Sunday, 4 September 2011

Beach or Tarmac Running - Trying be Like Bolt

My 2nd Marathon, Toronto 2007-Posing with Rosie

After a couple months of intermittent running, mainly because of the 30 or so going away limes (parties) that I had in four countries in June and July, and the usual relocation issues that come with moving to a new continent, I finally got back into a regular running routine two weeks ago.  For the past couple weeks I have clocked a fairly impressive 50 miles – not bad for an old guy.  It is quite the experience running here, and there are some parallels with running in Montserrat, my previous place of abode for 5 years.  I took up long distance running in Montserrat - it was either that or drinking yourself silly every day.  It also helped that my good friend and work colleague at the time, Rosemarie Thomas (another Trini) is a seasoned marathoner - who can fall of a bar stool after half a drink.  She encouraged me to run rather than regularly falling of bar furniture (thanks Rosie!).

Anyway back to running in Zanzibar.  Timing is everything.  I never been a morning person (don’t talk to me before I have done the three S’s and had my cup of tea with some cereal and undergone some music therapy), so early runs have generally evaded me.  Late afternoon runs have always been my thing.  Running in the afternoon does cut into one’s happy hour time and it is much warmer - but like the sex life of a married couple after 1 year, you have to have set a time and make a rigid schedule. Although in the case of my running, I do it several times a month and I frequently alter my pace and route.

At Low Tide the Beach is Amazing to Run On
So armed with my IPOD, GPS watch, sun-block and my Running Room Canada-emblazoned hat, I have been hitting the beach or the main road at least 5 times a week.  The beach is much more fun – very picturesque, lots of eye candy, and very shady in the late afternoons, as we are on the east coast.  I usually get into a nice steady rhythm after 15 minutes - something I was never able to actually do in Montserrat because of the mountainous terrain (and the constant shouts of “Ishwar you need a beer?”  from passing cars).  But like running in Montserrat, I do get a lot of attention.  I have to answer to at least 50 “Jambos” (hello in Kiswahili), the occasional “mzungu” (white person – really now – don’t you all have a word for brown people?), or they call me Ali Baba (the nickname of Alastair – one of the Directors of the school and also an avid runner).  I also get offers to go snorkeling, fishing or diving from the entrepreneurial locals (must be the Canada hat).  This is diminishing a bit as they have now figured that I live here.  The most fun part are the young kids who sometimes come running with me – usually they want a sprint and man they are fast –speedier than Bolt coming out of the blocks in 100 metre final or on the last leg of a 4 x 100 metre relay (good going  by the way on the new world record today Jamaica!).  They leave me way behind on the sprints - but we long distance runners are built for stamina, and eventually they fall away and say their goodbyes.  I do run into a few other runners – mostly visitors,  and we do the obligatory nod of the head or slight wave of the hand, acknowledging the usual runner’s thought of “why the hell are we doing this again?”

At High Tide I  Have to Hit the Road
The thing with the beach is that one week the tide is low in the afternoons – great for running, and then the other week it is very high – great for drowning. Not really, but you get the picture. This is when I switch to the main road.  Thankfully we have excellent roads here – a major road construction/paving project a few years ago have left us with long (and more importantly straight and flat) stretches of beautiful tarmac.  On either side there are nice shoulders, which are a runner’s or cyclist’s dream.  And since the road sees very little hydrocarbon burning vehicular traffic (the traffic is more pedestrians, bicycles, oxen carts, herd of cows) – they have remained in stellar condition.  The two drawbacks though are that the few drivers on the road drive like Jenson Button on crack, and the second is getting fluids for hydration during my run.  I run against the traffic therefore – keeping my good eye on the oncoming vehicles.  In terms of the hydration issue, I do have a Nike running fanny pack to hold a bottle of water, but it is uncomfortable. And I feel that wearing it will make me look like one of those people in an airport with the money belt and the passport holder around their necks.  When running on the beach, I leave a small bottle of water in the yard so I can quickly run in and take a drink.  In Montserrat, I would just run into Garrymoore’s bar in Salem or John’s bar at Forgarthy Hill, grab a Ting or a Gatorade, run out and pay later.  No such luck here.  I therefore have to come up with a hydration strategy for the road running soon, as I need to lengthen my runs since I plan to do the Kilimanjaro Marathon next February on the Tanzanian mainland.  Think I need to find me a new John’s or Garymoore’s real soon.


  1. I see you are getting into your writing rhythm too sir. Keep tapping that keyboard and always remember switch it up. [All puns intended]:-)

    By the way, is our morning cereal of choice still Raisin Bran? I remember you used to be unapproachable before your daily fix.


  2. get a platypus hydration system ishwar - or is that a nono for marathon runners - its great for hikers

  3. now its Weetabix with dates and bananas

  4. Hey Ish,
    Boy I can't wait to come out there and test the running in Zanzibar! And Thanks for letting everyoneone know I can't hold my liquor!! :))
    PS - what do you think about us running the Two Oceans marathon in South Africa next year?

  5. hey rosie....two oceans in South Africa sounds good....I am going to Cape Town this weekend for a week as I have a week off.....

  6. thanks for the updates, ishwar. i am just getting to the blog, so i had the special treat of reading them all one after the other. you are quite the storyteller!! enjoyed 'em all. thanks for sharing!
    so you sure alistair don't have room for a music teacher down deh? srsly.... and i used to play badminton semi-professionally. hmmmm....
    anyhoo, looking forward to the next installation!