon. Sunday’s schedule started with The Farley Hill Half Marathon and Marathon Races at 5:30am. The early start was intended to allow runners to finish the bulk of their events by sunrise. The cool breeze from the Atlantic Coast made for a cool start and more comfortable events for many. The Farley Hill Half Marathon course started at Barclay Park, went south along the coast turning at Cattlewash, headed north up the coast past the start, looped around The Lakes, St Andrew, a loop of Farley Hill and south back to finish at Barclay Park. The Marathon course was two laps of the half. Once more I assembled the team for another warm up but this time on grass metres from the start so that we could benefit from the spotlights as it was still dark.

With warm up duties completed I strolled over to the start and went through the usual pre race rituals. Once I had satisfied myself that everything was in order, I breathed a sigh of relief and moved near the front of the start pen. I was so glad that I had downloaded music onto my watch as it would have been a long race without it as I hadn’t arranged streaming data for this trip. Today I was wearing my tried and tested marathon shoes Novablast 3. The countdown began and the moment had almost arrived to start a marathon twelve hours after starting a 5k. The moment of truth arrived and we were off heading south once more but it was darker and much cooler. I actually had to lift up my sunglasses so that I could see the road clearly and it all looked so different during dawn. I felt strong and as we turned and headed back up the coast. A few miles after passing the start It had become brighter and I donned my sunglasses. To my right was the Atlantic and to my left the scenery went from greenery to cliffs. After Bellplaine Junction the scenery became rather rural but stimulating as I headed into The Lakes. My playlist was still, I was taking on water at every water station and trying to maintain an intentional pace that would get me round before the sun was high in the sky. I felt like a running vampire rushing to avoid the fate of sunlight. I knew mine wouldn’t be as bad as that but experience taught me that my energy and pace would drop off with the appearance of the sun. As I headed up to Farley Hill, I still felt strong and on way south back to the start I felt strong and was passing half marathoners.

When I passed the start, I felt good and the legs felt strong but the mental battle started as I knew I was about to do another lap. I looped at Cattlewash and headed north up the coast once more. When I passed the start line it was a hub of activity with half marathon finishers, spectators and announcements being made. I pushed on, took on water at every aid station, had my gels and hydration sachets. As I ran The Lakes for the second time around 16 miles in the sun hit, course thinned out and I started to feel a bit tired. I adjusted and then around mile 19 a second wave of fatigue hit and no matter how much water I took on I couldn’t cool down. It was okay because I knew I was on the home straight heading from Farley Hill down to Barclay Park and the finish line. At mile 22 my wall hit me and it was okay because I had delayed it as long as possible. I grit my teeth and kept going. A kind man at a water station told me to take the whole bottle of water and I did. He either read my mind, took pity on me or saw I was hanging in there. I hydrated and wasted none on my head as had been the routine at most stations. Around mile 24 I picked up two guardians in the form of course support on cycles. These gentlemen cycled either side of me as I ran step by step to the finish. I felt rather presidential and imagined they were my security as I was taking a jog. I was almost there with around 100 or so metres to go. I thanked my guardians, counted my blessings and tried to lay it down for one last time. My legs responded and there was still some fuel in tank. I cruised to the finish cheered on by team mates and spectators. I crossed the line, stopped the watches, collected my medal, took a few moments to recover, rehydrate and then joined the team. We waited for the final runner of our team to cross the line before we boarded the coach and headed back to the hotel for some well earned rest, relaxation and refuelling later.

This was my third time taking part in the weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Both days I ran to feel rather than for time so I was pleasantly pleased with the results. For the 5km race I placed 27th out of 268 runners. In the marathon he was the 3rd British finisher and placed 14th out of 51 runners. The Marathon Weekend is popular with international runners and generally attracts participants from Canada, Europe and across the Caribbean. The event tagline is come for the run and stay for the sun and I sure did. I stayed for a few days after the press trip to do tourist stuff and become better acquainted with the island. I’m glad it’s back and will definitely maintain this tradition.

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Rey Smart

Personal Trainer from London



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