Hundreds of runners took to the streets of the Caribbean island of Barbados for the 33rd edition of the Run Barbados Series in December 2015. In fact, the revitalized and rebranded Run Barbados Marathon Weekend 2015 (RBMW) enjoyed almost 2000 entries as it re-launched its marathon and hosted four other races. The series, which recently regained its AIMS-IAAF certification, reaped the benefits of an international marketing effort and a new organizing team. Alan Brookes of Canada Running Series noted, “It is exciting to see Run Barbados back up and running, Barbados is such an awesome destination, I go way back with Run Barbados, I even created the slogan: “Come for the Run; Stay for the Fun!”
This destination running series while geared towards recreational runners has hosted its share of elite runners over its three decade history: World Champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, Irishman and Olympic silver medalist John Treacy, British Marathoner Hugh Jones (a six time Barbados Marathon winner), World and Commonwealth Gold Medalist in the Marathon: Rob de Castella of Australia and Canadian Olympian Dylan Wykes to name a few.
2015 was no exception with two Rio-bound athletes: Nicolas Fernandez of France and Jessica Draskau of Denmark both claiming victories in the 10K and the Half-Marathon. Fernandez was a standout competitor in the series with wins in the Mile, 10K and the Half-Marathon. Through a translator the 29 year old Frenchman told “Barbados Today” he was very satisfied with his first Run Barbados outing, “This was a nice experience for me and I will be back next year”. The Frenchman overcame slippery conditions in the Half Marathon caused by an early morning rain shower to finish in 1:15.28 comfortably clear of St Lucian Michael Biscette, who was second.
Jessica Draskau of Denmark won the Women’s 10k in convincing style and then came back to win the half-marathon in a time of 1:29.35 ahead of Christine Regis of Trinidad and Tobago. Draskau was a repeat winner, having won the 10K and Half Marathon in 2013. The 2012 Olympian is qualified for the Women’s Marathon in Rio. Draskau noted she just “loved running in Barbados and was so happy to be back!”
There was a strong French presence at RBMW 2015 and in addition to wins by Frenchman Fernandez, the French contingent were top of the podium in the Men and Ladies 5K with Francois Roussas of Guadeloupe and Yasmina Lamotte of Martinique.
The Run Barbados Marathon was first run in 1983 and returned for the 2015 event after a three-year hiatus. With a late decision to re-introduce the marathon there was a small field of competitors as expected and the new organizers focused on the technical and logistical elements of the 2015 race in preparation for a larger turnout in 2016.
Amy Chalk of the UK was ecstatic on her fourth victory in the Run Barbados Marathon. Amy previously won the marathon in 2005, 2007 and 2008. She was thrilled that the marathon was brought back in 2015 and offered praise for the event, the course and the decision to bring back the marathon. She commended the “organization of the event in 2015 as the best she had ever experienced and predicted that on this current path the event could return to the popularity it enjoyed in its glory days”. Chalk, a Run Activator with All England Athletics, hopes to return in 2016 with a group from the UK. Curtis Cox of Trinidad, a seasoned Caribbean competitor, clinched his first victory in the 2015 Barbados Marathon.
A highlight of the marathon was the presence of American Kim Goff who completed her 20th marathon of the Run Barbados series. Kim, an eleven-time winner of the Marathon in earlier years has travelled to Run Barbados every year for the last 25 years to compete in the Run Barbados Weekend. Kim recently shared her memories, “I traveled to Barbados for 4 days on my first trip. I was captivated by the beautiful island. I left behind a dreary and cold winter and was suddenly on a lush tropical island with the most beautiful aqua water that I had ever seen. It is a truly wonderful event with incredible participation of locals and visitors. I have had many travel opportunities during my running career but Barbados is a special place for me. I have been blessed with making lifetime friendships. I am truly grateful for the warm hospitality shown me by this great event.”
While RBMW doesn’t offer the large pre-event expo or the generous loot bags associated with mega-marathons it’s the small-time charm, relaxed island life and beauty of the island that attracts repeat visitors such as Goff and so many others. Runner Sarah McLoughlin is another example, she has been visiting Barbados from the UK for an incredible eighteen years to holiday and take part in the annual Run Barbados event. Sarah’s fondness for the island and her love of running on the island continues to flourish: " It is the only country I have been to where I just relax as soon as I step off the plane. It is the people that make Barbados so special."
The scenic race-courses over the weekend had a Start/Finish overlooking the magnificent Carlisle Bay and routes that wound their way through the capital city of Bridgetown, a historic seaport with the distinctive honour of being part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The running tour of the city included iconic Bridgetown landmarks such as the Chamberlain Bridge (c. 1865) and the historic Parliament Buildings (c. 1873), as well as the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson (c. 1813) that pre-dates Nelson’s Column in London by nearly 30 years. The marathon and half-marathon routes traversed the west coast of the island offering runners spectacular vistas of the Caribbean Sea from various vantage points. All of this combined with the sounds of steel pan, local “tuk” bands, highly appreciative local spectators and a run into the sea after crossing the finish line.
CEO of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Billy Griffith stated that, “Going forward we will be working to position Run Barbados Marathon Weekend as the leading road race series in the Caribbean. The international journalists and travel agents that we have hosted and who participated in the events this year will be instrumental in providing a head start for the promotion of the series for 2016 and beyond”.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB) was named the official charity of the RBMW 2015 and its CEO Gina Pitts stated that the support would go a long way in sustaining their preventative and rehabilitative programs. The charity will also be a beneficiary at the 2016 event.
RBMW 2016 is scheduled for December 2-4 and plans are underway for unique festivities during this 34th Race weekend in the year that marks the 50th Anniversary of Independence for the island.