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A THORNY ISSUE: Marathon’s wrong turn

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Marathon’s wrong turn

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The marathon has run its course in the Run Barbados series.
Sad as it might be to accept, this once blue-riband event has now lost its standing and relevance among the reconstructed multiple series of road races.
It has become the major casuality, although that may not have been the organisers’ intention.
The last nail was driven into its coffin on Sunday when the race could only muster 70 competitors.
This more than any other statistic or factor pointed to the fact that funeral arrangements should be put in place for a patient who became terminally ill the moment the first set of Canadian professionals were contracted to organise the technical side of the entire series.
Before this era dawned, the marathon was a strong and healthy citizen who captured the imagination of a nation.
Whether it was being run from the airport to Heywoods or the year it was turned around and finished at Sam Lord’s Castle, the marathon developed a massive fan base.
Despite the 5 a.m. start, scores, even hundreds, of people would be up in time to give the runners their moral support.
Some made it on to the streets while others were content to peep through their windows and doors at what was a true spectacle for a populace that was excited by the event and were drawn to it like a magnet to steel.
They waved and shouted frantically in communities like Durants, Thornbury Hill, Oistins in the south; in Bridgetown and surrounding areas and in the northern terrain of St James and St Peter.
Even the dogs became animated when organisers experimented with the course one year, sending it through Wilcox in Christ church.
Some of the foreigners became so well known that they were easily recognised even before the sun had risen.
And don’t talk about when the local stars like Adelbert Browne, Reuben McCollin, Andrew Greenidge and Keith Cumberbatch passed a big crowd. People called out their names with  reverence, encouraging them to do the country proud.
Those were the days when there were well over 300 competitors hunting for the major prizes.
Those were the days when the talent pool was wide and varied. They came from our Caribbean neighbours, Africa, Europe and North America in their hundreds to supplement the local numbers.
Those were the days when the field was of a very high pedigree – days when the race would not be decided with more than four kilometres to go, as has become the norm in recent times.
Who could forget the epic deadheat between English legend Hugh Jones and Peter Maher of Canada when they duelled to the line at Sam Lord’s!
And not forgetting American Kim Goff, who won multiple titles in this event, too.
She was a star and became a household name.
Lo and behold, the face of the entire series would change forever when the Barbadian authorities handed responsibility for managing the race to a new group seven years ago.
Multiple events I could understand if they thought the ploy would have increased the number of runners from North America, in particular, and maybe it did. But people like Jerston Clarke and Omawale Stuart warned after the first year of the change that the multiple events concept would eventually be detrimental to the marathon.
Honestly speaking, the inclusion of the half-marathon to run simultaneously with the marathon was the first dose of medicine that did more damage to its health than good.  
Year after year the numbers declined and the quality, too, as runners opted for the shorter race because they recognised that there wasn’t much difference, if any, in the prize structure.
It was a no-brainer.
Obviously, the organisers would have recognised what everyone else did but failed to do anything about it.
It should be noted that in the glory days of Run Barbados we did our own networking to get the overseas numbers up and as a nation blessed with superb organisers, we did a fantastic job managing the marathon and the 10K.
I have no idea why we lost faith in our own proven capabilities, but now we have to share collective responsibility for the certain death of the marathon unless a Lazarus-like miracle can be performed within the next year.
• Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and can be reached at [email protected]