In Every Place A Race – Rationale and Relevance

marathonEvery national sports association in St Vincent and the Grenadines, as is the case elsewhere, must constantly seek innovative ways of facilitating its sustainability along a developmental pathway. Failure to do so would inevitably result in the collapse of the organization largely due to its declining appeal and relevance to the rapidly changing society in which it exists.
National sports associations must therefore constantly renew themselves and continue to present programmes to the population that would ensure a constant and consistent flow of new adherents to their respective sports.
The international sports programme has undergone significant changes over time. Some have changed in terms of the ways they have approached existing programmes. Others have created new products altogether with greater appeal to the changing nature of contemporary youth.
Tennis is a traditional sport that has experimented with a larger ball, for example. This was because there were some complaints that the television viewers did not get to see the ball during the game. This latter complaint emerged from the changing technology in the production of racquets that allowed the athlete to make more powerful and faster plays. Unfortunately, the players were not impressed with the larger ball since it was not moving fast enough. Tennis then resorted to improved technology regarding the television coverage and replays.
Table Tennis changed the colour of the ball used in competition and reduced the number of points per game as well as the frequency of the change of service in the game.
Netball has produced a version of the game called, Fast Net, designed to be a much shorter, fast paced and most exciting game.
Cricket has introduced T20 to compete alongside test matches and one-day internationals.
We have, in the recent past, witnessed the great appeal of high-adrenalin sports around the world, most of which are particularly dangerous.
Where we once considered bungy-jumping a sport only for the strong of heart we have since witnessed an onslaught of sports that take us to the limits of human endurance and at times, life itself.
Kick-boxing now rivals traditional boxing for the megabucks available in sport. It is getting ever more violent in nature.
Wrestling is a show that many young people seem unable to resist watching even as athletes are flung around the arena whether it is a ring or a cage.
Basketball has created a three-on-three version that has already been included on the programme of the Youth Olympics and is making waves amongst the world’s youth.
BMX cycling has become so attractive and exciting that it has been accepted as an integral part of the cycling events on offer at the Olympic Games.
Beach Volleyball now rivals the traditional version of the game with a World Tour that rakes in millions on an annual basis because of its appeal, particularly the approved sportswear for the women.
The foregoing are but a few examples of the changing nature of sport and the tremendous pressure that this places on national sports associations to remain relevant and to continue to attract adherents for the long haul.
Road Racing in St Vincent and the Grenadines
St Vincent and the Grenadines has a relatively long history of road racing that has seen the number of participants fluctuate over time. Many have expressed different opinions on the reason for the fluctuations.
‘Shaka’ James was among the early road runners from the Sion Hill area. He went on to contest the marathon for St Vincent and the Grenadines at the Commonwealth Games (1978) in Edmonton, Canada.
Tyrone Creese established himself as one of the outstanding athletes on the roads of this country and his battles with Dane Samuel have been considered legendary for a small country such as ours.
Dane himself came on and replaced Creese as the nation’s best on the road and represented this country in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games (1994) in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada.
Some may recall the performances of Leroy ‘Fly’ Edwards as he competed on the road albeit briefly.
Bigna Samuel dominated road running amongst the nation’s female athletes longer than any other athlete in the nation’s history. A very special athlete Bigna ran the marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K on the road as well as the 3000m, 1500m, 800m and 400m on the track.
Indeed at the last edition of the TEXACO OECS Athletics Championships held in St Lucia in 1991, Bigna won the 3000m, the 1500m, the 800m, was second in the 400m to St Vincent’s Marvette Collis, and a member of the victorious women’s 4 x 400m relay team. No other athlete in the history of the OECS Track and Field athletics has been so successful at a single competition.
Dane Sanuel got married and took up residence in Canada. His sister, Bigna, secured a scholarship to the US but never again ran in road races representing St Vincent and the Grenadines. She still resides in the US.
