I traveled to Jamaica for a rather strange reason: in a brief moment of pure insanity I registered for the Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica. While it sounds like I might be dancing to reggae all night for some noble cause, instead I subjected myself to running 26.2 miles starting before sunrise.
Screenshot from my finish line video…proof!
Like I said, it was a brief moment of pure insanity that prompted this trip. But then, the line between genius and insanity is fine and perhaps I danced to a bit of reggae along both sides of it.
Negril is located on Jamaica’s west coast, far from Kingston and the more popular Treasure Beach along the south shore. Negril is a tourism center in its own right, offering the typical Sandals and other such resort compounds where discounts abound but freedom is restricted through fear of the outside world.
We, of course, opted to stray from the standard accommodations and found ourselves a small hostel at the far end of town up the hill. Finding the location to book online was easy; finding it in real life proved to be a moment that made our trip outstanding.
After taking a bus from the airport out to Negril, we found the marathon registration area and signed our lives and muscles away. Feeling a bit anxious and not wanting to walk aimlessly for miles in the December tropical heat, I requested that we cab to our hostel from there.
As we meandered down the main road in hopes of snagging a cab, a shouted greeting from a parking lot turned my friend’s head. As she is wont to do, she walked over and made a new friend. Just because she’s that amazing. This new friend of ours offered to drive us in his mystery van, which, of course, we thought was a fantastic idea despite having watched every TV show and movie showing this exact scene ending in nightmares.
Our lives are based in reality, however, so no such nightmares occurred.
Instead, we did truly make a new friend and he did truly drive us to our hostel and he additionally offered to not only escort us back to the marathon opening dinner party later that evening, he offered to join us in the race. No joke. This guy decided on a whim that he, too, would run a half marathon with my friend while I carried on my merry way to double their mileage. Apparently, he also had a brief moment of pure insanity.
Our new friend, Tyrone, turned out to be an integral part of our newfound love for Jamaica.
Negril is really a small beach town similar to West End, Roatan…it even has its own West End section of town! Bars and eateries line the street alongside hotels, and all things lead to the ocean. The beach is central to everything, just as it should be on an island. At the far end of Negril’s main beach strip is the famous bar, Rick’s Cafe (not to be confused with the one in Casablanca, Morocco), where you can cliff jump and pay for expensive drinks. The cliffs of Negril offer the best sunset views, but we opted for the quieter areas between the massive resorts and the crowd at the cliffs.
We preferred the random little beach grill hut we found, with nobody on the beach nearby except an adorable little dog. This was the perfect solution to our aching muscles after running ourselves ragged. We also discovered the delicious food stalls late at night, offering phenomenal jerk dishes at rock-bottom prices. To me, that typical characteristic alone is reason enough to love all beach towns!
When we sought a little more adventure, our good friend Tyrone took us inland to hang out with his buddy, whom we will call Doc. Doc was probably about 75 years old with gray dreadlocks to his knees and the biggest joint I’ve ever seen permanently entwined between his fingers. We moseyed through the Roaring River Estate formerly owned by the Beckford family. The local community maintains the Roaring River Park these days, so Doc took us around to seek out the freshest almonds on Earth and the calmest pools to dip our feet into. We learned some local history and folklore, we shared stories and shared a mere moment in our lives. But moments are memories and I loved this day.
From the estate, we headed into the cave cut into the side of the mountain, where we ducked under sleeping bats and tried not to slip across their slimy guano droppings. We found our way into yet another pool, which Doc claimed had no bottom. Trusting this new friend-of-a-friend, we leapt into this mystery water and listened to our laughter echo through eternity. It was a perfect day.
A long, precariously cliff-ridden drive through the mountains brought us back toward the north coast, with a quick stop at Tyrone’s mom’s house to say hello. I don’t think I know a single other cabbie who would detour to introduce you to his family in the town where he grew up. But, then again, he wasn’t just a regular cabbie. This man is a gem.
We begrudgingly boarded a plane back home from Montego Bay airport. We left with memories and with one hell of a long road race completed. But we also left without small pieces of our hearts, which were scattered along the gorgeous landscape of this Caribbean island.
Jamaica captured our hearts with its wild jungle and wild joy for life. Jamaica is one love I won’t soon forget.
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