Running in Paradise

Jogging through a tropical landscape full of blue lagoons and white
sand beaches shaded by tall palms seems like a dream.

But on the island of Mauritius this dream becomes a reality when runners gather for the annual Marathon De L’ile Maurice.

Curving along the southern coastline, the Mauritius Island Marathon takes participants on a beautiful tropics tour. Runners traverse the many beaches, trot through the lush southern jungle, and pass spectacular cliffs. The bright sun sparkles off the ocean, and the breeze keeps runners cool. This marathon is considered to be one of the most beautiful races in the world.

The Mauritius Island Marathon offers both participants and observers alike a taste of the island’s culture and scenery. Beginning at the foot of Le Morne, a mountain that has come to symbolise freedom, the marathon starts out with a stretch of beach. In the first leg of the marathon, runners see the local fisherman and the many water sport enthusiasts as they run along the shoreline near Tamarin. Runners then pass through the Baie Du Cap, flanked by mountains and white sand beaches, and shaded by the beautiful coconut palms and casuarinas trees. After this glimpse of paradise, the runners reach what is thought to be the toughest part of the race: the winding path through the cliffs and mountains of Maccondé Bay. The course then crosses through the old sugar cane estates, Saint Martin and Bel Ombre, which are reminders of the nation’s past. In the last few kilometres of the marathon, the pounding of the waves urges runners across the pebble beach at St. Felix. At the finish line await drinks and a meal, and, after running alongside it for kilometres, racers can finally jump into the cool ocean.

The marathon has been held on and off for years, and 2012 will be the third race organized by Incentive Ltd. This year the race will be held on the 15th of July, 2012. Starting at 7:00 am, runners have six hours to complete the 42.195 kilometre course. According to marathon records, the 2011 time to beat is Jacek Cieluzecki’s 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 24 seconds. For women, Caroline Merz holds the record at 4 hours, 18 minutes, and 5 seconds.

There are about 400 participants, including iinternationally-ranked runners. The race is certified by the Association of International Marathon and Distance Racers and the International Association of Athletic Federations, drawing in competitive runners from all over the globe. Fauja Singh, a man made famous for running marathons at 100 years old, plans to participate with his running team. While the many hills make the course difficult, the marathon is open to the general public and many non-professionals compete. Some come for the challenge, others just to experience the amazing scenery the Mauritius Island Marathon has to offer. For those who are not in full marathon shape, there is also a halfmarathon and a family run for the kids.

Like many races, there are more than just athletes involved. Volunteers and officials monitor the runners. Spectators line the route, cheering participants on and offering them something to drink. Even the locals join in to urge the runners onward.

This marathon is supported because it does more than just test the limits of the human body. This race is dubbed an ecoresponsible marathon, because its proceeds will benefit Mauritius Marine Conservation Society. The race helps preserve the phenomenal nature it traverses, and also supports the island by drawing attention to the location and bringing in tourism.

The marathon is a draw for many people: runners, family, fans, and support crew. While on the islands, marathoners are able to experience the local culture. They can listen to Mauritian Sega music, or try out kite surfing. The island is well known for its picturesque landscape, full of beautiful blue lagoons and vivid tropical f lora. Pristine coral reefs dot the coastline, and several mountains climb into the sky. Mauritius is home to some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world, which supplies an incredible cuisine. Located in the Indian Ocean, the island is a mix of many cultures, including a large Creole population, with traditions from around the globe.

The marathon is becoming an important tradition for Mauritius. Locals cheer on the runners as they cross through villages, and area businesses sponsor the run. With the warm welcome from the islanders and the unforgettable scenery, it is no wonder that the Mauritius Island Marathon is one of the loveliest marathons in the world.

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