As part of Holetown’s week long festival you could take part in a walk (or run) from Speightstown to Holetown, a distance of 7 kilometres or 4.3 miles. Mirren and I decided that we would do it and at 3.15 on sunday afternoon. I wore my new Barbados T shirt dress, hoping that I had chosen the coolest item of clothing in my wardrobe. Mirren looked cool in her light lemon cotton top and natty little black shorts, she wore a sensible canvas hat and carried a rucksack containing all that we might need. I had borrowed Brendas rather floppy knitted straw hat and was carrying a leather back bag containing a bottle of water, an orange and my swimming costume. As we approached the meeting point there didn’t seem to be many entrants. A group of men were limbering up and I asked them if they were the runners. ‘No, we are walkers,’ they called back. They looked very fit and why do all those exercises for a seven kilometre walk, along a flat road to Holetown? Was there something that I didn’t know.
As we approached the registration vehicle, I began to worry some more. Where were the townspeople, the fun runners and the strollers? A rather large lady standing next to me had the name of a gym emblazoned across the shoulders of her tee shirt.
‘Are you a regular at this sort of event?’ I asked her.
‘No I’ve only ever done 3 kilometres before,’ she said, ‘I mostly go to the gym.’She had her teenage son and a very youg daughter with her.
‘I’m a bit nervous,’ I said, ‘when I look around at all these serious contender.’
‘Look at me,’ she said, ‘I’m carrying my handbag,’ and over one should she had an overlarge, zebra striped handbag.
‘Name, age?’ asked the official. What! I scanned the list looking at the other ages, 24, 40, 30 something – did I see 74, or was I hoping. In the end the oldest man was 64, I never did find out who the oldest oman was but felt sure I was up there with her.
‘Walkers, over here please,’ called out the man on the other side of the road. There were about thirty of us and as the gun blasted out above our heads at least twenty of them set off at a great pace. I was certain then that I was in the wrong race. With elbows punching out either side and their hips jutting this way and that they rounded the roundabout before I had time to think what I was doing. A few whities were walking in front of us in a smart but not an athletic way and so I thought that we were going to be alright. They soon widened the gap between Mirren and I and the lady from the gym was about twenty yards behind us with a police car following.
‘I could do with a drink,’ said Mirren just as I spotted the fish stall where we had been told that water would be given out. The hot sun beat down on us and stood still to enjoy the bottle of water offered to us whilst watching the others round the bend far in the distance. They gap was growing larger and looking back I couldn’t see the lady from the gym.
We carried on, criss crossing the road to catch whatever shade we could find, a few people stood outside their houses and either stared at us or shouted, ‘you’ve got to run.’ ‘We’re walkers,’ we yelled back and smiled a lot. Our numbers were emblazoned across our chests symbolising our determination to win the race but we walked and talked. A group of women at the bus stop clapped as we went by. Finally we reached St James church and we felt great that we were still going strong, nearly there and then a runner past us, and then another. Fit young men their black bodies slick with sweat, their faces serious with the desire to win.
‘We should go faster,’ said Mirren. If only I could, I seemed to have had once pace the whole way. We looked for Patrick, Mirren’s husband, who had chosen to do the run. The heat was relentless and stepping out as much as I could we rounded the corner to the finish that was lined with people cheering and clapping as the runners sped past us. The finishing line officials brushed us to one side as they checked the runners, no longer interested in the two last walkers.
Annette greeted us with a huge grin and warm hug. She was proud of us and we were proud of us. We had left at 3.35 and arrived at the finish at 5pm. Not bad, I had reckoned that it would take me about that long. Mirren stood by the roadside waiting to capture Patrick with her camera as he rounded the corner wearing his bright red baseball cap and a white tee shirt, the sweat pouring of him. ‘Well done,’ it was a fabulous achievement. I went looking for the gym lady, and then I saw her.
‘How did you get on?’
‘I did it, my kids helped me and we finished.’
We shook hands but it was too formal and I gave her a hug.
‘What is you name?’ I asked her.
‘I am Wendy and my daughter is called Julie and so I will never forget you,’ I said.
We were brave to enter and victorous on our completion and Patrick got a prize for being the oldest man to enter the men’s race!