Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Running in the Islands

Since I left the US in 2007 I have managed pretty much to keep up with the habit of running. Aside from the obvious health benefits, I have found another unexpected benefit. Quick immersion into the local population. To understand better what I'm saying think Forrest Gump. "I just felt like runninga." To Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" or the Doobies "it keeps you Runnin" portions of the film chronicles Forrest's trek across America taking in the different scenery and the idiosyncratic nature of different parts of the United States. All kinds of things happen to Forrest along the way. He becomes a celebrity, triggers a bumper sticker empire and generally inspires a nation. My running throughout the islands have not be so grandiose, but it surely has been enlightening.

When I arrive to a new destination I will automatically start looking for a running circuit. I will normally run for 45 minutes to an hour and like a stretch of 5 to 6 miles. Some places are so small this becomes a challenge. Or a place like St John is simply to dangerous to run on the road. Few people living in the Caribbean exercise. In fact I have made a anecdotal link between poverty and lack of exercise. But that is another topic. So it is with great interest that the local population will stop what they are doing and stare at me when I run by. For the most part my route will take me into neighborhoods and areas that few if ever any tourists or white people venture. It seems there are few reasons a tourist would venture to these areas. Like Forrest, when I start out I just keep running to get my pattern figured out. I run at the same time each day, usually between 5 and 6 pm to avoid the heat and this is when most people are outside. For the most part the populations I have observed are very family oriented, lack television and other electronic gizmos which triggers people to just hang out front. They usually have music blasting. Music is very important to the people of the Caribbean. After I establish my route and pass by individual houses a few times the people and even the animals get used to my presence. I wave at most people as I pass and at first, with hesitation they will wave back. Old folks always wave with a toothy grin. After a week or two it feels as if I've been excepted into the fold. People wave or don't bother as I'm no longer a novelty. When I'm not running people in town will start to recognize me as the guy who runs. I do have issues with dogs in certain places and as I mentioned before I got nipped while in Bequia. But most of the dogs act mean and sometimes when they follow I'll turn on them and they run the other direction. It is not the best situation, but one that won't prevent me from running. Of all the places I've run, Puerto Rico was hands down the worse for aggressive dogs.

Carriacou is the best running island I have discovered yet. This place is great. The geography is more rolling hills vice the volcanic mountains. I am always amazed when the attitude of a population changes so dramatically with just a short sail. I have found the people of Carriacou to be very very nice, industrious and happy. Some poverty but clearly several notches above St Vincent and the Grenadines. This fact has made my two runs here delightful. I met a retired British Commando the day I arrived who also was an avid runner. He told me I would love it. Actually what he said was "it's brilliant mate brilliant." In fact just about everything he said was "brilliant mate brilliant." I ran along the south shore, dodging cows and goats. The small amount of car traffic slowed down instead of trying to run me off the road which has happened elsewhere. The bulk of the island is not developed at all. The sweeping views looking south were just beautiful, just like Forrest running through the desert. You get a different perspective at a running pace, just as you get a different perspective at a sailing pace compared to the speed of a ship. And after the run the dip in the ocean is sweet!

Capt Chris

PS: Don't forget to check in with My Photo Album link. I've uploaded most of the pics from the Tobago Cays.