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Whether you’re a novice or a regular marathoner, the Cayman Islands provide the perfect terrain for hitting the ground running.
By Lane Nieset
Before designing a course in the Cayman Islands, Race Caribbean’s Derek Larner looks at a satellite image to get a mental idea of where he wants to take runners. Of course when you get on the ground, it’s not exactly how it looks on the map, the distance running coach and founder of 345 Athletic Club explains. “You might think it’s a field, and you get there and it’s all swamp. When you’re looking at a map, there aren’t boundaries, but there’s not many places left on Grand Cayman that haven’t been trodden on.”
This is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to crafting Cayman’s only off-road ultra-marathon and relay race, 50-kilometer Off the Beaten Track (OTBT), which takes place February 26. Now in its eighth year, the six-leg challenge takes runners across the Island through un-chartered territory, crisscrossing sandy stretches of beach, tropical bush and back roads.
“Trying to find trails or areas that are not on the road is the tricky part of Cayman, which is why people find [the marathon] interesting,” explains KRyS Global Founder and Executive Chairman Kenneth Krys, who was inspired to launch OTBT in Grand Cayman after tackling “The Toughest Footrace on Earth,” 250-kilometer Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert. “It’s an off-road race that combines some of the tracks and back roads that are in Cayman and a little bit of the beaches, giving people the opportunity to do something fun and see Cayman from a different perspective.”
OTBT is just one of the many marathons in Cayman that takes advantage of the natural terrain to showcase a more “off-the-beaten-path” side of the Islands. Whilst Grand Cayman is mostly flat, making it difficult for those training for mountainous runs, you can still prep for races held on the Islands by running along scenic stretches through mangrove swampland and footpaths like the 200-year-old Mastic Trail.
“If I’m training for a marathon, I wouldn’t do one [in the fall],” says Larner. “The reason being is it’s usually four months or more of training, and when you’re doing long runs and you have to do those during summer, you’ve got to get up very early because it gets hot from about 7 o’clock.”
Work backward from the race or goal date, mapping out a schedule that goes week by week, increasing distance and pace and varying training types depending on the type of race you’re competing in. OTBT, for example, is a more untraditional circuit that throws in the wilderness of Cayman, so Larner advises you get used to running off the road on dykes and beaches, in addition to strength training.
Another thing to keep in mind is clothing. Wear long-sleeve shirts and protection on your legs when trails head through wooded areas, in case you stumble or get caught on something passing by. “Once your body gets to that level of fatigue where you’ve burnt through your glycogen stores, or energy storage, even just standing on a small pebble can feel like you’ve stepped on a needle,” Larner says. Keep your energy up with gels or power bars, and be prepared with hydration packs to help stave off the heat whilst you’re on —or off — the road. For more information on the Off the Beaten Track marathon, visit offthebeatentrack.ky.