Sunday last saw yet another edition of the Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race conducted here in St Vincent and the Grenadine son the Leeward side of the island.
The Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race has, in the recent past, been sponsored in part by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) through the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation (NACAC) to the tune of $10,000 USD.
The vast majority of the funds have been spent on the prize monies for the participants.
For the second consecutive year, the race was won by Junior Ashton, of Sandy Bay, who has no cemented his place as this country’s leading male distance runner, replacing the long-serving, Pamenos Ballantyne.
Linda McDowall, has also confirmed her place at the helm of female Vincentian road runners, copping her second straight title in the event.
The original concept of the Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race emerged several years ago. The event intended to create a special sport tourism niche for St Vincent and the Grenadines. To this end the race was promoted at the local, regional and international levels as, “The World’s Most Challenging 10K Road Race”.
Organisers of the event, Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (St Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Athletics Association at the time) wanted to, at one and the same time, create an event that matched the strong legacy associated with Paramount Chief, Joseph Chatoyer, eventually named the country’s first and thus far, only national hero, and the rolling hills and valleys in the scenic nation we call home.
The organisers wanted an event that would appeal to those athletes around the world who were anxious to confront challenges in the field of sport and who would tell the rest of the world about their experiences in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The original Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race started in Pembroke on the leeward side and ended at the entrance to the historic, Fort Charlotte.
The idea of concluding the race and hosting the awards ceremony at Fort Charlotte, had much appeal. It was considered an ideal tourism location that allowed participants and supporters of the sport alike, the opportunity to enjoy the incredibly beautiful views.
The early races saw an array of Caribbean athletes coming here and taking top honours for some time.
We had Claude Nohile of Martinique, Moses Ranghell of Trinidad and Tobago, Linton Mc Kenzie of Jamaica, with Pamenos Ballantyne, Bigna Samuel, Adelaide Carrington and Lisa Daniel, among winners.
Mention must be made here of the fact that one of the early supporters of the initiative was Maurice Slater, who left New York each year in time to participate.
Indeed, Slater was so impressed with the achievements of Pamenos Ballantyne that he offered him a subscription to Runners’ World magazine.
Funding proved the major challenge and the race was eventually abandoned.
In 2015, TASVG agreed to reintroduce the Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race and requested the financial support of NACAC. The organisers acquired the support of the News newspaper, which is still the case, NICE Radio and some of the companies carried by Premium Products.
Anxious to maintain the link with the earlier editions of the Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race, organisers approached the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture, to access the facilities at Fort Charlotte for the conclusion of the event and the award ceremonies.
The response was not consistent with the plans and projection of TASVG.
The organisation was informed that vehicles would be severely restricted and loud music prohibited.
It was then that TASVG began looking for a race route that would prove as challenging or even more so. North Leeward provided the ideal route, with an opportunity to end near a playing field, in an area that is proving increasingly attractive to tourists.
The first of the revised edition of the Chatoyer International Endurance 10K Road Race was won by Kenyan athlete, Kenneth Rotich, resident in Trinidad and Tobago, who simply demolished all opponents in the challenging event. He set an incredible standard that would be hard to beat for some time.
Linda Mc Dowall has done the double in 2016 and 2017, just as her male counterpart, Junior Ashton. Interestingly, in the 2016 event, McDowall lost to Pamenos Ballantyne in a competitive sprint to the finish line. For Ashton, the same year’s event was the veritable snatching of the title as the nation’s leading distance runner from an ageing Pamenos Ballantyne.
Interestingly, this year’s edition of the event saw the shocking registration of Ballantyne in the Open category instead of the International segment, a tacit acknowledgement of where he is today in distance running in the Caribbean. Even then. He could only finish third behind Meshach Dublin and Akani Slater.
Happily, Pamenos has already committed himself to coaching as a future career option.
Chatoyer 10K 2017
This year’s event featured 50 athletes. The international category saw athletes from Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat and St Lucia, competing against a small Vincentian contingent.
It was a bit embarrassing that only Junior Ashton of St Vincent and the Grenadines thought himself competent and prepared enough to contest the international male category in the event.
In the female division of the international category, only Linda McDowall and Kerina Hooper thought themselves sufficiently daring to contest against the overseas athletes.
The race was highly competitive as the Jamaican, Kirk Brown, sought to mount an early challenge to Ashton. The latter, competing at home, did not yield throughout the encounter.
It was in Troumaca that Brown stopped to vomit, leaving Ashton with an opportunity to open a relatively long gap between them.
Tried as he might, Brown could not close the gap, leaving Ashton victorious for yet another occasion.
Linda Mc Dowall continues to develop into a good distance runner at the Caribbean level, having only recently won the South American 10K in Guyana.
Athletes from the Richmond Vale Academy did very well and perhaps performed better than their counterparts in previous editions of the event.
This year’s event saw in increase in prize monies.
Additionally, TASVG covered accommodation and meals for the international athletes for an extra day. This was in order to give the visitors a longer period to rest prior to the event.
By arriving on Friday instead of Saturday as was the case in the past, the athletes are taken on the race course on the Saturday morning, and do not have to compete until Sunday afternoon. This puts them in a better frame of mind for the challenges ahead.
The international competitors in this year’s event expressed satisfaction with the extended stay and the impact it had on their overall performance.
The concept of sport tourism is merely used conveniently in this country by those in authority. Evidence reveals a clear lack of understanding of the concept and even less in terms of actions taken and resources allocated to facilitate the systematic development of a Vincentian sport tourism industry.
When the local swimming association hosted the OECS Swimming Championships here last year it was clear by the conspicuous absence of government leaders, that the event was not seen as a sport tourism event and one that has immense potential in adding value to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
On the other hand, when the government promoted the Masters Cricket Tournament during Independence and remained struggling for an audience, many touted it as a sport tourism venture. Clear evidence of a lack of understanding of and appreciation for what actually constitutes sport tourism.
The Chatoyer International Endurance 10K will be the final in a new NACAC 10K Series that begins in 2018. The plan is for the winners of each race in the Series to be brought by NACAC to the Grand Finale, here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In a discussion earlier this year TASVG explained to NACAC’s leadership why the particular route had been chosen.
There are many 10K road races across the world. In our continental region none of them are as challenging at ours.
The idea is to produce an annual race that targets a very special group of runners.
The fact is that such is the nature of our terrain that we have hills and valleys and our athletes use these all the time to prepare themselves for their respective sports.
The marketing pitch to athletes around the world is that St Vincent and the Grenadines boasts the most challenging 10K road race in the world. If you are good at distance running and love engaging in challenges, then this is the race to contest, wherever in the world you are from.
NACAC itself is prepared to do more to assist TASVG in promoting the event in the future.
Greater attention must be paid to engendering more interest at the local level.
The day of the event must increasingly become a day of road races and other attractive, entertaining athletics events so that the finish area would be a hive of activity from around midday, through to the awards ceremony.
It is also possible that all categories in the event would be opened up to athletes from around the world. The event must become increasingly attractive to athletes and the performance standards must rise.
Local and regional sponsors must be sought to aid in the provision of a wide range of incentives.
The annual Chatoyer International Endurance 10K road race can become one of the most interesting road running sport tourism events in the Caribbean.