There aren’t many other more freeing forms of exercise than running. The only equipment you need is your body and a pair of running shoes. Running offers you the freedom to go at your own pace to wherever your heart desires for as long as you choose. This is the sort of freedom not often afforded to yachties in their professional lives. Because of this, many crewmembers choose to pound the pavement when they’re on dry land and give those legs a much-needed stretch on the open road, in the forest, over hills and even sometimes through mountain passages.
While running is a freeing form of keeping up your fitness, training for a half marathon or full marathon or any other race, for that matter, requires discipline and a bit of time management, which can be especially difficult for those working on vessels. We’ve heard of crewmembers who will put their shoes and iPod in a ditch bag and swim to shore at 4 a.m. while anchored out with guests on board to get in their daily training before they have to get to work — now that’s what we call dedication. Regardless of if you’re that motivated or if you just like to hit the road now and then to get out your inner gazelle, the yachting profession does offer crew a chance to visit some amazing places with roads and trails that would make any avid runner drool. If you were born to run and happen to be in any of these places, be sure to lace up your kicks and see the locale from the runner’s perspective.
Of course you’ve taken a lovely jaunt down ocean-side A1A, but if you want to get really wild in Fort Lauderdale, head west. Shark Valley, west of Fort Lauderdale in Everglades National Park (a designated World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance), is home to a 15-mile flat, paved loop road that allows pedestrians, tram passengers and cyclists an intimate journey into the “River of Grass.” Rent bikes from Shark Valley Tram Tours onsite and test your bravado as you pedal past alligators, often eight feet in length. Just remember: gators have right of way. www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm
And if you have the itch for a race and will be in town in February, say, just in time for the 2012 Miami Boat Show, ask if you can have the morning off on Sunday, February 19, for 2012 A1A marathon, which begins at 6:00 a.m. — so you'll be back by lunchtime. http://www.a1amarathon.com/
St. John, USVI
St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands is definitely a place where your trail running shoes have a reasonable shot at serving their intended purpose. Sixty percent of the island is national park, and 20 trails lead visitors through dense forests to beaches, bays, historic sugar factory ruins and vistas over nearby islands.
Start out by asking the Park Service Visitor Centre in Cruz Bay for trail conditions and advice. You may decide to combine a road with a trail or two — for example, your warm-up could involve pounding the pavement between Annaberg and Francis Bay along flat Leinster Bay Road, followed by a couple sprints around the half-mile Francis Bay trail.
While the trails here may be your temptress, some of the island’s “tuffest” running keeps entirely to the road. The 8 Tuff Miles race, held in February, starts at the Cruz Bay visitor center and heads eastwards, climbing 994 feet before descending back to sea level at Coral Bay. Not planning a trip to St. John in February? No dramas — run your own race whenever you arrive, and then beg the event organizers to include you in their Under an Hour Club... but only if you really deserve it, of course. 8 Tuff Miles Road Race, St John (February 25, 2012): www.8tuffmiles.com.
One hour north of Brisbane, the Glass House Mountains — craggy rhyolite and trachyte peaks formed 25 millions of years ago by volcanic activity — punctuate the pine- and eucalypt-filled landscape.
The gravel roads, trails and single track passing through Glass House Mountains National Park and the nearby forest reserves also are a playground for trail runners. Several events incorporating ultra and shorter distances are held here every year, with group training runs often happening in the preceding weeks. If you can’t make an event and are exceptionally proficient at reading maps, you might be able to determine a running route via maps on the Glasshouse Trail Runs website. Glasshouse Hares and Hounds, Australia (January 2012): www.glasshousetrails.com.au.
There are heaps of races on the calendar in the coming months and if you begin your training regime now, you’ll be fit as a fiddle and ready to participate. Check the locations, mark the date on your calendar then lace up those shoes and get to moving. (If you’re interested in a training program, there are many available free online which can be found with a simple Google search.) Here are some other races you may want to participate in:
The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (January 21-28, 2012): www.thecoastalchallenge.com
Laguna Phuket Triathlon (November 27, 2011): www.lagunaphukettriathlon.com
Rotui Green Triathlon, Moorea (December 1, 2011)
Run Barbados (December 2-4, 2011): www.runbarbados.org
Reggae Marathon, Negril, Jamaica (December 3, 2011): www.reggaemarathon.com
Marathon Bahamas, Nassau (January 14-15, 2012): http://marathonbahamas.com