UWI SPEC Half-Marathon: Dodo and me

“Half -Marathon?” I’d retorted when my cousin, Dodo, first approached me with this idea to run this race that no-one had ever heard about. “Half-Marathon?” I’d repeated, lacing the words with snide intonation and giving Dodo my harshest sneer.

“Wha’ happen? You can’t make with a real marathon, or what?”

As always, however, it took Dodo only a few minutes, playing on my journalistic ambition and self-proclaimed athletic prowess, to convince me to register for the UWI SPEC International Half-Marathon.

“Best, wha kinda reporter you is? Dat is a big story! Dat could be de back page!” he’d insisted, his big-toothed grin widening with each exclamation. “And hear nah, push come to shove, we could always interview Granny Lucess.”

This was about two weeks before race day. I should have known no good could come of it.

It’s the night before the race, and I’m up until some ridiculous hour, talking to an old friend who’s backpacking across Europe. She’s in Spain, she tells me. I’m missing out on life, I think to myself. I should be backpacking across the Andes.

“Ay, son las siete en punto. Chao!” she tells me just before she hangs up and I fall asleep. She’s right. The time in Trinidad is 2a.m. As I fall asleep, I’m cringing at the thought of running the race tomorrow and secretly hoping that Dodo pulls a Dodo and simply never shows up to awaken me.

Six on the dot, and Dodo’s ringing my doorbell, calling me by my last name.

“Oh gosh, man. Coming!”

“Do fast nah!”

“Yeah, alright!”

Steups. I rummage through some (dirty) running clothes that I’d used to “train” the week before, douse them with some powerful cologne and put them on. It’s too late for breakfast, I decide. Better to run on an empty stomach.

Dodo floors it down to the UWI SPEC, glaring at me when I observe out loud that all the good parking spots have been taken. His mood lightens up once we get out of the car, though, and by the time we line up for the start, he’s back to his usual grinning self, mimicking the voice of the announcer who is reminding athletes that the course runs along the Priority Bus Route, from the UWI, St. Augustine Campus to La Resource junction and back.

The race begins. Runners stare at me with disdain, almost disbelief, doubting that I am single-handedly responsible for the overpowering stench of cologne combined with stale sweat.

“Watch out for Granny Lucess eh,” I hear Dodo say, as he runs past me, disappearing into the bright morning sun which is beaming directly onto my unprotected face. I ignore the idiot, refusing to succumb to the temptation of chasing him.

“Didn’t they say there were water stations?” I wonder to myself, moments later. (Not wearing a watch, I had no way of knowing how long I’d been running.)

The rest is a blur. I don’t know if it was dehydration, under-nutrition or a lack of oxygen but the entire experience got lifted into a spiritual dimension. Time itself slowed down and suddenly the whole race made sense on a universal level. The act of running became a picture of existence, a metaphor for the being-ness of all Creation. I heard a voice calling me into the light. Squinting into the distance—and questioning the reason for life—I saw a sign materialise, covered with strange markings. Whatcould it all mean?

The sign, it turned out, was a milemarker— the first of thirteen, I recalled from the pre-race announcements.

“You mean all that was one mile!?” I shout out loud, to the amusement of everyone within earshot. I determine to abort the mission and return to the SPEC but discover that my legs are reluctant to stop and my pride strongly disinclined to turn around. I compromise by decelerating to a slow walk, cursing the day Dodo was born and wondering how I would ever live it down if Granny Lucess ran by me.

This article was first published in SPED Magazine in 2005, page 14

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