Comparing Two Island Marathons - Cayman Islands & Bahamas

My last two marathons were on tropical islands. Both were hot. Both were scenic. But other than that, they were quite different. I'll state up front that I preferred Cayman Islands Marathon in December to the Marathon Bahamas in January. And I'll provide an apples to apples comparison to show you why. Also, here are links to my individual race reports, which contain more information and photos: Cayman Islands & Bahamas.

Enjoying my on-course beer at the "Shoe Tree" during Cayman Islands Marathon

Cayman Islands Marathon
December 7, 2014
Marathon Bahamas
January 18, 2015
My Grade
Even with the heat, which was uncomfortable for much of the race, I really enjoyed this marathon. All the details were well-executed, and the course was scenic. Volunteers were friendly and helpful. Because of the heat, I wouldn’t want to run the marathon again, but I’d go back for the half marathon and a longer stay on the island.
I had a good time at this race, but that is mostly because of the company of my friends. I found the course to be scenic, and the race logistics to be done well, but there was nothing extra-special about this race. I really wanted some colder fluids and some fruit at the aid stations. I would probably not do this one again, full or half.
Pre-race Communications
Pretty good. The RD sent periodic emails to registered runners in the weeks leading up to the race. The messages were friendly and informal and each one had different content, so they were not too repetitive. Each email also linked the reader to the previous messages, so you could reference the old ones even if you registered late. I had to contact the RD to get permission for my packet to be picked up by a friend. She was very responsive and helpful via email.
Sufficient. There were a few emails sent the week before the race. One contained restaurant deals, the other two contained nearly identical pre-race info such as expo hours, parking info, etc. There was no communication strategy to build up excitement leading up the race, but the essential information was provided.
Expo/Packet Pick-Up
I did not pick up my own packet, but I understand that it was just a simple pick-up with no merchandise for sale.
I did not pick up my own packet, but I understand this was more of a true expo where there was merchandise for sale and vendor booths.
Technical t-shirt with a great design, but a strangely cut shirt with some sponsors on the back. Loved the awesome, heavy medal in a shell shape with the marathon logo turtle. We also got a nylon drawstring bag printed with a sponsor name, and a few goodies like coupons, a travel size of sunscreen, etc.
Technical t-shirt printed with a small marathon logo, but lots of sponsors on the back, and another strange cut (what is it with tech shirts on the islands?). Medal was nice, but not extremely interesting; lots of sponsor logos on the ribbon. We also got a nylon drawstring bag printed with the race logo.

On the second half of Marathon Bahamas course

Cayman Islands Marathon
December 7, 2014
Marathon Bahamas
January 18, 2015
Started in George Town, which was on the water and fairly quaint. The first loop of the two-loop course was run in the dark. On my second loop, it seemed like a new course because there was now light. Much of the course followed the shoreline and was scenic. There was a short out & back that was not very scenic, and there were sections in residential areas not along the shore. Overall, it was a good course, and very flat. There were not many spectators except in town. When I came into town to finish my first loop, the spectators were very energetic; they were less so when I finished my race, but some were still there. A few cheering sections were found along the course, including a group of people camped out at the “shoe tree” on a beach. These folks gave me beer! There was a lot of roadkill: chickens, lizards, snakes, etc.
Started in Nassau and ran through the shopping district and then over to Paradise Island and back to New Providence Island. The first quarter of the race went through some residential and commercial areas, some of them looking run-down. There was also some interesting architecture in colorful shades like pink and seafoam green. More than the second half of the course followed the northern shoreline and was scenic. Other than the bridges to and from Paradise Island, there was a hill at the far West turnaround point. Otherwise, the course was mostly flat. There were very few spectators. In fact, even the regular people who were going about their day rarely acknowledged us back of the pack runners at all. True to their word, the Marathon Bahamas folks started opening up the roads to traffic in the latter miles of the race for us slower runners. We were forced to finish on the sidewalks or paths, which were sometimes thick with sand or tree roots.
Course Amenities
Very frequent aid stations that were well-stocked. All had water and sports drink, most had food that included fruit, energy bars, sweets, etc. I particularly liked the watermelon at one of the last aid stations of both loops. The fluids may not have been ice-cold, but they were not too warm, either. Some aid stations also had sunscreen, Bio Freeze and basic medical supplies.
Very frequent aid stations that had warm water and Gatorade. I really wanted something cold, but nothing was cold. There was Gu at two of the aid stations. No other food that I was aware of. We asked several of the aid stations if they had sunscreen, and the answer was always no. I failed to notice that there were some medical tents, but Abbi said there were; I don’t know what supplies they had.
A few runners, mostly half marathoners, ran in costume or fun outfits. Most just wore shorts and tanks, as it was hot. The aid stations were another story. Many of them were themed and volunteers costumed. At least two aid stations had a Christmas theme, and they decorated their areas and themselves accordingly. One aid station had a row of spinning bikes with people spinning as we ran by. Another aid station was staffed by an Indian group and one guy would shout: “Indian water, fresh from the Himalayas” as we ran by. Another aid station had volunteers all dressed in red and very upbeat. And one aid station was located at a turn in the road, and two volunteers dressed up as traffic cones and made sure that runners made the turn.
I didn’t notice any runners in costume, and I also didn’t notice any volunteers in costume, nor were there any apparent themes at the aid stations. However, there was music at several aid stations, including a song exclusively for Marathon Bahamas.

