I probably would never have thought to visit Nassau for a marathon if that race had not been chosen as the site for the first face-to-face meeting of the Marathon Globetrotters (MG), a new group dedicated to completing marathons in countries all over the world. To join MG as a provisional member, runners and walkers must have finished a marathon in 5 countries. Once a racer has completed 10 countries, he or she is welcomed as a full voting member. The Bahamas Marathon would be my 10th country so I really wanted to go!
Darcy and I had visited Nassau numerous times but only during cruises. We’d already toured Atlantis, taken multiple excursions, and walked around the island’s capital often enough that we felt no need for a long vacation. This would be the first time we would actually be staying in a hotel on the island, albeit for just one night.
Yes, one night. We flew down early Saturday morning and caught a ride to the British Colonial Hilton downtown. It was too early to check in, and we were hungry, so we left our bags at the concierge desk and walked around the corner to Senor Frog’s. It was very crowded, smack dab in the middle of lunch hour, and there was a 25 minute wait. We people-watched and enjoyed the ocean breezes while we tried to wait our turn. An employee told us about a new restaurant owned by the same management; it was just a few yards away and there was no waiting and even better, it offered authentic Bahamian food. It sounded good, so off we went. I wasn’t crazy about eating Mexican food in Nassau anyhow (Tex-Mex snobs that we are, we eat only Tex-Mex in Texas) so Bahamian food sounded perfect. The restaurant was called ____ and although the portions were relatively small for the price, everything we had was exceptionally tasty. I had conch corn fritters and red snapper while Darcy devoured his chicken in honey sauce with a side of mac and cheese. For drinks, we each tried a different brand of Bahamian beer.
We finished eating just in time for the 4pm Globetrotter meeting in a Hilton meeting room. There was no need to visit the expo because several of the MG officers had already picked up our race packets and tee shirts for us. After introductions, we voted on bylaws, officers for the New Year, and discussed other matters. Members Kevin (Brosi) and Kino (Hideki Kinoshita) took pictures and we adjourned. Time to get ready for the race tomorrow!
Back in the room I started pulling the essentials from my backpack. The weather prediction was for warm temperatures with high humidity. I had a choice of shorts or crops but because I knew I would probably have to wear my racing outfit on the air-conditioned plane, I opted for the longer crops. Every race since late October had been in freezing cold weather. I was excited to be finally enjoying a warmer climate.
Globetrotters and Maniacs (many of us are both) met for pictures at the starting line at Junkanoo Beach 10 minutes before the official 6 am race time. A local vocal artist sang the Bahamian national anthem and there were several announcements, including recognition of our Globetrotters group (I think we provided at least 30% of the total number of marathoners). The race includes about 500 half marathoners and 170 full marathoners; both races began at the same time. I took my place near the back of the group of racers and at 6 am a horn blew that sounded the official beginning of the races.
For the first mile or so, runners make their way through downtown and then across the bridge to Paradise Island and back again over another bridge to return to downtown. It is good these bridges come early in the race when the weather is still relatively cool. While not steep, the bridges were still challenging but because they came early on, I was able to run the downsides on fresh legs. After winding through downtown Nassau, we followed the ocean along Cable Beach Highway. At mile 10, the half marathoners peeled off and made their way to the finish line back at Arawak Cay. At this point, with the field slimmed down considerably, I was concerned about getting lost but since it was a relatively straightforward out-and-back, I was fairly sure I’d be okay. There were a few confusing traffic circles but enough police presence to point us in the correct direction (although on my return, I did have to ask several police for directions).
The scenery is pleasant, especially along the ocean. There was an occasional breeze that cooled us off but as the day wore on, we could definitely feel the rising heat. Several runners told me as I passed them that they were forced to slow down because of the temperature. For me, though, it felt wonderful, and I truly basked in the warmth. As I approached the final 1.2 miles of the course, I saw Darcy waving to me on the street. I asked him ‘where the heck is the finish line?’ because, although I knew it was on the beach close by, a fence covered with vegetation prevented me from seeing it from the street. He told me to go straight and then take a sharp left onto the beach. Sure enough, as I approached the marker for mile 26, I made the corner and crossed the finish line in 5:50, my first sub-6 hour race is almost a year. It was good enough for 3rd place in my age group; my award was a Bahamian cowbell (which clanked in my carry-on the entire trip home, reminding me of its presence). In retrospect, there really should have been a volunteer stationed at that final turn, or at the very least a sign with an arrow, because I later learned that at least one runner missed the turn and went straight, adding an extra quarter mile at least to her race.
At the risk of sounding maudlin and a little crazy, I will confess that before every race, ever since my son Ben took his own life last November, I ‘talk’ to Ben and carry him along with me in my mind. He was a great long-distance walker and I just know he would have enjoyed doing these races.
- Wonderful oceanfront scenery with warm sunny weather
- Great volunteers
- Cheering spectators – not huge crowds (after all, this is a relatively small island) but very enthusiastic smaller groups
- Aid stations every mile or so, with water, Gatorade, and gels at two of them
- Time limit was 6 ½ hours but racers were allowed to finish on the sidewalks
The only disappointment was the tee shirt; it was black (not a great color to wear in summer heat), polyester, and the medium size was so huge so I ended up leaving in the hotel.
All in all, it was a great quick trip to the islands. And to top it off, when I finished the race, I became the 100th full member of the Marathon Globetrotters!