Less than 1% of the global population finish a marathon every year. My sincere congratulations to the 50 or so persons who completed this year’s Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon (TTIM). You have demonstrated the grit, tenacity, determination, and dedication necessary to complete 26.2 miles (42.16) km on the road. I salute you.
2023 marked the 41st staging of the TTIM and the first significant change of the marathon course that I am aware of. In changing the marathon course, we have destroyed social activities which have made a difference to the people of our country.
That 26.2-mile run was one of a few activities which linked north and central Trinidad. I recall my first marathon in 2006 when I became friendly with another runner as we traversed the course. He admitted to me that it was the first time that he had visited Central Trinidad and how happy and surprised he was to experience another part of our lovely island.
As we ran through Cunupia, he was amazed that the rum shops and bars were open, playing music and their patrons cheering on the runners and offering them a drink or two as a way of helping them to the finish line. He was surprised that there were rhythm sections on the pavement adding to the excitement.
The next jaw-dropping experience for him was watching the sunrise over the Caroni Plains. As we approached the old Bailey bridge over the Caroni River, it was magical. It was indeed a uniquely beautiful experience to see the sun rise above the sugar cane fields while the darkness disappeared. All along people cheered and encouraged the runners either from the banisters of their homes or on the side of the road.
By the time we hit Curepe, the sun had risen and again the patrons of the rum shops and bars stepped out to encourage the runners. The mood of support and encouragement changed once we turned left onto the Eastern Main Road and headed into Port of Spain. Along the Eastern Main Road, we were generally heckled with some exceptions being persons bringing out their water hoses to help the marathon strugglers cool down. The warmth and support increased again once we hit the 21-mile mark.
This old marathon course was gorgeous even though it was not closed to traffic as it likely would have been in developed countries. We have replaced it with a dirty, boring, channel-like course where the maxi drivers are hustling to earn a living and don’t care about the marathoners.
My wish is for the TTIM to improve and develop a course that is scenic, closed, and focused on supporting the marathoners. There have been occasions when more than 500 locals have challenged themselves to conquer the 26.2 miles (42.16) km. There is no reason why that could not happen again. After 41 years, we owe it to future generations to stage a marathon that is beautiful and positively reflective of our country.