Visiting a tropical destination in mid-January when ice and snowstorms abound at home was an amazing opportunity — not to mention that it was for a marathon! Unfortunately, I wasn’t even remotely trained to run a full marathon — so I opted for the half-marathon, which was good enough for my first international race!
It turns out, the Bahamas knows how to show their guests a good time! It was exciting to hear about some of the other promotional events they do, including one that was happened on the 16th for 16 brides on 16 different islands. Lucky ladies!
I arrived to the Nassau airport on Saturday and was greeted by the employees of the Tourism office, as well as my friend and fellow writer Theodora, also there for the race.
We went immediately to lunch at the Poop Deck, which was absolutely delicious fresh seafood. I tried the crab cake, fried conch and snapper. Why we eat seafood anywhere but the Caribbean is beyond me. I also tried one of the Bahamas two signature beers, Kalik.
We then headed over to something called Educulture, where we learned about a festival traditional in the Bahamas called Junkanoo, which is a huge street carnival with elaborate costumes, music and dancing. It’s done year round but we learned about it specifically being done on Christmas night.
A woman gave us a tour of the Junkanoo house filled with costumes and art projects and excitedly told us about her country’s fun tradition. It was a blast learning about the culture and even trying on some of the costumes.
We also learned that the origin of Kalick beer comes from the “kalick” sound made by the cowbells run during Junkanoo!
We stayed in the fabulous Riu Resort on Paradise Island. It was gorgeous — and all-inclusive, which is never a bad thing. I couldn’t believe how nice my room was — it actually had two rooms in it and two balconies.
It was right on the beach on the 12th floor and had an amazing view. I opened the doors and curtains when I was in the room just to hear the ocean waves.
I only wish I’d had more than two nights to enjoy the place. They had a nice pool, a great breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet, as well as a couple of on-site restaurants, though I didn’t visit those.
Of course there were bars everywhere, including 4 gigantic bottles of liquor turned upside down ready to be poured in my room! I’m not sure how much alcohol they think a person needs, but hey it was there if you wanted it. Of course I wasn’t drinking a lot because I was running 🙂
However, I did enjoy an obligatory Bahama Mama or two! Theodora and I were able to check out the beach and have dinner at the hotel the night before the race — before getting up at 4:30am sharp for an early start Sunday morning.
The race started at 6am — the earliest start time I’ve ever had but it was going to get hot so that was necessary.
There are so many cool things to tell you about this race — not least of all how proud the country is of putting it on. It was the 6th Annual Marathon Bahamas this year and I was excited to see a group of Marathon Globetrotters in for the weekend. To be a member of Globetrotters, you must have run a marathon in five different countries, by the way.
Additionally, there were another handful of notable individuals that participated, including a man known as “The Barefoot Bandit.” He’s run 160 marathons bare foot!
Some other fun participants include:
- A French Diplomat, will be running his 100th marathon and wore the #100 bib.
- A man who has ran a marathon in every continent and a marathon on islands on all five oceans.
- Husband and wife team Justin and Melissa Gillette returned to attempt to defend their crown — and they did!
- Sheri Smith, a bride winner from the Bahamas’ “6 Weddings, 16 Islands One Priceless Day,” ran just after her wedding on her honeymoon!
- Josh Tate, an independent wheeler, was the marathon’s first official wheel chair participant.
- Team in Training New York had 46 members participating in the race
I’m starting to really love smaller races. Marathon Bahamas had about 1,000 participants and was very well-organized. We had picked up our packets the day before and rolled up to the starting line about 30 minutes before the gun.
There was plenty of space and plenty of port-o-potties for all the nerves! I was a little jealous of those running the full marathon but not for long 🙂 Definitely seemed the majority of folks were running the half — but there was also a relay and a 5k option.
As per usual, the crowd was in a buzzing good mood. One of my favorite parts of race day is just before the start when everyone is ready to go. This race even had it’s own theme song, which I heard periodically — very islandy.
It was still dark when we began but we were running right by the water and people were already out ready to cheer for us so it was all good. Weather was absolutely perfect and I wore:
- Nike running shorts
- Fabletics top
- Lululemon sports bra
- Feetures socks
I went without body glide, which could have been a disaster but it was all good! We started running right at 6, ready to enjoy some beautiful scenery. Theodora and I decided to stay together since we had a good history of that and both weren’t feeling particularly awesome. I started having my notorious stomach issues close to the beginning.
However, I’ve done plenty of long runs — including half-marathons — battling and ignoring the churning tummy and I knew today would be no different. I’d eaten half a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast and planned to take a Gu, alternating water and Gatorade at the water stops.
True to its word, the race was beautiful. In the beginning, we ran up and down two huge bridges but it was nice to get those out of the way early. Here’s the scene as we went up one around mile 2:
Since we started in the back, we were passing quite a few people along the way, hitting something like a 9:45 pace on average. It was not a fast race but I had no interest in trying to PR in any way whatsoever After the 5-mile marker I said, “I really feel like we should be further than this!”
The next 8 miles sounded very long but we pushed through. As usual, Theodora and I were able to find something to talk about — social media, dating, blogging, working, running — it’s all there. After a quick bathroom stop, I had part of a honey stinger gel, gatorade and we were over halfway finished.
It still felt like a long way but there was a DJ along the route, some cheering high school students and everyone on the sidelines was super cheerful and encouraging. My stomach started really acting up around mile 10 but I said, I can run 3 miles even if it sucks. Our pace slowed but we were just ready to get the to finish line. Visions of a tropical drink in hand while dozing on beach were becoming very clear.
Finally, we crossed the finish line and once again, 13.1 miles was done and done! At the finish line, we got our photos taken two Junkanoo “models” and they were like models — so tall!
It was nice to be able to hit the beach right away, kick our shoes off and sink our toes in the water and sand. Before we knew it, even marathon finishers were crossing the line. We were smart enough to find the free massage tent and get in on that action too. Oh man was that a good idea….my calves were KILLING me.
After the race, I had about an hour of feeling slightly nauseous — always happens. Then, it was time for some beach/pool time.
Spent a few hours in the sun — with SPF 30 — and just chilled until we headed to dinner at a local Bahamian’s house for a home cooked meal.
But first, we had to “cheers” to a good race with some champagne:
That was an amazing experience! They made us some excellent food, including conch soup, friend plantains, fried chicken, bread pudding, mac n’ cheese, potato salad and more. Let’s just say I didn’t leave hungry.
Another cool thing? The family whose house we ate at runs the Sands beer company, which is the other main beer in the Bahamas. So, of course, we had some Sands with dinner and heard all about how they are building an growing the company. I am fascinated by new brands and how they find success. It was especially interesting hearing about it from someone outside the U.S. The company has only been around for 7 years but is doing really well — so I’m excited to see when they bring it to the U.S. market.
Of course, the Bahamian evenings are GORGEOUS. I couldn’t get enough of the sunsets. I wanted to take photos all night and just listen to the ocean roar.
After dinner, I was beyond exhausted and hit the sack as soon as I got back to the hotel. We were up early early for a flight back to the real world. But not before I grabbed my medal take home for the collection!
Thanks to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for a wonderful trip. I would go back to Marathon Bahamas any year and recommend it for any runner looking for a great race in a beautiful spot in January!
Have you ever done an international race? Where would you like to do one? Know of any I need to try?