at the races 7 Reasons to Run a Reggae Marathon

7 Reasons to Run a Reggae Marathon


On Sunday, December 3rd, the popular Reggae Marathon event in Negril, Jamaica, kicked off at 5:15 a.m. sharp (the race is proudly not on “island time”!). In its 23rd year, this good time race in Jamaica was thrilling runners from all over the world. 

Why do you need to add a Reggae Marathon race to your destination race goals? Here are seven of the top reasons to include it in your race roster of bucket list events. 

Reason #1: The flat route

The race morning begins with some fun festivities. Before the start, I spotted a man on stilts hyping up the crowd and fireworks, and each year a set of torches on each side of the start chute are lit up. And while the heat and humidity are a significant factor to contend with, the entire route is very flat so you don’t have to stress about hills. Plus, with the start and finish at Long Bay Beach Park (situated along Negril’s famed 7-mile white sand beach), you head out just under 5k to the Negril roundabout, turn around, pass the start line (with the 10k runners turning back soon after to the finish line to complete their race) and head out about 5k towards the Negril Welcome Sign before turning back to head back to the finish. With the turnaround points at roughly the 5k and 15k (and with passing the start line, which is approximately the halfway mark), I considered the race as four distinct sections and could just focus on making it through each quarter of the race, making it an easier mental challenge.

Reason #2: The close-knit community vibes

Since the route is a loop, you’ll see runners on the opposite side of the road, and I found that so many runners were greeting each other with smiles and encouraging one another, “Good job!” It’s also a smaller race; while participants are capped at 3,000 runners, I learned at the press conference, however, that post-pandemic, participant numbers are still down. This year, 911 runners finished the 10k and 299 in the Half-Marathon. With it being a smaller race, and with the welcoming vibes of locals taking part, the race feels friendly and faces become familiar quickly. (Psst! If you’ve got a competitive nature, you’ve got better chances of placing well in your age category when there’s fewer runners. I can tell you I will never place high in my category in my usual big-city races, and here I placed 6th!)

Reason #3: A 5k distance is being added for 2024

The big news for 2024? The Reggae Marathon will be adding a 5k distance, with the goal of encouraging locals to run and maintain an active lifestyle, and making the event more accessible to travellers keen on a destination race that’s a shorter distance. Let’s face it: training requires a lot of time. Now, with a 5k distance, you can take part in the race without the months of training a half or a full demands.

Reason #4: The reggae music soundtrack

Everything feels irie when you’ve got Bob Marley as the soundtrack to your race morning. There’s reggae music blaring from speakers at every mile according to the race organizers. Given the very early start, crowd support cheering along the way is slim–other than the great volunteers at the hydration stations every mile (N.B. Water and Gatorade is in sealed baggies here, which you rip open with your teeth to sip from), you’ll find that there are a few people from the hotels lining the road do come out to cheer. With not many people out along the course, having that reggae music entertainment is a nice boost. Plus, this year there was more reggae inspiration on the mile marker signs, which featured Marley quotes including, “Bob’s Wisdom: Get up, Stand Up, Stand up for your rights.”

Reason #5: The post-race fete

The races finish at Long Bay Beach Park where you’ll find live entertainment, a cooling misting station and massages. While I found there to be little food other than bananas available, each runner gets a voucher with the race kit to redeem for a Red Stripe beer (perfect for toasting a great race!) and there are fresh coconuts to drink, too! Plus, you’ll find a few step-and-repeat backdrops, although the best backdrop for your post-race photos is the gorgeous sandy Long Bay Beach, where I took a dip to cool off before going to get a coconut to sip.

Reason #6: You can rest up for race day in gorgeous Negril

Get in a zen state of mind for racing by staying at an all-inclusive like the Royalton Negril where you’ll find cozy beds, a gorgeous beach with crystal clear water you can wade into and a buffet with a huge variety of foods that everyone in your run crew will be sure to find what they need to fuel up on (plus they’ve got a Tex Mex, steakhouse, West Indian, Japanese and Italian restaurants, too). 

Reason #7: You can reward yourself post-race with Jamaican adventures 

Once you’ve recuperated at the resort, plan for local adventures to experience this beautiful part of the island. Three must-not-miss hidden gems:

  • A massage at Natasha’s One Love Massage Spa. Muscles sore from the race? Head to Natasha’s One Love Massage Spa to her Negril Cliffs location. Set by the ocean with huge waves crashing onto the rocky shore, the spa is beneath a simple tent–if you can, schedule your massage so that you can enjoy the sunset just before or after your treatment for the absolutely breathtaking views. Nastasha’s team of pro therapists treated our run crew with deep tissue massages, all set to the soundtrack of actual ocean waves.
  • Make a candle at Negril Candle Company. Located at the Rock House Hotel, this course at Negril Candle Company will teach you about some basics about candle ingredients, fragrances and wicks and you’ll get to craft one yourself in a recycled glass bottles with your choice of scent (from the hotel’s signature Rock House scent to CBD). Makes for a great souvenir–after all, who needs another magnet?
  • Go on a waterfall adventure at Benta River Falls. About a 90-minute drive from the Negril, the family-owned business Benta River Falls in Westmorland will have you lead through a series of waterfalls and natural pools in a lush tropical landscape by friendly guides. Jump off a cliff or swing from a rope into this refreshing water and then duck behind one of the falls into a cave. Then, get a relaxing massage using limestone from the riverbed and rinse off in the falls. N.B.: Water shoes are required and you’ll need a waterproof bag for your phone if you want to take that with you (and the venue has both water shoes and phone cases available for rent).

The Reggae Marathon in Jamaica is welcoming more and more Canadians and a perfect race to cap off your year. We recommend!!