Great Train Run 2013 - Race Report by Joseph Volney

The 2013 Great Train Run: "A 40Km Footrace for Runners and Hikers"Who ever said our Island is in short supply of fun filled; healthy enriching activities obviously never took part in the recently concluded annual Great Train 40km Footrace and Hike which this year took place almost a month ago on the 17th Feb. I was fortunate to run about 10-12k of the 40k stretch as the 3rd leg of a 4 member team and can admit it was certainly well worth the pre dawn start time and early morning training runs that we did for weeks leading up as a way of familiarizing ourselves and getting acquainted with the various terrain.

Started by the late Colin Hudson and initially explored solely by hikers from it's start in Bridgetown (South West) all the way to it's conclusion in Belleplaine (East), it was taken a step further in 2010 by experienced distance runner and local race organiser Ralf Luther in an initiative to bring hikers and runners together to take part in this awesome challenge. That year he was the first runner to take part as he ran the full 40k distance on his own. While not a true race in the sense of medals and time placements it was nonetheless quite physically impactful as much of the route crossed surfaces of all types and lengths. From concrete to cart roads to canefields to cliffs were explored.

Leading up to the race for me was one full of emotion. Excitement, Anticipation. Nervousness. All these feelings were running through me, especially the night before as I sensibly sought out some much needed shut eye for the early rise next day. How we as a Team (‘The Apocalyptic Horse People’ as we called ourselves) decided to undertake this near marathon length journey was that we would each individually run back to back segments of the route measuring of about 5-6km in length each, giving members a relatively equal portion of the route to experience. They had 8 segments so essentially the idea was that each member would get a chance to run two of about 10-12km in total. A relay of sorts. Amongst ourselves we agreed beforehand which segments we preferred and choices were made. So the morning broke and most of us converged upon Bridgetown (Barbados’ capital) around 4:45 to receive starter’s orders from Ralf and proceed onwards.

As the race unfolded and experiences were had, a few memories worthy of mention stand out on that morning and probably will stay with me for some time. Such as; riding the support vehicle between stages ensuring that teammates were well hydrated and taken care of especially when they needed it most. Also, driving along from stage 2-3 and being fortunate to look over my shoulder just in time to glimpse a row of competitors running parallel to the road through the canefields in single file formation with headlamps peering through the stalks, still bathed in the moonlight. Fast forward to about an hour later just after sunrise as I was running my segment and subsequently losing the trail as a result of a local resident parking his/her 4 wheel drive vehicle over one of the vitally positioned markers. All I can say in that case was that I ended up doing an extra 2km in the wrong direction for good measure. And last but by no means least; myself and a fellow teammate rallying around and running with a slightly fatigued comrade on his sun drenched final leg. He was one of the champions among us that actually completed the full 40km distance so much so that as he saw the finish line about 300 meters away in the distance he shot off leaving us to wonder who actually was supporting who. Memories that can’t be replicated.

What happened to the train service you may ask? Well the train line service was subsequently abandoned in 1937 due to the increase in automobiles and by it becoming too costly to maintain. With The Second World War beginning in Europe in 1939, the market for metal was at a height and Barbados shipped much of the metal used in the train service back to Britain. One could even still see remnants of the trainline on some sections as we ran through.

A hearty thanks goes out to Ralf Luther and his team of volunteers who made The Great Train Footrace an event to remember and one that I shall surely be penciling into my runners calendar. Functional water stops and efficient personnel with maps, hydration fluids and an encouraging word made it memorable. Terrains of all types, shapes and lengths were on offer which made for a unique experience. An EXTREMELY strong turnout from the Barbados Hash House Harriers was great to see. Special mention to my awesome teammates (Daniellle St Pierre-Collins, Jason Millington, Andre Procope) who made it an even more richer and fulfilling experience. A lot must be said for teamwork and the mutual encouragement that's shared at times like these.Great Train Footrace 2014!! I'm looking forward to meeting you already. :-)