Last night, in downtown Kingston, roughly 2,000 runners and walkers and thousands of spectators converged on this waterfront area. Digicel, one of the region’s main telecom service providers, hosted the first annual 5K “Take Back the Night” run. It was, in fact, 5.3 kilometres and Brianna and I ran it. The route took us through places that are safe during the day but where you cannot go at night. The “downtown” area is a rundown area, despite the fact that it is home to the Bank of Jamaica, a beautiful conference centre and has a large and spectacular waterfront. There are hundreds of old, decrepit buildings, vestiges of colonialism. There is an effort to revamp the area, but I’m sure it would be a multi-billion dollar effort. For now, though politicians and businesspeople are trying to lure citizens back downtown with events such as the run and new shopping centres. It was the most amazing feeling to run down in this area with thousands of others, both spectators and runners and walkers. Brianna and I were with the official running group (versus the walkers) but it seems many people who signed up to run might have been more of the aspirational variety, as the entire race required us to manoeuvre around slow walkers. There was loud music interspersed throughout the course (“I will survive” and “Funkytown”) and curious downtown residents clapping us on an providing commentary. Before and after the race, we were provided with hydration (water and Gatorade) and sustenance (oranges and bananas). There was also a warm-up and cool-down session with fitness instructors and DJs. The whole event was in the shadow of the new Digicel headquarters, which is an attractive building that looks to be about 10 storeys. Digicel is an Irish company and this new building is meant to be a sign of faith in the downtown area. Let’s hope it works. I’m not so sure about the whole “Take Back the Night” initiative though- from who are we taking back the night? If it is criminals, of course, that’s appropriate. But could residents of the downtown area misinterpret this as a slight against them? Could it further the schism between “uptown” and “downtown?” I wondered this as I passed the area residents. The race was also intended to raise awareness of children with disabilities and special needs. Wheelchair athletes participated and the top three male and female athletes were recognized. Too bad the stage was not wheelchair accessible, as Brianna pointed out.
Overall, it was a great event for many reasons, including the fact that Brianna and I felt good through the whole run. It was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.