Many think of St. Croix as a tropical paradise full of beaches, where people spend their days basking in the sun and floating in the Caribbean Sea. While that is partially true, there is also a huge fitness and running community here on the island. For visitors and residents, this means that while you enjoy this slice of paradise, you can also enter one (or more) of dozens of different road races offered on St. Croix each year. No matter what your current fitness level, there is a race for you.
Here on St. Croix, the Virgin Islands Pace Runners coordinate dozens of races annually for adults, kids, families, and athletes. From 520 meter runs to ultra marathons, there is something for adults and children of all ages. If you are just getting started, or you will be walking the event instead of running, I would recommend trying a 5K (which is 3.1 miles). Some of the more well known annual 5K road races include the Veterans Day 5K, the Paradise 5K, and the National Library Week Run to Your Library 5K. Or, try aiming a little higher with the The Flight #64 Four Mile or join in the fun of the Cane Bay 5 Mile. If you have never tried a road race before and are intimated by the idea of a 5K, consider doing one of the even shorter races such as the Three Kings Mile, the Memorial Day 2 Mile, the Olympic Day Run (1 mile), or the Women’s Race (2 miles).
First time racer? Don’t worry! As someone who is not a runner, but has completed many 5K and 4.12 mile races, and even a half marathon, I can tell you anything is possible! Don’t let the term ‘race’ scare you, you are a winner just for participating. In fact, even though I usually set a reasonable time goal for myself, my true goal is always simply to finish the race. To get you started, here are a few tips to make your first 5K more comfortable, and maybe even enjoyable:
- Get to the race early. Make sure you read the emails and handouts provided by the race organization to let you know the details of the races, including transportation, start times, parking, and street closures on race morning.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. A 5K can be a LONG race if your feet hurt, or your clothes are rubbing or chaffing. Make sure you wear clothes and tennis shoes you know are comfortable, and that you have run or walked in prior to race day.
- Keep your pace steady. It’s a good to know your average mile pace so that you know if you are going too fast or slow during the race, then you can adjust accordingly. You don’t want to start out too fast and burn out too soon.
- Focus on yourself and your race. Sometimes when you get to a race it can be overwhelming and there can be a lot of action, noise and stuff going on. Take time before the race starts to warm up, sip some water, find your starting area/corral, and set your personal goals or intentions for the race.
- Live in the moment. It’s your first 5K! It should be empowering to do something that you’ve never done before, or that you didn’t think was possible. Enjoy the race route and the overall experience.
- Recruit your friends and family. You will often see groups dressed in the same t-shirt getting ready to run and supporting each other the whole way, which makes the experience more fun. You can definitely run alone if you choose, but signing up with a partner or group of others creates more accountability and a ‘we’re-in-this-together’ mentality. ￼
Don’t forget about the kids! Many children love to run just for fun, and really enjoy getting to participate in a race. There are a few special race events held for kids including the Children’s Race (800 meters) and the Children Run Christiansted (520 meters). Even as a spectator, these are fun races. The parents, friends and community come out and cheer on all of the racers. Plus, the kids all receive medals or ribbons for participating. Make race day a family affair by participating with your little ones, or by being supportive and encouraging to your kids.
For the more serious athletes out there (or those looking for more of a challenge than a 5K), St. Croix offers a beautiful, but challenging race environment for a wide range of distance races. For the true endurance runner, the St. Croix Scenic 50 Ultra Marathon offers stunning views as you traverse 50 miles of the island’s historic towns, mountains, rainforest, and shoreline. Not quite ready for 50 miles?Consider participating in the St. Croix International Marathon (26.2 miles) or Half Marathon (13.1 miles). You can also take in both of the historic towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted, and everything in between, by participating in the annual Martin Luther King Fort-to-Fort Run (15.5 miles).
Get out and enjoy the tropical weather and scenic views St. Croix offers while you challenge yourself to a road race. Please check our Calendar of Events for upcoming races, or visit virginislandspace.org or www.stcroix50.com for more information and details on upcoming races. Most importantly, have fun!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor