Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
The 13th staging of the Reggae Marathon/Half Marathon and 10K road race is all set to be bigger and better, with more runners likely to participate in the Negril event on December 7.
Organisers of the event, Jamdammers Running Club of Kingston, disclosed that with just under two months to go, there has been a 43 per cent increase in entrants over the same period last year.
"While we are seeing a growing interest in road racing and other events that promote a healthy lifestyle, the increase could be due, in part, to the fact that many participants find it easier and more convenient to register online, and they are taking advantage of the discounted early entry fee. We are very pleased with this development," Reggae Marathon race director, Alfred 'Frano' Francis, told the gathering at the media launch yesterday morning at Altamont Court hotel in New Kingston.
Francis said in addition to a strong Jamaican contingent, participants from some 12 countries are also expected to be represented at the marathon.
"Over the years, we have developed a good overseas following and expect to see a number of repeat visitors. Those already confirmed include Black Girls Run, the largest participating group, with a contingent of 144 runners and an additional 41 supporters.
"Other repeat groups, such as the Canadian teams, Runners Mark and the Running Girlz of Canada, are also expected to attend, along with OC Trails, the Caribbean Liver Foundation and Race for a Reason. We also welcome the many first-timers, including the Reggae Rebels, who also hail from Canada," Francis said.
The veteran race director said another feature of this year's marathon is the use of the MyLaps Bib Tag system for race timing.
"MyLaps is the next generation of ChampioChip that we've used for the past 12 years and it has the reliability and accuracy that runners demand," he explained.
Long-serving president of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Michael Fennell, spoke of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
"This is an event that those involved in sports look forward to every year. The purpose is also to attract more people in living a healthy lifestyle," Fennell said.
"We need to have a sports-tourism economic assessment. Other countries, particularly Canada, have developed this. We will be looking at how it is done," he said.
Meanwhile, Natalie Neita-Headley, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with responsibility for sports, said the OPM will be partnering with the Ministry of Health "to find ways of continuing a healthy lifestyle. We are encouraging all Jamaicans to take part in events like Reggae Marathon."
This year's Reggae Marathon has attracted 48 sponsors.