Ashford Morris of North Leeward brought a change to the dominance of road running when he won the Guinness Marathon in this country. He gave rise to a team that called itself The Horsemen and the North Leeward Athletics Club (NLAC) with the likes of Caswin Prince, Stuart Louie and others
An English couple, the Dingleys, spent some time working in North Leeward in the 1009s and their keen interest in athletics saw them encourage a generation of road runners from North Leeward that included men and women, boys and girls in large numbers.
Participation in the road running events grew significantly during the period of the Dingleys.
Unfortunately, as so often happens, the departure of the Dingleys to their homeland saw a decline in the participation of North Leeward athletes and an overall drop in the participation in road races.
The meteoric rise of Pamenos Ballantyne began in the mid 1990s. His local and regional successes gave encouragement to his younger brother, Benedict and also his elder cousin, Leonard.
Pamenos is still running even as he enters his 40s. His string of successes continues at the local level but he has been challenged at the regional level. His outstanding performances serve to significant enhance the image of this country in road running in the Cariubbean. Many will no doubt remember his best performances at the London Marathon, which saw him complete the event in 15th position and his 18th place finish at the Commonwealth Games (2002) in Manchester, England.
For many of the local athletes, the road running season was an important aspect of their conditioning phase of preparation for the next track season. Unfortunately not enough of our coaches see the benefit of such an approach in the contemporary period.
In Every Place, A Race
For the local governing body of the sport, TASVG, the critical issue is to engage in a comprehensive, analytical review of the history of this aspect and to make appropriate recommendations for redressing it in a manner that is at once attractive, appealing and sustainable.
The concept of In Every Place A Race was one of the mechanisms intended to encourage race running in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The initial impetus was good but then again it faltered and the organisation was left with a few races sponsored by LOG Enterprises.
In its planning for 2014 TASVG returned to the concept of In Every Place A Race with a more deliberate focus. The races would be held in different communities – Biabou, Layou, North Leeward, Campden Park, Georgetown, Bequia, Mustique and Union Island. Only athletes from the designated community and its environs would be eligible for the medals on offer as awards. Athletes from other parts of the country could participate to benefit from the competition but would not be counted for awards nor for the grand final.
The announcement of the return to In Every Place A Race immediately met with some criticism and that is to be expected. The intention is to encourage participation as a first step to redressing the decline in road running in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Young people enjoy the experience of gaining bragging rights over their peers and friends in their own community. They enjoy being in the limelight in their community and the adulation that comes with participation, completion of the event and the sweet taste of success.
The additional intention of the In Every Place A Race concept and programme is the interest that the events can bring to the entire communities in competing against each other in the grand final.
National athletes are not prevented in any way from competing in the In Every Place A Race series in their respective communities where they will receive medals if they finish in the top three positions in the designated categories. This renders them eligible for the grand final of the series at which prize monies will be on offer.
National athletes still have the designated LOG Enterprises Road Races where they receive prize monies for their awards and this has its own grand final.
Road running is fun and TASVG seems keen on engaging youngsters from every part of St Vincent and the Grenadines to take the plunge and rise to the challenge.
We can expect shorter and more exciting events on the road in the future.
Pamenos Ballantyne will no doubt continue running on the road for some time. He has already begun to show interest in participating in Masters events after having entered his 40s.
He has become a certified IAAF coach and has been working with some young students from the St Martin’s Secondary School for a little over two years and has seen good results. They dominated the distanced events at the Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships in their age categories for the past two editions of the event.
The St Martin’s Secondary School team placed second in the Secondary Schools segment of the annual TASVG Round D Town road relay in 2013 to taking the first place in 2014. The average age of the team was 14 years. A second team from St Martin’s also took the third place in the road relay.
There is little doubt that with the reintroduction of the In Every Place A Race series we can expect a return to popularity of road running and ultimately, significant increase in participation in track and field competition. This can ultimately lead to regional and international successes to the glory of St Vincent and the Grenadines.