Athletics News

Barbados Marathon weekend – go for the run, stay for the rum

Barbados marathon route

Paul Freary reflects on a short visit to Barbados to experience a running event that embraces the sport and manages to create an atmosphere so welcoming runners return year after year

At just 21 miles long, Barbados is a small island with a surprisingly deep history in road running. This year saw the 39th edition of the race weekend and after just a short visit it’s easy to understand why visitors from around the world flock annually to this beautiful jewel situated in the Caribbean Sea.

From the moment you touch down on the island you are welcomed by people so warm and engaging they eclipse even the sun.

Sir Austin Sealy and Carl Bayley first conceived the idea of ‘Run Barbados’ and it started out with the Bridgetown 10km and marathon. Since then it’s grown and grown to become a highly anticipated event of the islands calendar.

Familiar names such as Ron Hill, John Treacy, Geoff Smith and Catherine Ndereba have all competed here and the marathon course record is still held by Hugh Jones with 2:22:33. It’s not the fastest of times by marathon majors standards but then no ‘big city’ race offers such a scenic route, passing tropical palms and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Kim Goff of the USA is an 11-time winner in the women’s marathon and has raced on the island 20 times, so clearly knows the secret charm of the place.

Being the largest running event in the Caribbean it attracts visitors from far and wide, with over 2500 runners coming from more than 27 different countries.

The weekend consists of events from 3km up to the marathon distance, as well as walks making it accessible to everyone. This accessibility draws islanders to the event as well as overseas visitors giving the races such a welcoming feel. Many athletes take part in races on both days of the race weekend simply to soak up the atmosphere.

Having now moved to the more rural east coast of the island the routes for all the events take an ‘out-and-back’ nature from Barclays Park so there’s opportunities for spectators, family and friends to keep track of runners progress.

The initial part of each race progresses south along the east coast providing spectacular views of the ocean, popular with surfers and adventure seekers alike. This coast of the island is more rugged than the beaches of the west, with their coral sand but it’s no less stunning. After the turn around point the courses head in-land a little, giving of glimpse of local communities and the…

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