Perhaps “Powered by Pina Coladas” is not the best approach for a marathon.
Or then again, maybe it is. It depends on the marathon. And your goals.
In my case, the End of the World Marathon in Placencia, Belize, was a cap to my racing year. I’d completed an ultramarathon in the spring. I’d made my attempt at what for me was a fast marathon in the fall.
The run in Belize on Dec. 8, 2013, was a chance to combine a warm weather adventure with one of my favorite pastimes. It didn’t disappoint on either account.
I’ll write up my thoughts about Placencia in general in a future post. In this post, I want to share a little about the End of the World Marathon.
This spring, I marked my 50th birthday with a special challenge, running my first ultramarathon. As my wife, Barb, approached the same milestone, she decided she’d like to run another marathon (because she’s only half as crazy as me). And she wanted to combine that physical challenge with an exotic locale. Enter Placencia, Belize.
Barb’s approach to the EOW marathon was different than mine. It was her big challenge. She wanted to not just meet the challenge but beat the challenge. And, boy, did she, winning her age division for the women’s marathon.
Me, not so much. I bumbled and stumbled my way to my slowest marathon yet.
But the fault for the sub-par race time rested with me, not with the race itself.
This was just the second running of the End of the World Marathon, but it was well organized and well supported. Organizer Chip Lovett splits his time between the States and Belize, but he answered a number of pre-race questions by email and offered us lots of great advice on the area. At the packet pickup the day before the race, Chip and his volunteers were friendly and cordial. And at the post-race celebration, Chip and several sponsors handed out beers and trophies, all to a reggae beat supplied by the entertaining local DJ.
The race traces nearly the entire length of the Placencia Peninsula, which is about 16 miles long and located in far southern Belize. At some points, the peninsula is just yards wide, with the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Placencia Lagoon to the west.
The marathon started at the south end of the peninsula at Placencia village. It ran an out-and-back course along the peninsula to reach the necessary 26.2 miles. For the half marathon, participants were picked up by bus all the way along the route and taken to the north end. From there, they ran back to Placencia. It was fun to meet the half-marathoners as we marathoners made our way to the north.
The race is run on the blacktop road that is the main artery for the peninsula. Traffic control on the road is accomplished by speed humps, which also serve as the high elevation points on the peninsula. If you equate “flat” with “fast,” this is the race for you.
And if you’re sick of running in the cold and the snow, Belize in December is the place to be.
The race started at 5:30 a.m. — a little more than a half hour before sunrise — and it was 70 degrees or so already. By the time I finished, the temperature had risen to 85 degrees. The temperature topped out at 90 degrees on race day. Fortunately, the morning was overcast and there were passing showers; if the sun comes out, even the morning can get quite warm.
As an Iowan, I’m used to the humidity that helps us grow bumper crops of corn. But I’m not used to high humidity and high temps in the winter. During our visit to Placencia, the humidity ranged from 70-95 percent — when it wasn’t outright raining.
This year, there were 35 finishers in the marathon and 134 finishers in the half-marathon. That’s roughly double the numbers from the inaugural race. After running a few mega races over the years, it was fun to do a small run.
Despite the small number of participants, the locals came out in large numbers — relatively speaking — to support the runners. They enthusiastically cheered at several aid stations. One woman cheered on every passing runner from the balcony of her Placencia villa.
There were a number of aid stations at timely locations. Water was actually passed out in small plastic bags — about 8-10 ounces in size. Gatorade and even coconut water was handed out in some places. Bananas and orange slices were plentiful, and Gu was distributed in a few spots.
The aid station volunteers at the Maya Beach Hotel and Bistro got the prize for most enthusiastic. They brought to life a circus theme, dressing as penguins, lions, the ring master and the like. And they CHEERED. Coming at mile 16 or so, their enthusiasm was really welcome.
And their unique hydration offering got the best of me.
“How about a Bloody Mary?” one costumed volunteer asked.
It took a couple steps for me to realize the offer, but when it sunk in, I did a double-take. “Why not?” I said. “I’m not going to set a PR anyway, and I’m running in Belize! Sure, I’ll take one.”
“Hey, that’s cool,” the volunteer said. “You’re the first runner to take one.”
I’m sure it didn’t help my finishing time. But it certainly added to the experience.