(Running Magazine) Each December, the Caribbean island of Barbados plays host to a weekend filled with running. Race organizers Kristina and Zari Evelyn have created what could be called a “marathon of events,” with runners encouraged
to sign up for multiple races, teasing Disney-like special medals if you finish three in a weekend.
The weekend kicks off with the nigh-time mile race around the historic Garrison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mile is a low key introduction to what running in Barbados is all about. Chill tunes echo out of the speakers on the back of the lead vehicle, as a few hundred runners cruise around the picturesque streets of the original 17th century Bridgetown settlement. It’s dark, but you can still make out the vibrant pastel-painted row houses speckling the city. You’ll be happy you’re getting your island running initiation sans the sun, as the heat gets intense mid-day on the island.
All the action starts and ends in the capital of Bridgetown. “Town,” as the locals call it, is a bustling little island metropolis of about 110,000 people tucked away in the southwest of the nose-shaped island. The area gets its name from the indigenous bridge that the first British settlers found when they first arrived on the deserted island. The bridge forded a the Careenage marshaland. The 17th century original settlement area was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, and includes a house where George Washington once spent some time.
Each year a group of Canadians, hosted by Canada Running Series (CRS), head to the marathon weekend for a special experience. CRS founder Alan Brookes first attended the race back in 1984, in just its second year. He even stepped in as as race director for a couple of years in early 2000s to help revive the slumping event. Since the new organizers took over a couple of years ago, Brookes feels that the event has reemerged as a premier race meets-vacation experience. “It’s the perfect year-end reward,” Brookes says. “It’s really about the vacation. It’s the run that gets us there. It’s about relaxing on Barbados’ world-famous beaches, going for a day out on the spectacular azure Caribbean water, likely on a catamaran. The races are the victory lap for your year.”
Last year, Olympians Natasha Wodak and Lanni Marchant took their own victory lap after racing at the Rio Olympics by tagged along to hung out with the group for the weekend. They both raced the 10K and their finish went viral when a video showed them destined to tie for the win, only to be caught at the line by Trinidad and Tobago’s Tonya Nero, which has been viewed nearly 14 million times. Both will be back with Canada Running Series this year, and no doubt will check over their shoulders before finishing off their racing seasons.
The Air Canada has a daily direct flight to and from Grantley Adams International Airport, which is just outside of
Bridgetown. Before leaving the airport, be sure to check out a decommissioned British Airways Concorde supersonic
jetliner, which used to fly direct from London.
Where to stay
It’s highly recommended to stay in Bridgetown during race weekend, as each event starts and finishes there. The city has plenty of hotel options for every price range, from backpacking hostels to all-inclusive resorts to the Fairmont Royal Pavilion and its beachfront property. Expect to pay the equivalent of a couple hundred Canadian dollars for a decent hotel. Keep in mind that the morning races start well before sunrise, so inquire before booking if the hotel will accommodate an early breakfast for runners.
What to do
Bridgetown itself has everything you could want from a city: markets, a shopping district and many excellent restaurants and bars with an oceanfront view. Canadians will be pleased to note that many of the major Canadian banks have branches in the city.
After your races are done, tour the Mount Gay distillery, which was founded in 1703 and is the oldest rum still currently operating in the world.
Bridgetown played host to the World Cricket Cup ten years ago, and went through a massive sports and infrastructure revitalization project. The city now features the massive Kensington Oval that can hold up to 30,000 fans, so if there happens to be a test, grab a ticket and take in this global sport.
Of course, the music and culture of Barbados is worth the trip alone. Pop into a local venue for some soca or calypso music and perhaps spot the next Rihanna. Bajan cuisine is a fusion of the primary cultural influences on the island: West African, Creole, British and Indian. Be sure to try flying fish, and wash it down with a local Banks ale.
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