Marathon Bahamas medals: Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay. Not bad, but not spectacular, either.

Cayman Islands Marathon
December 7, 2014
Marathon Bahamas
January 18, 2015
Age group awards were decent looking, engraved, clear plastic plaque-type awards. At first I thought they were etched glass.
First place age group awards got a conch shell on a wooden plaque. Other places got a large cowbell.
Post-Race Experience
The finish line announcer was still there as I ran through the chute, and while there wasn’t a big crowd, I still felt like my finish was celebrated. I think they were still playing music. Even though I finished right around the cut-off time, my post-race experience was good. I got a free massage and there was still cold beer available. There was also fruit and other food, but I skipped it as a massage was a higher priority.
The finish line announcer was there when I ran through the chute, but the only spectators were my friends. I can’t recall if they were still playing music, but the costumed dancers that were there earlier (I saw photos) had left. I heard that there had been beer, but it was packed up. I don’t know what food options were available. I only recall getting water at the finish. It was nice to finish next to the beach, which made for a good photo op.
My experience on Grand Cayman was limited to my time on the race course and the Westin resort. Because it was such a short trip, I took all of my meals at the resort. The resort was not billed as all-inclusive, but it did have everything you might need for a couple days. Beyond two or three days, I would definitely want to get out and see more of the island and eat at local restaurants. George Town looked like a cute touristy town for dining and shopping. The people of the Cayman Islands, from the cab driver, to the volunteers at the aid stations, were very friendly and welcoming. The Westin had a great beach, nice pool and hot tub for post-race muscle-soaking, and adequate vegetarian fare in the restaurants.
I stayed at the Hilton, near the main shopping and dining area for tourists in Nassau. Everything in that area catered to cruise passengers, who came into town for their excursions, shopping and lunch, but were back on board their ships by 3:00 PM. That meant many of the restaurants closed early, leaving those of us staying on the island with few dinner options. It was hard to find vegetarian food, or even good food. This was really not my scene. The people were friendly for the most part. It was a little annoying to be hounded by cab drivers and their agents, wanting to take you to restaurants that they partnered with. However, the race course was a great introduction to the island, showing both some impoverished areas, and some wealthy areas, and lots of coastline. The Hilton was nice, but the beach was very small, so it was impossible to go for a long walk on the beach. And because it was located in the bay, there were hardly any waves to splash around in. There was a pool, but no hot tub. The restaurant options were OK, but not great.
Local beer was mostly of a light lager variety. Not a ton of flavor, but it was good beach beer. Cayman Islands Brewery made all the local beers I tried. There was Caybrew, Caybrew Light, White Tip Lager and Iron Shore Bock. But my favorite was a seasonal called Twisted Citrus, which had an orange flavor. Maybe it was my favorite because I drank it on the marathon course, where it really hit the spot.
There were a couple brands of local Bahamian beer, and like in the Caymans, they were mostly lagers. The most popular brewery seemed to be Bahamian Brewery, of which I tried Sands, Sands Light and Bush Crack. The other notable brewery was Commonwealth Brewery, whose varieties I preferred; I tried Kalik, Kalik Gold and Kalik Radler, which was very refreshing with lemon.

The Cayman Islands Marathon medal was thick and heavy. The ribbon had some metallic threads for sparkle. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite medals.


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