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Walk, Don’t Run, to Barbados

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Walk, Don’t Run, to Barbados

Cynthia Dial

When I received an invitation from this West Indian island to participate in Run Barbados, my reaction was a resounding “yes” – until I remembered – I don’t run.

Cynthia Dial

So, how does one make the most of an organized run when you’re not ready for a relay? For on-the-go insight, keep reading.

A bit of back story: Though I typically work out five days a week, I jilted jogging long enough ago to have no idea of the year (only that it was in the last century). Granted, the prospect of traveling to a destination twice as close to South America’s Venezuela than to Florida’s Venice Beach for the Caribbean’s “oldest and most prestigious road racing event” was appealing. But also . . . a bit daunting.

Cynthia Dial

Concern faded at arrival. Visually, Barbados was vibrant – roads lined with rows of houses painted such colorful combos as pink with purple and yellow with green, a countryside dotted with fields of sugar cane and plantations of mahogany trees and 166 square miles of land never far from a shore (the Caribbean Sea to the west; Atlantic Ocean to the east).

“Welcome to Wyndham Grand Barbados Sam Lord’s Castle,” I was greeted when meeting my “home” for the stay – the island’s largest stand-alone hotel, which after a series of additions and renovations, made its official debut in February 2024. Situated on Barbados’ more rugged east coast, it was a five-star, all-inclusive, non-smoking property with 422 rooms, attended by 1,200 staff.

Cynthia Dial

Iconic to the island and representing a significant slice of its rich history, Barbados has been synonymous with Sam Lord’s Castle since the Georgian-style mansion was built in 1820. Its eponymous owner had a questionable reputation as a pirate and womanizer. It’s rumored Lord obtained his wealth by luring ships onto his property’s coral reef coast with hanging lanterns in coconut trees causing approaching ships to mistake the illumination for the capital city of Bridgetown, wreck their boats and be plundered by the enterprising buccaneer. Having since been passed down from one family member to another, become a hotel, fallen into disrepair, suffered bankruptcy, been consumed by ***** and abandoned as a ruin, today’s original home stood adjacent to the newly opened hotel that was state owned but managed by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

Cynthia Dial

Its signature eatery, Castle View Restaurant, framed a “castle” panorama and presented gourmet cuisine enhanced by a Caribbean twist.

Overlooking the Atlantic, it featured the sea – complete with a variety of poolscapes, interactive water features, an upper to lower pool with an infinity edge, swim-up bars and white-fabric-draped cabanas, as well as a sandy shore.

For an island defined by its noted spirit, rum, a visit to St. Nicholas Abbey – one of the island’s oldest surviving plantations – seemed mandatory as Barbados is considered the 1703 birthplace of this spirit. Listed by the Barbados Tourism Authority as one of the “Seven Wonders of Barbados,” the Abbey sat on more than 400 acres, where a giant tortoise lumbered along its stone patio near the original plantation house and the boutique distillery dispensed samples. The owner’s son, Simon Warren, guided us through rum tasting and a ride aboard a narrated steam locomotive transported us to Cherry Tree Hill – a lookout which served up elevated coastline views.

Cynthia Dial

For immersion into the culture’s cuisine, it was only necessary to hit the road – for roasted breadfruit at roadside food stalls, West Indian curries and rotis at small cafes and locally-caught fish accompanied by sweet plantains, rice and peas found almost everywhere. Venues varied from pure gourmet found at premier hotels to beachfront shacks where the dress code was swimsuits and bare feet.

Cynthia Dial

But beyond this resort, its famous ruin and rum, Run Barbados was the primary purpose of my visit. A Friday, Saturday and Sunday event, my plan was simple – play it day by day. Among my travel mates (aka the real runners) were Amanda, a fit, 40-something-year-old mom from Colorado; Iona, who at 28 only recently began competing; Pete, a regular on the scene, typically completing one or two half-marathons a year and Kwasi, a veteran competitor from New York who had never met a marathon he didn’t like.

Day 1. Caribbean-inspired festivity set the pace for the opening evening’s event, The Garrison Savannah Fun Mile in Bridgetown. It was complete with costumed runners, a local tuk band, stilt walkers, comedic jugglers and so much more. The first of my two events – I half jogged, half walked.

Cynthia Dial

Day 2. Adjacent to the ocean, Barclays Park – setting for the weekend’s most popular experience, the 5K run, as well as the 10K – was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1966. Featuring food, drink, fun and more fun – all were complemented by a background of steel drums and a sense of rhythm found only in the islands. Kwasi summated, “This is easy island vibe – not the crazy New York City urban go-get-‘em routine.” And from Pete: “At the end, I found it very emotional. I think I’m just grateful I’m physically able to do it.”

Cynthia Dial

Day 3. On the big day I woke to a 3 a.m. alarm to arrive with the group well ahead of the race’s 5:30 a.m. start. “Are you running the marathon?” I was quizzed by a fellow hotel guest. “No, I’m doing the Nature Walk,” I replied, flattered by the mistaken identity. So early was our departure that when leaving the hotel, the dark sky was punctuated only by the moon and Venus.

Energy was beyond contagious at Barclays Park. Announcer, Mac Fingall, a local celeb with a gift of gab, set a casual, celebratory tone – singing happy birthday to one participant, tracking the countdown from 15 minutes to five minutes and eventually one minute and encouraging everyone, “Nice and cool, nice and cool.”

Cynthia Dial

Before the walk’s 7 a.m. beginning, I immersed into the setting – walked the shoreline, watched the sky lighten and was greeted by a kaleidoscopic sunrise. Marked by a shotgun-like start, this 5K event followed the two-lane coastal road, passed Round House Hotel, crossed Joe’s River Bridge, headed toward the water to be greeted by a rainbow and returned through the fishing village of Bathsheba – earning me a commemorative medal (yea, my first).

While awaiting the marathoners’ finish, I sat in the grass overlooking the ocean and sampled a local specialty sandwich – fish cutter – freshly grilled and served with Bajan pepper sauce. And I listened. “I’m glad I came. I did it. And my limbs are intact,” said one. Iona deemed it psychologically the hardest run she’d experienced and shared her during-the-marathon mantra: “Don’t end it before the story gets good.”

Cynthia Dial

Results: Amanda was fifth woman overall, first in her age group and masters runner for Saturday’s 10K. And Iona was category champion, placing first in her age group for the marathon.  

At its finish, I admit to being self-congratulatory – I participated in the marathon world’s 40th Run Barbados.

Post marathon – The Barbados-Miami flight arrived late and my connection to California was last of the day. After finally clearing passport control, I was stopped by TSA, pulled from the line and told, ‘There’s little chance you’ll make your flight. It’s 47 gates from here on another concourse.’

My reaction? I ran.

Among my looking-back-at-Barbados tips: 1) Participate at your level, 2) Attend as many events as possible – the energy is infectious, 3) Be game for anything and try everything and lastly, 4) Go with a great group!

Run Barbados, December 6-8, 2024

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#Walk #Dont #Run #Barbados

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