When you need to escape winter you run to an island.
BY: Anna Lee Boschetto
As the sun rises at the 2019 Moorea Marathon , the sky filled with hues of amber and rose quartz and it is breathtaking. So much so that when I notice the sky view out of the corner of my eye I set off the course for a moment and snap a few photos. This is the five-kilometer mark of the half marathon I’m running here in Mo’orea and I already know that this is not a race where I’m likely to score a PB and as I head back onto the course I’m perfectly alright with it. A personal best at this race is hardly the I’ve traveled nearly 20 hours to race on the Islands of Tahiti.
While some runners use destination racing as an end goal and a focus, a reason to run further or faster, that has never been my motivation. As a runner with an endless energy, the sport has given me patience and focus that you need in just about everything from family to careers, and it’s much the same with destination racing. A love of running (or any sport) can have them exploring places you might never have otherwise discovered, and that is equally as important as the competition found in sport. From running through the Rockies to the cobblestone streets of Barcelona and along the Mediterranean Sea, I’m feel as though I’m able to regenerate, find a sense of focus and ground myself as I immerse myself in the landscapes that surround me.
Despite having raced a half marathon a few weeks before, this was an entirely different race. When you have spent the first quarter of the year in the cold days of a Canadian winter, there was no preparing for the rapidly soaring temperatures. Even with an early morning start, the Mo’orea Marathon wasn’t mine for a PB but it was more than a challenging training run.
This was an eye-opening race, one for your senses in every possible way, and one where connecting with other runners would get you through to the finish line. Runners in general are a friendly, bunch with plenty of camaraderie at the start line and through out the race. On race day it felt as though Moorea’s relaxed atmosphere seemed to infuse every runner with a little extra energy, an even greater desire to connect with one another, encouraging even more cheering in those last few kilometers, where it can be tough for runners like me, who don’t reside in tropical climates.
Tahiti’s beauty is incomparable. The island vibe is second to none. From the moment I breathed in the sea salt scented air I knew I was some place special. Throughout the race, I found myself making a conscious effort to breathe in the tropical floral fragrances that mingle with the sea salt when you’re on the race course. It is a way of focusing less on the intensity of the rising heat and more on the incredible beauty that surrounds you. The Island of Tahiti’s landscape captivating display of natural wonders.
On the race course traditional Tahitian drummers and dancers contribute to the positive energy that seems to be passed on from cheering spectators and one runner to the next. At this race, you’re running on all senses, and it is renewing with every step. Carried away by the rhythm of the drums, runners are propelled on, perhaps running lighter and maybe even a little faster, even in the rising humidity.
The island of Moorea is a 30-minute boat ride from Tahiti. Local islanders commute daily between the two islands, which have distinct atmospheres—Moorea’s is a laidback one, while the intensity of urban energy is palpable in Tahiti. On Moorea, nature is your playground. From the biking along the coastline, and up through soaring mountain trails, around every bend each view is more breathtaking than the last. In the final kilometers of the race, it is the combination of the ocean tides, rugged mountains and lush tropical forests where I find a calmness and energy that keeps me going, one step at a time.
There is an energetic level of excitement in Tahiti, one that is mixed with a warm and relaxed island vibe that keeps everything in balance. More than 75, 000 tourists visit the Tahitian islands each year. Some are looking for adventure, others are looking to recharge, and everyone seems to find that Tahiti is exactly where they need to be.
As I cross the finish line, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m running on an island in the Pacific, a destination I thought I’d never get to experience. Personal goals aside that’s the thing, life and running are all about the experience and we choose what we value most, and how we enjoy it.