Marathon de Spice
St George’s, Grenada
Marathon # 378 – Country # 127
This race has a strange story to start. In June, a member of the Country Club indicated that he had run a marathon in Grenada. I didn’t know of any marathon in Grenada? Upon further discussion I learned that the 1st marathon had been a disaster with only my friend showing up and being accompanied by a relay of a few local runners. However he did give me the name of the President of the Tri-Club in Grenada who had organized the race. I contacted Marco and asked if he would assist the Country Club (me) in organizing an ‘official’ marathon in Grenada.
He was excited and interested in having another opportunity to organize a marathon in his country. He volunteered to organize and direct the race if I would commit to bringing at least 10 foreign runners to Grenada for the race. We set a date in Dec to provide enough advance notice to runners to add/change their race schedules and I quickly had confirmation from 10 friends/members of the Country Club and Marathon Globetrotters to participate in the race. Having Marco manage all the logistics in the country made the organization much easier.
Traveling to Grenada was harder than the planning the race! Direct flights were scarce and expensive because the weekend we chose coincided with the end of the school term for the Medical School on the island and most of the students were flying home for the Holidays. An AA flight from/to Miami that weekend was over $1000! I was able to find cheaper flights on Caribbean Airlines out of Fort Lauderdale but they were not direct and the outgoing leg required an overnight layover at their hub in Trinidad.
Nevertheless I arrived safe and tired at 9am on Friday and thankfully the Radisson let me check in early. The Radisson Resort is one of two 5-star hotels on the island. It is located on Grand Anse Beach – a two mile stretch of white sand and the nicest beach on the island. I decided to explore St George’s, the capital and largest city on the island. My first surprise was that the island was not as upscale and affluent as expected. In fact it is very poor and the buildings and infrastructure are in poor shape. Many buildings were destroyed by hurricanes in the past 20 years and there is no money to repair or even tear them down so they sit empty and ugly! Most of the roads follow the contours of the hills along the coast and are narrow and in bad shape– and the cars drive on the left/wrong side of the road! There is no public transportation and taxis are expensive! However there is a private transportation system provided by mini-vans/buses that will take you anywhere in the city for $1 US ($2.50 EC). They cram about 14 passengers into each mini-van (no AC) so you get to know the locals really well on your $1 ride.
There is a Cruise Terminal in the city center so I headed there to buy my mandatory souvenirs. I figured if there is a cruise terminal there will be lots of souvenir shops and I finished my shopping within a few hours! The Cruise Terminal was new and modern – the only modern and upscale building in the city center. The rest of the city center was disappointing and ugly! Most of the shops and buildings are in disrepair and many of the damaged ones are empty. St George’s is over 200 years old and the roads are so narrow that they can only accommodate one lane so most of the streets are one-way. I would not want to drive there! After a quick walking tour to explore some of the old churches and Fort George I retreated back to the luxury of the Radisson to wait for my friends. I was eager to meet my friends and colleagues from the Country Club since it would be a historic meeting! The top six (active) country marathon runners in the world (all members of the Country Club) would meet for the 1st time at this race. We all know each other but it would be the first (and probably last) time that we would meet at the same race!
Later that afternoon Brent, Klaus and I met at the hotel so we could go together to pick up our race packets. The other members would arrive late Fri night so I picked up their packets. At packet pickup we met other runners including another CC member, Goran, from Sweden. I met the RD, Marc, for the 1st time and thanked him for organizing the race. Marc kindly offered us a ride to a good Italian restaurant to enjoy a pasta dinner.
On Sat morning the five friends/members of the CC staying at the Radisson Resort met for an (expensive) buffet breakfast at the hotel. I volunteered to escort them downtown for souvenir shopping and a look at the marathon course. Marc had selected a 5.275Km course that started in the Morne Rouge Playing Field close to the hotel and followed the main road along the hilly coastline and finished along the Carenage near the city center. The course was a series of hills with one BAH (Bad Ass Hill) that dropped down to the Carenage along St Lois Bay and the Marina. The only flat section was the final 1Km along the Carenage. The roads were narrow and in bad shape and since there would be no traffic control we would have to share them with cars. We all decided to use the sidewalks where possible but even those were in bad shape and many sections of the sidewalks had stairs and in many places there were no sidewalks. We all agreed that safety should be the primary goal – especially since the race would start at 4pm and most of the race would be run in the dark!
I hadn’t realized how hilly the roads were until we rode the bus down to the city center. I decided I would walk the uphills and run all the downhills and flat sections! And I would have to do that eight times!
