The annual Off The Beaten Track spins round for the fourth time this month and weekend warriors are primed for Cayman’s most gruelling sporting event.
At 50 kilometres (around 30 miles) it is four miles longer than the Cayman Marathon and because, as the name implies, most of it is on rough terrain, the course is far more arduous than standard road races.
Nevertheless, its popularity continues to grow and on Sunday, 24 February, sore limbs and sun-roasted bodies will be evident at the finish at Tiki Beach, where it also starts at 6am.
This unique off-road trail run cuts across beaches, through the bush and back roads of Grand Cayman. While the physical demands of the race are significantly more challenging than a typical road race, team relay members only run a fraction more than five miles each.
The course is designed to mirror the arduous Marathon des Sables ultra-distance race run in the hot sands of Morocco every year and is set by Ken Krys of Krys Global, the major sponsors who competed in des Sables a few years ago.
English pair Conrad Proud and Lizzie Berns were the individual men’s and women’s winners in Off The Beaten Track last year. Proud certainly had plenty to be proud about, finishing in 5 hours 6 minutes and 15 seconds. Berns did the course in 6:18:50.
The fastest all male relay team was The Leftovers in 3:43:24. Fastest co-ed relay team was Marco’s Marauders (4:20:47). Fastest all female relay team was Ogiers Girls (4:47:57) and the top corporate relay team was RBC Wealth Management (4:50:03).
The Leftovers comprised some of Cayman’s top runners, and so were the overwhelming favourites. They were Marius Acker, Chris Rose, Jonathan Shillito, Tristan Von-Kirchenheim, Carl Grant and Ray Welds.
Krys says: “There are a great many runners here in Cayman, and I urge all of them to come out.
“The team aspect allows everyone of all levels to participate, while experienced marathoners can choose to run solo. Another unique aspect is the actual course is not revealed until the week before race day.”
Krys used to have a typical middle-age executive’s waistline until he pummelled his body back into the shape it was in his younger days.
In recent times Krys has faced the Antarctic Ice Marathon and Amazon Jungle Run in 2011. Last year he braved dog sledding in Norway, the 42km Marathon Du Finistere in France, and before Christmas, the 212 km Manaslu Mountain Trail Race in Nepal.
All proceeds raised from the race go to charity. Facing Africa, the primary beneficiary, is an organisation that sends teams of surgeons and medical supplies to sub-Saharan Africa to battle a devastating disease called Noma, which causes deformities of the face in predominantly young, malnourished children.
This year’s local beneficiaries are Cayman’s Ark and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.
Long standing partner and key supporting sponsor, Lynne Byles, Managing Director of Tower Marketing says: “Off The Beaten Track has so many positives for Cayman – encouraging health and fitness, promoting the Islands as a sports tourism destination and raising funds for worthwhile charities. Tower is proud to be a part of this unique local competition.”
Cayman’s business community is invited to enter their corporate relay teams. This year there will be prizes for the fastest individual male, individual female, all-female relay team, all-male relay team, co-ed relay team and corporate relay team.
Runners will enjoy a hearty post-race meal during the medal distribution ceremony at Tiki Beach.
Conrad Proud is putting a team together this time rather than defend his title. He says: “It’s testament to the event that most of the individual runners from last year will probably be on the start line again this time, hopefully with some first timers as well.
“It would be great to see a lot of the teams that enter the Cross Island Relay follow on and enter their teams in Off The Beaten Track. It can seem quite daunting, but when broken down it’s an average of five miles per leg and gives people the chance to run in areas of the island they wouldn’t normally consider.
“There is a lot of support as well and the challenge of learning your route adds to the event and sense of achievement at the end.”
Online registration is now open on caymanactive.com. Fees are US$300 for relay teams and US$100 for individuals. For more information visit offthebeatentrack.ky.
Corporate sponsorship is invited and volunteers are welcome. Anyone interested should contact Nicky van Rensburg at 947-4700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.