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Date : 26th March, 2018
Time : 51’25”
Number of runners : 1
Total distance run to date : 1400 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2609070837
Everyone said the same thing. Dominica – pronounced Domi-nee-ca – is very beautiful but I’m not sure what you’re going to find there. It got hit very hard by the hurricane (Maria).
And if that sounds like we weren’t talking to people who lived locally, that’s because we weren’t. It proved very difficult to get hold of people in Dominica. In fact, for the first time since Denise ‘Da Bees Knees’ joined the Run the World team, I was running on my own.
Which was perhaps no bad thing as the way my schedule worked out I had very little time on the island. It was late afternoon as I came out through customs and I needed to hurry if I was to finish my run while it was still light.
Now, you may well live in a part of the world where this wouldn’t be a huge issue. Yes, it’s nice to run in the daylight but, if you don’t, then you can still go outside and run by street light. Except not in Dominica – at least not in the part where I was staying. Which was the rather charming, if somewhat isolated, Hibiscus Valley Inn on the side of the main road across the island’s interior.
There aren’t any street lights there. In fact there isn’t any electricity.
In other words, when there’s no more daylight, it’s proper dark.*
Luckily my taxi driver bought into the need for speed but once I got to the hotel it was one of those times when you want to hurry but everything conspires against you. Having finally found and changed into my running gear, I set off. In the direction away from the airport, and towards the interior, because my taxi driver told me it was less hilly in that direction. Which was true – but only because it was very hilly in the other direction.
As I ran along the road it was immediately apparent that the island was far from having fully recovered from the hurricane. I was surrounded by damaged trees and vegetation and flanked by a series of telegraph poles at crazy angles.
I soon realised that my original plan of running 5km in one direction – and then returning back to the hotel to complete my 10km – wasn’t going to work. There just wasn’t enough light. So I turned round after about 4km and told myself that I would do the final 2km near the Hibiscus Valley Inn. At least it had a generator and some light to run by – even if it meant running round in circles near the hotel.
By now, the number of insects dive bombing me seemed to have increased. As did the noises from ‘I don’t know what that is’ in the surrounding bush. And, most disturbingly, there were suddenly a number of people walking down the middle of the road in grey shirts that were very hard to see in the dying light. People who, for some reason, didn’t think a smile or a hello were needed in response to my greetings. I’m not saying they were the walking dead. But they weren’t very lively.
If you look at the time splits on my run you will see that I sped up considerably at this juncture…
Eventually I made it back to the hotel with about 2 km to go. Which I covered by doing 500 metre loops along the road near the hotel.
Although I could see the light from the hotel it was otherwise pitch black by this stage. And a very strange thing happened. Although I was running back and forth along the same stretch of road, I was always running uphill.
Rationally, I know this was just an illusion but I can promise you it felt like I was caught running in an Escher-esque world where the only way was up.**
With my nerves a little wracked I finally made it to the 10km mark and gratefully scurried to the safety of my room.
Later that evening, I got talking to Marina from Slovenia and Sebastian from Germany. They’ve travelled almost as much as I have and used to think the Seychelles was the most beautiful place on the planet. But they’ve now decided that title belongs to Dominica. In fact, they liked Dominica so much that they got engaged on the island.
Marina, Sebastian, it was a pleasure to meet you and good luck with the wedding. And don’t forget my advice – you need to hold the wedding somewhere your parents can attend. And, yes I do know best. I’m a parent.
Dominica – I shall have to come back some day. I know you’re beautiful – I just haven’t been able to fully appreciate you yet!
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* All the photos were taken the next morning when it was light. Well, not the zombie one which was obviously taken during the run.
** Usual Run the World gold stars for the first person to correctly identify the musical references.