Almost every aspect of Sunday’s Marathon Walk bore remnants of the T&T Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) participation in the annual T&T International Marathon (TTIM) for the past seven years, only this time all wore masks and it was during a pandemic.
The masks, of course, were used as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but it did take away from the aim of competing in the 26.2-mile marathon, its traditional yearly kickstart to the #10golds24 Athletes Welfare and Preparation Fund as well as the celebration of the TTOC’s 75th anniversary.
The event took place on the final day of the newly installed TTIM Virtual Marathon & Ultra Challenge, due to the pandemic, which ran from January 1, providing familiar features as well as new experiences but it was clear that the virus was totally outmatched by TTOC president Brian Lewis and his team.
“In the context of COVID-19, it was important that we got the 75th off to a great start. COVID-19 will have an impact on how we celebrate our 75th,” said told Guardian Media Sports on Monday, knowingly but added that, “It would have been easy to say because of the COVID-19 and the challenges, ‘Nah, let us not do it but the athletes are out there fighting it. What message and signal would that have sent? What message it would have sent about the TTOC’s commitment to the athletes and the athletes’ welfare fund and everything? We wanted to send a positive message that COVID-19 or no COVID-19, life goes on. The commitment to the TTO athletes, the commitment to raising funds remain,” said Lewis, who used a disposable mask from MedixxTT Medical Apparel and Accessories but admitted, “Having to wear a mask for 26.2 miles required discipline. Also trying to maintain the 2 metres (feet) physical distance.”
The journey began at the traditional starting point, St Mary’s Junction in Freeport but from an earlier time 2 am and there was also a change along the route.
“It’s hard to explain the experience of the Caroni Plains. This year it was still dark when we passed. Usually, it has fog as the sun is a few minutes shy of rising up. It’s a very scenic route,” reminisced Lewis, yesterday. The weather was cooler and not as humid as in previous years, mentioned adding that the choice to revert to the Eastern Main Road (EMR) rather than go down the Priority Bus Route worked in the group’s favour.
“The interaction with the public is always better on the EMR. A taxi driver actually gave Clayton Morris money from his earnings at that time as his contribution to the fund.”
Morris, the former Strike Squad skipper and current Northern Football Association (NFA) president was among a lively bunch, each dressed in the special edition 75th anniversary #10golds24 walk Tshirt, who participated which included familiar faces in Richie Rahim of San Fernando, Republic Bank managing director Nigel Baptiste and his brother popular sports commentator and broadcaster Andre Baptiste and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat.
Rahim was the first walker to arrive at the traditional finish, opposite Whitehall at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain which according to Lewis was actually 27 miles. The 71-year-old did it in a time of five hours and 59 minutes while Baptiste arrived first at the 26.2-mile mark (Service Commission) in five hours and 56 minutes. Rahim and the Baptiste brothers have supported since the inception of the TTOC Marathon Walk, however, it is the first time that Nigel has completed the entire marathon distance according to Lewis, who clocked in six hours and 37 seconds for the trip.
“Richie Rahim is amongst the TTOC #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund crew, our perennial marathon walk champion!” said Lewis. “He gets to Whitehall first. There is a great camaraderie as we strive for a common cause which is making a contribution to Team TTO.”
Among the other participants were outgoing Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary of Sport Jomo Pitt, Councilor for Kelly Village/Warrenville Samuel Sankar, Futsal Association of T&T president Geoffrey Edwards, Caribbean Airlines (CAL) captain Andy Cheekes, former sports broadcasters Roger Sant and Robert Dumas, flagman Joey Richardson and his crew along with Anton Lafond. Fine Line Fight Factory owner and boxing promoter Bharat Ramoutar and former national boxer Ria Ramnarine were also quite helpful along the course.