What kind of crazy person gets up at 2:30 am to run a marathon on a Sunday? The answer, of course, is ME! Well, me and a thousand other Cayman residents. And although I believe the use of ‘crazy’ here is somewhat justifiable, I have to say to you, don’t knock till you try it…there may just be a method to this madness!
My Sunday did in fact start at 2:30 am. That is what time I rolled out of bed and began my race day preparations. I would be running the Intertrust Cayman Islands Half Marathon, an event I had trained for throughout all of November. I was ready — nothing could stop me! Not even the ungodly start time.
The day before the race I stocked up with all my supplies — organic running gels and electrolyte drink mixes from Be Well Pharmacy and most importantly, coconut water (from the not-so-fancy gas station). My breakfast consisted of Ezekiel sprouted flax bread (AKA magic bread) and a fried egg. While this was being prepared I started in on my liquids — black coffee and a lemonade electrolyte drink. I know what you’re thinking…that combination would probably land you straight in the porta-potty. I know what works for me but that does not mean it will work for everyone! We must tread very lightly with our pre-race meals…
Tip: The morning before a race you want to stick to foods you KNOW you digest well…likely a familiar food in your diet. If you’re going to consume as much as I did, you need to get up early enough for your body to digest it! (2-3 hours prior to the race)
By 3:30 am I was loading up my scooter getting ready to hit the road. Under the seat I stored by race day bib along with my running belt and bag. I laced up my Asics, fastened my helmet, and eased my scooter onto the empty highway. I felt like Will Smith in I Am Legend as I cruised down a eerily silent West Bay Road en route to Georgetown waterfront…not a vehicle or pedestrian in sight.
Upon arrival at the waterfront, I was still getting ghost town vibes, but as I turned the corner toward the start line I began to hear and feel the unmistakable race day buzz as fellow runners and volunteers milled about to DJ beats. The clock counted down to 4:30 am, the official start time for all marathoners and some halfers. Despite the absence of spectators (due to COVID restrictions), everyone was in very high spirits, ready to race against the sunrise along the Ironshore. I checked the zipper of my running belt, adjusted my Bluetooth headphones, and queued up my unbeatable motivational Spotify playlist. Time to do the damn thing!
Tip: If music motivates you while running, make a playlist that lasts as long as the run itself. Give yourself a little leeway, but not much. I made mine exactly 2 hours in length. I told myself I HAD to finish in under 2 because god forbid I run without music. Song choice is everything! I choose only music that has meaning or pumps me up (ideally both).
At exactly 4:30 am our large running pack pulled away from the waterfront and started down South Church street with direction to Sound Sound. Lighting was sporadic, leaving stretches of darkness illuminated only by the starry sky. Luckily, the weather was perfect and we enjoyed the slightly cool morning air…(I’m still a Midwesterner, so cool to me means 40 degrees).
While there were no spectators allowed at the start and finish, the volunteers at the refreshment stations and the die-hards standing on the side of the road at the crack of dawn really made up for it. After a few miles of people yelling “Go Kate!” I realized that I was not as popular as I thought and that my name was printed large and bold on my race bib.
We ran all the way through South Sound, past Hurley’s, and finished the loop at the end of Old Prospect Road, actually running right past my school before hitting the halfway point. I did not think I would be a fan of back-tracking the whole course, but actually it was fun to be able to see who was leading the pack and who was following closely behind.
If you have never taken part in an organized running event, it is something you absolutely have to attend. Either as a runner or a supporter. There is something so completely unifying about the experience. Endurance running is an activity that we have been taught to dread but it is actually one of the most natural instincts we have as humans. It brings us back to our hunter-gatherer days when we had to chase prey over long distances without a break. While a marathon is not nearly as purposeful as what our ancestors had to do, I believe it still brings us closer to our roots and helps to eliminate social divide. As corny as it sounds, it feels so good when a random stranger cheers you on and says YOU CAN DO IT! No joke, I got goosebumps probably ten times throughout the race…the runners high is a real thing. If you don’t believe me, go experience it for yourself! At the very least, you will get some free food and beer at the end.
With amazing supporters, a straight fire playlist, and quite favorable running conditions, I was able to maintain my goal pace of 8:30 miles throughout the whole race, putting me in a position to break my personal best! Winding through the streets of Georgetown, under a cotton candy sunrise, I neared the finish feeling exhausted but elated. I crossed the finish and was immediately adorned with a finisher medal. Just like that, it was over!
I made a beeline for the free food, selecting without any hesitation a bag of Famous Amos cookies. Nothing ever looked as heavenly. I ate my cookies with the satisfaction that I had definitely earned them. I mingled about with some other runners and tried not to fall over. Because of COVID restrictions, we couldn’t stay at the finish for long. After snapping some pictures and finishing my snacks, I made my way back to my scooter and cruised away toward Seven Mile. I looked at my watch…it was only 7 am.
In true Cayman fashion I went straight to the ocean after my run. The water is actually “chilly” at the moment as temperatures have dropped a bit and we are experiencing what the locals call a “Christmas Breeze.” I’ll take what I can get. Anyway, this cool water felt pretty much amazing on my muscles and joints.
After a morning of running and swimming, I basically felt like Iron Woman. This feeling didn’t last for long as I collapsed into bed and slept for 2 hours…getting up only because we had brunch reservations at the Kimpton.
If ever there is a day you are entitled to an overabundance of fancy food, it is following a full or half marathon. It is essentially the 21st century equivalent of catching and eating your prey after a 13 mile chase. (I am only kidding, of course.) The other girls at brunch had also run the half marathon and we took our brunching very seriously that afternoon.
All in all, it was one of the best days I have spent here in Grand Cayman. If I haven’t convinced you to run in the next Cayman marathon…or any marathon at all…hopefully I have at least convinced you to come cheer on the runners! Or at the VERY least not call us crazy 🙂
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about running in Cayman or running in general I would be so happy to answer!