Toronto-based writer /editor Lara Ceroni went to Barbados to run a 5km in celebration of their 150th year of independence. Her pre-race training may have involved a beach and beer … or three. Here’s her story.
8:30AM: To me, there is no greater joy than waking up to the distant sounds of crashing waves and bird song, and that’s how I found myself on one (very lucky) December Saturday morning in Barbados. I’ve been invited to the island to run a 5km race to celebrate their 150th year of independence and I’ve been put up in the very lush, very luxurious resort of St. Peter’s Bay for the weekend. The resort is just south of sleepy Speightstown and north of Mullins Beach, which translates to a very chill, very relaxed vibe. Already I feel like I’m on Island Time.
8:45AM: Still in my enormously decadent bed in my own private villa and still contemplating why I came to this magical place to run. But first: coffee.
9AM: I step out of my bedroom right onto my sprawling terrace, which offers inspired views of the four acres of manicured tropical grounds on this tranquil stretch of Barbados’ west coast. My terrace also happens to come with a healthy-sized hot tub, because, hey, when in Barbados … It steams and bubbles, just the way I want it for my post-race recovery. Down I go my private beach elevator, which lands me right at the pool with its tourmaline waters beckoning me for a quick, cool dip.
9:30AM: My pre-race breakfasts are usually pretty staunch: Some oatmeal, a bit of banana, but when in the Caribbean, you must do as the locals do and order the Creole flying fish with tomato and plantain. It’s as satisfying as it sounds, especially when married with a side of baked beans and a strong espresso. I’m hoping the spice and caffeine will somehow ignite my legs – and my enthusiasm – for this afternoon’s start line.
11AM: The silver lining in running a race this weekend is that it’s not actually scheduled until 4PM this afternoon, which means: Beach. My luck seems to follow me today as I find myself entirely alone on this secluded spot of sand with its rocky – and breathtaking – breakwaters. It’s blazingly hot, so swimming is my only agenda. Oh, that, and SPF!
12AM: Do not order a beer. Do not order a beer. Do not order a beer.
1PM: OK, order a beer. So I did, along with yellow fin tuna tartar and salad back at the Gazebo Bar & Grill where I lounge on a large rattan chair revelling in the fact that I am So. Relaxed. This race will be a breeze, or at least that’s my thinking as I order, you guessed it, another beer.
3PM: It’s an hour out of the 5km and I’m starting to get it together. A quick warm-up and stretch in my hotel while I lather on more SPF and affix my race bib. Let’s do this, people!
3:30PM: Pre-race jitters are thankfully massaged due to the landscape that plays out in front of my window as we drive down into Bridgetown. We pass many beaches and many local rum shops, which gets me mildly excited for the finish line and a celebratory drink. Hmmm…maybe I have a problem?
3:55pPM: What gets me about this race almost instantly is its energy: clusters of people in fluorescent orange race shirts are working through a group warm-up sesh to Dancehall tunes, while tents are stacked with very excitable (and motivating) locals getting ready to serve up frozen popsicles and pineapple juice to the inevitable finishers. This doesn’t feel as much as a race, as it does a band of friends getting together for a backyard BBQ. The setting is also ideal: near the shores of Carlisle Bay on the southwestern corner of the island, the panorama is one for the ages.
3:59PM: I get myself into the middle of the pack and rub shoulders with Darelin, a very lean and very long-legged Bajan. We say the perfunctory “good luck” to each other, while in my mind I decide he’s going to be my pace buddy, whether he knows it or not. My goal: sub 24 minutes.
4PM: Boom! We race. I start strong with a solid pace, but man it’s screaming hot. Thankfully the route is relatively flat and offers up some pretty scenic views. Locals cheer me on which encourages me to pick up my pace, especially when I overhear: “You go, lady!” by a group of sweet little ones clapping in unison. The water stations are chaotic, but frequent, which is critical when the sun beats down on my back.
4:10PM: Pass Darelin. YES.
4:26:20: I finish. Not the time I wanted, but I’m still feeling the endorphins zing through my body as I accept my medal and then promptly jump into the ocean’s cool.
6:30PM: Showered and ready to celebrate! Our crew is heading to The Tides, a five-star restaurant in Holetown built in what was once a classic seaside Barbadian home build after the 2nd World War. Expect expansive views and classic Barbadian décor, including local coral stone and mahogany. We dine in the “Tree House”, an open-air pavilion with spectacular Casuarina trees growing out of the floor and through the roof. The resto specializes in fresh local seafood, so it was a no-brainer to start with the Mersea Oysters poached in coconut and chili and the marinated king prawns with bay squid and spiced wild rice with chorizo for the main. Each dish is divine, as is the dessert that follows: an iced banana parfait with Frangelico and hazelnut mousse.
10PM: Closing out a memorable day and night back at my hot tub while a star-studded sky twinkles the hours away. I feel tired, but blissfully so. What a trip, what a race, what an island. Tomorrow I head back to Toronto but not until we swim with some Hawksbill turtles before we go. Let’s just say there may be another beer in my future.