When the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, the sun is still shining in Negril, Jamaica. Known as the “Capital of Casual,” the small resort town in Jamaica’s west end is home to the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10k; the race celebrated its 15th anniversary on December 5, 2015.
The race is passionate about crafting a unique and happy experience for all its participants. Over 2,300 people from around the world registered for this year’s event, with nearly 1,400 international participants, so you’re sure to meet a new friend from an unexpected place. This year, over 550 members of the “Reggae Runnerz” group gathered in Negril from all over the United States to participate in the race, tour the island, and relax in the sun. In fact, there are all sorts of characters to be found at this event, including 90-years-young Burt Carlson, who participated in the race for his 11th year in a row and completed the half marathon! How’s that for motivation?
In advance of the 5:15 am start time on race morning (you’ll thank the race committee once the sun rises!), the “World’s Best Pasta Party” takes place on Friday evening. Chefs from the local resorts in Negril team up to offer a huge range of pasta dishes, many of which are made to order for participants. As with all events on race weekend, reggae music filters through the air like the island breeze and encourages everyone to get up and dance. The early start on race morning means that participants in the marathon, half-marathon, and 10k (which all follow the same course and start at the same time) begin in the dark by the light of tiki torches held by volunteers! Running through the tiki torches to the sounds of Bob Marley is not your average race start, for sure!
The course itself is a double loop for the full marathon, single loop for the half marathon, and half loop for the 10k. The race starts out with runners heading towards the Negril town center as tourists and locals alike wake up bright and early to line the streets. As the sun begins to peak over the horizon, reggae drummers cheer the participants on as the course loops through the town center and heads back towards Negril’s famous 7-Mile Beach. The 10k runners turn towards the finish at the center of the loop while half marathoners continue on, soaking in the cheers and jams along the way. There’s no shortage of “Good morning!” and “Way to go!” from the locals lining the streets. As runners reach the turnaround point and head back towards the finish line, the sun starts to warm the streets and burn off the early morning humidity. Make no mistake – the weather gets warm – but if you’re looking for a winter getaway, this is the place to come!
Whether you choose to run the 10k, half marathon, or full marathon, all runners finish in Long Bay Beach Park, where a huge reggae concert is taking place with free Red Stripe beer for all participants. The park is right on the famed 7-Mile Beach, allowing runners to kick off their shoes and dash right into the waves! Unlike many races where participants head out immediately after they are done, this finish-line party truly is a vacation, with runners lounging on the beach, jamming to reggae tunes, and sipping beer. You’ll truly feel like you’re in the “Capital of Casual” as you dip your toes in the sand! You might have heard ice baths are the best recovery from a long run, but I challenge you to try a dip in the warm Caribbean Sea and a beer!
The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k is certainly a unique event and one to place on your race-cation bucket list! Even those skeptical of hot weather runs (myself included) can’t help but relax, have fun, and enjoy the good vibes. In Negril, you’ve got no problems, mon!
Location: Negril, Jamaica “The Capital of Casual”
Date: December 5, 2015 (it’s always the first Saturday in December)
Time: 5:15 am sharp (they take pride in starting on time)
Years Running: 15!
Participants: About 2,300 between the 10k, half marathon, and marathon. About 1,300 run the 10k, while 800 do the half marathon and 200 do the full marathon. More than 60% come from overseas to run the race!
Eat: At Pushcart Restaurant and Rum Bar for local Jamaican fare like curried goat or jerk chicken
Drink: At world-famous Rick’s Café, where you can take in the sunset from Jamaica’s westernmost point and cliff dive into the crystal clear waters below!
Play: At JamWest Adventure Park. You’ll find something for every member of your family or running group at the park, which boasts a wilderness safari tour, ziplining, ATVs, a local food tour, a beach, and a mineral bath! If you’re looking to take in the beauty of the Jamaican wilderness while learning about the local culture, this is the place to be.