I am Bart Yasso, Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer. You might say I’m hooked on cruises. This is true as long as they have a running component. This past April I embarked on my 10th running cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world, Allure of the Seas. For me these trips are the perfect mixture of fitness, relaxation, fine dining and a bit of pampering.
I was part of the ESPN crew that filmed the second annual Royal 5K in Falmouth, Jamaica. I was the color commentator along with ESPN anchor Jo Ankier. Jo is an ESPN television broadcaster and former world class runner. The first Royal 5k was held in December 2010 on the beautiful Caribbean island St. Maarten.
I like to call these trips my runcations. The crazy runner in me thinks if you don’t sign a waiver you can’t call it a true vacation. This type of cruise is the perfect getaway for an endurance athlete. Allure has the longest onboard running track at 2,197 feet in length. The ship features a world class fitness center with (can I say this) a boatload of treadmills, along with an array of exercise classes to keep you active like Spin, Yoga and Pilates. Leading up to the race I engaged runners in morning runs, seminars and lectures on topics from nutrition, injury prevention, stretching and cross training. These seminars and morning runs catered to all levels from the seasoned vet to the total newbie runner.
On race day my assignment was to run 3.1 miles with a microphone, battery pack and sound equipment strapped to my body. The plan was to start in the back and conduct a few interviews along the way. I was not in the best shape of my life, which made my duties a bit tougher. Jo, on the other hand, was pretty fit and fast. It was like a jog in the park for her.
We kicked off the 5k run at 10 am in the brilliant sunshine of Falmouth, Jamaica. The starting line was about 400 meters from the ship; Allure was the perfect backdrop. The captain of the ship was riding our lead vehicle, his big bad Harley Davidson. I was shocked at the massive crowds along the course in the first few blocks. Jamaicans love running and it showed by their enthusiasm as we passed through the downtown streets. The course was out and back, most of it along the waterfront of Jamaica’s north coast. Jo and I chatted with a few runners making sure they didn’t start out too quickly. At this point in the race everyone was in good spirits and enjoying the warm greeting we received. As we neared the turnaround we spotted the leaders heading back to downtown. The runners around us turned into cheerleaders as we all encouraged the lead runners to maintain their quick pace. As we worked our way back I was using Allure off in the distance as the focal point. In my head I would repeat, “Run to the Allure, the finish line is close by.” Back in town the crowds have swelled with enthusiasm over the race and cheered us on with phrases like “Ya mon you can do it.” As soon as we crossed the finish line, we were ready to start the celebration.
We had the opportunity to interview a few runners. One young gentleman we talked to told us it was his first race ever. He caught the running bug on the ship and now he’s hooked. There was lots of post- race camaraderie with fellow crew members who took part in the race. It was fun to witness crew members and guests enjoying this challenge together. The last part of the morning offered an elaborate award ceremony for overall and age group winners, but everyone that crossed the finish line was a winner in my book.