We agreed to meet early at the start line to take a historic photo of the top six CC members with a combined total of 611 countries! It was hot at 4pm. The race started on time with 19 runners – 12 foreign runners and 7 local runners! I set a goal of running each 5Km lap in 40 minutes. But my main priority was safety! I was careful to stay on the sidewalks wherever possible and when I encountered steps – I walked up and down the steps. Where there was no sidewalk I watched carefully for cars and if necessary stopped and waited for an opening in the heavy traffic. I ran the start of each uphill and then walked the rest. I managed to run all the downhills and all the flat sections. I was happy to reach the turn-around at the end of the 1st 5Km lap in 39:05 in spite of the heat and direct sun. And the good news was that my heart was functioning normally. It had increased to my typical marathon rate of 140 bpm right after the start and had stayed in that range for the entire lap!
The return lap back to the start/finish line was mostly uphill so I was happy when I finished that 2nd lap in 1:19:51 and a split of 40:45. The 3rd lap presented the best conditions – it was now twilight with enough light to see but no direct sun to burn our backs! I finished that lap (about 16Km) in 2:00:17 and a split of 40:26. But now it was dark as we turned back uphill for the 4th lap. I had worn a headlamp in anticipation of needing light to navigate the dangerous conditions of the sidewalks. That turned out to be a wise decision that prevented a lot of falls. To warn cars of our presence the RD had provided runners with small finger lights and glow sticks. Happily nobody was injured during the race! (As a side note, many of us were very concerned about the cars! The day before I arrived in Grenada a female jogger and her dog had been hit and killed by a car! The body of the woman was not found for a few days. The driver took the body and tried to hide it! And that accident happened during the day!)
A nice thing about the short, 5Km lap was that we got to meet all our friends many times during the race and even in the dark we could look out for each other and cheer other runners on!
Maddog was happy and I was pleased that I finished under 6 hrs without any problems. Marathon #378 and Country # 127 – a new World Record! And more importantly I had re-established some confidence that I might be able to complete the next two marathon adventures that I have already booked and pre-paid?
There weren’t many runners/spectators left at the finish line and I needed a hot shower so I walked back to the hotel. My roommate Edson had finished in 5:34 so he had already showered and gone to bed since he had a 5am shuttle to the airport to return home. After a shower I had an urge for a beer and greasy food so I walked to a bar close to the hotel. I was a wee bit concerned when I entered and discovered that I was the only ‘white’ guy in the bar. Although I got a lot of strange looks nobody bothered me! But I ate my fries, drank my beer and left quickly!
On Sun I had to move from the Radisson Resort (too expensive w/o a roommate) to the True Blue Bay Resort – a small boutique resort located on True Blue Bay close to St George’s University. It was more laid-back and remote and not nearly as luxurious. None of the common areas had AC and the service was not as good. But it was much cheaper and included breakfast.
I only had one day (Mon) left on the island and I wanted to see more than a 5Km lap so I booked a full-day Island tour. A couple from Cleveland joined me for the day as we enjoyed a guided tour around the island. We drove through the city center and then north along the Caribbean Sea. We passed by the Underwater Sculpture Park and through Happy Hill, Brizan, and a few small villages before turning inland to visit Concord Falls. They seem to be proud of those Falls although they are not very spectacular? We then continued north along the coast through Grand Roy, and stopped in Gouyave to visit a nutmeg factory. They still process nutmeg by hand and the workers are paid piecemeal – a good worker can make $40 EC per day. Our next stop was at the Jouvay Chocolate Factory where they still make chocolate at the same plantation established in 1774. I bought a 6-lb chocolate bar (100% organic) for $10 US that should last a few weeks?
After a nice Grenadian lunch (spicy chicken & fish) with rice & beans and washed down with a few Caribe (beer) overlooking Sauteurs Bay we proceeded south and into the interior mountains to Lake Antoine, a small volcanic lake on the Atlantic Coast. We then stopped at the River Antoine Estate where they have been making rum since 1785. They still use the same process and machinery to crush the sugar cane, boil the sugar and distill the liquor that has been used for the past 200 years! Thus they have a limited production and the rum is only available in Grenada – or at Maddog’s bar since I brought home a bottle of 138 proof rum!
That evening the hotel hosted a free cocktail hour for guests that I and my new friends from Cleveland enjoyed. I didn’t think the rum punch had much punch/kick - until the next morning when I had to catch a 7am shuttle to the airport!
My overall opinion of Grenada is – disappointment! It is not as nice/upscale/affluent as expected. The buildings and infrastructure are in desperate need of repairs. The country is in desperate need of money to do the repairs! Hotels and food are expensive – seem to be out of whack for the conditions and the economy? I would not recommend Grenada as a vacation destination!
However it was OK to run a marathon and add another country to my World Records!
And now I am happy to have a month to rest & recover for my next adventure. I ran a few short runs since my return and my legs seemed very tired & heavy? I just can’t seem to recover as quickly as I could 20 years ago?
Stay tuned for the next adventure & report!