Whilst this recap features events from an organised press trip all opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. I’ve shared the experience below, and created a YouTube video which you can watch here.
We arrived in Barbados on Wednesday 4 December having flown with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick. We enjoyed a day of sightseeing and acclimatising to the heat and timezone before the excitement of marathon weekend began. Friday marked the start of the marathon weekend festivities with the mile fun run taking place that evening. I started the day early with a short run along the beach/ boardwalk to help try to acclimatise to the heat before we began the races. I was in good company as lots of other runners and walkers were out too. Even at 7am it was HOT and I was definitely glad to soak in the sea after!
We then spent the rest of that morning exploring St Nicholas Abbey, one of the old sugarcane plantation houses which also boasts a museum, rum distillery and heritage railway experience. Lots of people were enjoying the rum tasting, but we resisted the temptation as we knew we would be running later (plus it was 10am!) I spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach (top race prep right) then it was time for the first race of the weekend- the 1 mile fun run. We headed to the start which was a busy and slightly chaotic array of music, dancing and runners. The atmosphere was incredible and there was a real party spirit, with lots of people also in fancy dress. The children and youth waves went first and the sheer volume of waves delayed the adults setting off. This definitely wasn’t a case of turn up, run and go home- this is an evening running party to kick start the marathon weekend. Our race started around 8pm, the sun was long gone but the heat of the day lingered- it was going to be a sweaty one!
The race was divided into separate women’s and men’s races then a mixed fun run. We set off in the women’s wave as I was keen to get a speedy mile in. The route was a flat out and back towards Bridgetown along a closed road. The course was a tad dark in places and could benefit from some additional lighting (or just run with a head torch if running in twilight really bothers you), there was a water station just before the turn around point and plenty of support from spectators. Heading to the finish was like heading back to the party and crossing the line we were greeted with high fives and medals. Considering I’d done less than 8 minutes of running I was dripping in sweat. We headed back to the hotel, showered and changed then dashed back out to Oistins fish fry which is THE place to be in Barbados in a Friday night. I was starving and very glad of the big portions!
Saturday- Day 3
I woke up early and snuck in a quick morning sea swim before we headed to Off Road Fury to experience some off road buggy driving. This was such an exhilarating adrenaline fuelled experience zooming through the fields of sugarcane and flying through puddles (whoops). Once we were finished we had to make a quick unplanned pitstop to shower due to puddlegate (my bad) and then enjoyed a beautiful pasta lunch before the 5km later that afternoon.
The 5km and 10km races take place on the Saturday afternoon from 4pm, so are amongst the hottest races of the weekend. I opted for the 5km but there’s also the option if you’re speedy enough to do both (meaning you can come home with some serious race bling). I knew I had to keep this one steady and save my legs as much as possible for the half marathon on Sunday. As it was afternoon it also felt HOT. These were the only races being run in the heat of the day with the mile being after dark and the marathon and half starting before dawn. I think this was a great idea to run late afternoon. The sun wasn’t strong but the residual heat of the day offered anyone running the marathon and half the next morning, a valuable lesson in adjusting your pacing and forced you to acclimatise. It was some comfort knowing that tomorrow I would be cooler. The route took in a lot of Historic Bridgetown and like the mile race the previous evening, the atmosphere was fantastic, there was so much local support and everyone was enjoying themselves. It was great seeing lots of UK runners out on course and I really regretted not bringing my club vest. I crossed the line in a respectable 27ish minutes saving my legs and letting myself adjust to the heat. It was another finish line and another piece of bling for the Run Barbados collection. I then dived into the sea which was just the perfect way to cool down!
Sunday- Day 4
Sunday was Half Marathon Day and we were greeted with a very early start! The race begins at 5am, and this is very much welcomed to escape the heat of the day (although it was still 26 degrees) and the timing equates to 9am GMT which ideally fitted with my somewhat jet lagged body clock. You certainly wouldn’t feel at a disadvantage if you had travelled from the UK and not quite adjusted to the timezone.
The race consisted of an out and back route passing through historic Bridgetown and the port of Barbados before hugging the coastline. The first 40 minutes or so are in total darkness. With a sneakily concealed hill around 6km, which felt like it was never ending in the conditions. Some parts of the route could be slightly better lit, but it wasn’t long before the sun began to come up. Between 6-15km the course was undulating, so be prepared for hills! Some areas of the route were very quiet (possibly owing to the early Sunday morning start) so it’s a mental challenge as much as a physical one. I thoroughly enjoyed the out and back as it meant I was able to gasp in awe at the speed and determination of the elites, I knew what the course had in store, where the water stations were (which was essential in the temperature) and could therefore pace accordingly to maximise my energy levels and I knew that once the sun came up I would be on the flatter home straight. The marathon runners run this course twice and from speaking with friends the second lap was tough in the rapidly rising morning heat, but at least you knew what you had in store.
The organisers provided frequent water stations also stocked with bananas and there were marshals in abundance, with many on the course on bikes to assist should you need. There were even locals offering tequila shots and rum punch should you feel inclined! A true taste of Caribbean hospitality.
The final stretch towards the finish started to feel never ending. I hadn’t eaten a decent enough breakfast and was paying for it at this point. I got chatting to one of the local runners who had run this race several times and he shared with me just how much it means to him, how so many people travel to race and how the weekend has grown year on year. This helped the time pass much quicker and soon we reached the finish (the party atmosphere was still going strong) and collected our third medal of the weekend. I also got an additional fourth medal for completing three races over the weekend, so was going home with lots of bling to add to the collection.
Barbados Marathon isn't like other large international marathons in terms of runner numbers, sleek race villages or glamorously stocked aid stations. But what it does offer is a unique and somewhat low key kind of charm. The marathon embraces the relaxed and friendly vibes of Barbados, and is perfectly understated (if you've ever done Liverpool Marathon I found Barbados had the same friendly and relaxed atmosphere). Speaking to locals and travelling runners alike this is a firm favourite year on year and it’s clear to see why, it’s an enjoyable and friendly race and the ideal destination marathon for anyone wanting some winter sunshine. The whole marathon weekend offers something for everyone with a variety of races and distances. Plus you can soak in the sea afterwards whats not to love!
You can read my full Barbados Adventure here
Envrionmental Research from London