During a recession historically health and fitness interest increases. That has certainly happened in the Cayman Islands, writes Ron Shillingford.
Even to the casual observer, it is evident that Cayman’s road running scene is flourishing with an increase in organised races throughout the year.
It was thriving in the 80s and 90s, took a dip then slumped dramatically after Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, but in the past year looks set to surpass the popularity of previous eras.
The Islands’ fastest woman is Beth Schreader who is an elite marathon runner able to run the gruelling 26.2 mile course in under three hours.
Schreader is pleased that her favourite sport is inspiring so many to drop the TV remote and don their sneakers.
“I think the resurgence in road running events is mainly due to increased awareness,” Schreader said.
“For large events, such as the Cayman Marathon, the race organizers have made huge efforts to advertise and promote the event both locally – radio, newspaper, TV, online – and, more importantly for continued growth, internationally.
“I know Rhonda Kelly (race director) and her team worked closely with the Department of Tourism to attract overseas runners and had a very successful campaign last year that resulted in a lot of stay-over visitors.
“The smaller races are also gaining in popularity because of greater awareness on the net.
“A lot of the smaller races aren’t advertised so before the online heads up you would mostly hear about them through word of mouth or an email from Coach Jerry Harper. If you weren’t friends with people ‘in the know’ or weren’t on Jerry’s distribution list you would never know there was a race.
“Now that event details are online, it is easy for anyone to find out how to participate and I’m sure this has helped increase numbers.
“Jerry has also worked very hard to promote the local races and make sure as many people as possible know that they are taking place.
“Also, groups like the Wednesday Night Running Club have helped encourage more people to participate in road races, especially newer runners or people new to Cayman.
“I know the WNRC put teams together for the Marathon, Cross Island Relay, Scotia Relays and the 50k Off the Beaten Track.
“There are some people that would have participated anyway but there are others who probably wouldn’t have, especially if they have never participated in a race before or didn’t know enough people to team