Approaching the home stretch of the 34th edition of the T&T International Marathon with the finish line in sight, a group of spectators, who may have been early finishers, started singing calypsonian Lord Funny's ditty: ‘Sweet, Sweet Trinidad, How I love mih country bad.” It was welcoming, patriotic music for the ears of some weary travellers.
The Team TTO group of walkers, including yours truly, were at the end of a 26.2 mile journey for a cause—raising awareness and fund raising for the 10 golds 24 athlete welfare and preparation fund. The Team TTO group included Andre Baptiste, Nigel Baptiste, Andy Cheekes, Tony Lee, Elizabeth Griffith, Roger Daniel, John Lum Young, Leslie Figaro, Curtis Nero, Richard Rahim and Dexter Skeene.
Some would have joined along the journey. The group was certain about one thing, we did not go to St Mary's Junction, Freeport to start the marathon. We went to finish it. Vision 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 was made public in May 2013 following the T&T Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) election that year.
The #10golds24 athlete welfare and preparation fund was launched in December 2014 and in January 2015 the idea to participate in the marathon as a way to raise awareness was rolled out. The support of Andre Baptiste, Tony Lee, Dexter Skeene, Andy Cheekes, Richard Rahim and Roger Daniel was enthusiastic and they all offered to do the walk in a relay.
Their enthusiasm remains fulsome as ever and they repeated this year. Completing a marathon is daunting. It is never easy, especially for non elite runners. For those who choose to walk the 26.2 miles it is a different type of commitment.
Credit must be given to the Diane Henderson led marathon committee. They were resolute in the face of the economic challenges and withdrawal of sponsors. To remain focused and determined that the marathon must not die is commendable.
As in everything else, there are many critics who all have an opinion on how the marathon can be improved. But the courage to take on the organisation of the event requires significant fortitude. A marathon can be a key driver of sport tourism if the authorities take time to apply an open mind.
But back to the Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) efforts to generate fund raising for its 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024. The marathon walk was an inspirational endeavour. The group can attest to experiencing the good and the troubling aspects of T&T but it has been mostly positive.
Coming through the Curepe junction the drunk man who made it a point to say: “What wrong with allyuh? is a marathon not a walking race. Is lazy all yuh lazy.” Then there was the impatient driver who harshly blew his horn to get the group out of the way. It made for an interesting experience that just fuelled the determination of the group.
As the sun became hot and traffic picked up, it became humid and the fumes from the vehicles made breathing at times laboured. I felt miserable, frustrated. In physical discomfort and fed up, I asked myself why am I doing this? Why am I subjecting myself to this? But focusing on the athletes and the cause and the positive energy of the group and words of encouragement from the majority of onlookers made the difference.
This year the introduction of an official marathon relay added a different element but one that will grow. Fay Ann Lyons led a team, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and family participated, Ria Ramnarine and her Fine Line colleagues and the T&T Coast Guard participated to support the #10golds24 athlete welfare and preparation fund.
The winning team Team Olympians led by Nicholas Landeau also supported the TTOC 10golds24 initiative. I’m sure that with that kind of support, none of their efforts will go to waste. This is really ‘Sweet, sweet Trinidad’. And once again it showed “how we love we country bad!”
Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC). The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the TTOC. Purchase the TTOC t-shirts at all branches of The Fan Club, Movietowne, Gulf City, Trincity and Aboutique Malls, and support the TTOC.