Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 Reggae Marathon Experience

Chris Morales, Reggae Marathon
I've been a part of Reggae Marathon since 2009 when I ran my first full Marathon.  2019 made it 11 consecutive years of making the trip to Negril, Jamaica for the annual weekend vacation and running event.  Back in 2009, that never crossed my mind.  I had a special reason for Reggae Marathon that was a one-off!  But then something special happened...

That day in 2009 it had rained the night before.  The morning dawned with bright sunny skies and above average humidity.  Truth:  It was brutally hot!  I had a 4 1/2 hour target time to finish but by the time I hit the half way point, I knew that wouldn't happen.  And out on the course there was no way to communicate that back to Sally who was waiting for me at the Finish at Long Bay Beach Park.  Or so I thought...

That morning Sally connected with Diane Ellis, Sponsorship Director of Reggae Marathon.  Diane found a chair and umbrella for Sally so that she would have some respite from the blazing sun.  I didn't know that of course and on top of the challenge of finishing, worried about how Sally was fairing as the minutes ticked off past my target time.

Diane came to the rescue again when she shared my progress via the timing mats that I crossed way out on the course.  That gave her an approximate time, and a bit of relief that I was actually still making progress.

As I came to the finish chute, another surprise:  Bob Moore, a runner from Washington, DC who we had met at our hotel only days before was there holding a Canadian Flag for me to carry across the finish!  He had waited after he finished his 10K race for over 4 hours to catch my finish!  

Reggae Marathon Finisher Medal, 2019I was on the course 5hours and 26 minutes that day.  I finished well after the majority of finishers had left and were already relaxing at their resorts.  The coconuts and beer were long gone.  

There was no music.  Only Reggae Marathon volunteers handing my my finisher medal and bottled water.  Diane standing beside Sally giving her encouragement and support.  Our recent American friends sticking around to hand me a Canadian flag.

Chris Morales, Reggae Marathon

Today we talk about the excitement of the music, the fresh cut coconut and the cold beer as being the Reggae Marathon Experience.  Truth:  It's the people.  The friends we met that day are still friends 11 years on.  My Reggae Marathon Experience has kept me coming back year after year to meet up with friends I only see in person once a year.  

Over the years there have been 3 people who have become special:  Navin, Larry and Dan.  We called ourselves the 4 Musketeers.  Every year we waited for the last finisher in order to have a group picture celebrating another successful finish.  

Chris Morales, Reggae MarathonSadly Dan passed away in Negril in 2018 while in Jamaica for his 7th Reggae Marathon.  And in 2019 Navin was not able to make it.  Larry and I still got together for our photo...dedicated to both Navin and Dan.  This is the photo from 2018 when Dan's passing was fresh and very raw for all of us.  It still is a year later!  But what keeps us going is a love of running...and Reggae Marathon!

The Experience is about people.  Old friends reunited, new friends made;  friendships celebrated!  That Experience will live with me forever!

Until next time...

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