This columnist – 50 years and climbing – was invited to cover a Press Conference to launch the 2015 edition of the Jamdammers Running Club of Kingston concept, Reggae Marathon. The event has been ecstatically embraced by the tourism-friendly community of Negril. The invitation came at a time, when other event organizers are “off-loading baggage.” With that in mind, saying thanks to the hosts of one of the stellar attractions on the nation’s sporting horizon, is in order. This columnist was excited with extra energy generated by actually, attending.
The head table content – all with a message – was impressive, an assessment that was to be sustained throughout the morning’s program. Also, pleasantly striking to the eye, was the seating, resplendent in its lily white clothing. Chief Host, Head Cook, The Big Man, all labels fit, Alfred ‘’Frano’’ Francis and his self-confessed consort, and Sponsorship Director, Diane Ellis, could well have been mistaken as a part of the décor, both seeming to have spent the night there.
Arriving on time, it should be noted, as it forms, a crucial ingredient of to a respected image, was the President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce (C of C,) charismatic, star quality, businessman and hotel mogul, Lee Issa. He was joined later – not necessarily in this order – by Richard Lake, Chairman of the world renowned road race classic, Jamdammers President, Mrs. Kaysia Johnson, and Jason Hall, Deputy Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board, a major and critical sponsor of the two day event.
Then latest, after a succession of apologies for a delayed start, was the grand (it might be in conflict with the truth, to say ‘’planned’’) showing of the Minister of Tourism & Entertainment cum Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Wyckeham NcNeill.
With the stage set for further marketing and selling of an idea, forged during early morning ‘’round the Mona Dam exercises, ” the launch got going. ‘’Frano,’’ a recurring figure at and unmistakably synonymous with road races, performed with statesmanlike composure and self assurance. He accentuated the tremendous impact the major ‘’get fit, keep fit’’ tool had registered on the Negril community and the global distance running family. Locals were in awe at its reach, as it brought in spectators from areas far removed from the tourist hub. The world’s road racers had placed it firmly on their agenda of ‘’things to do.’’ The world governing body of Athletics, the IAAF, having certified and authenticated its pedigree, had approved the event as a qualifying competition stop for championships under its umbrella. The Fortis stalwart commended the nodding and smiling, C of C President for embracing the suggestion, when it was first brought to his door. This, as was expressed, against the background of other influential (one could add “but less insightful”) citizens ‘’turning the other way.”
The convalescing Francis, happily on the road back from the challenges of health issues, was not finished there. He spoke with pristine pleasure and panache, oozing the confidence of contentment with what should be considered, a major and meaningful milestone in the event’s history. Started in 2001, this is its 15th Anniversary. Its brain parent, the Jamdammers outfit, was formed 20 years ago. So, to have a 20th and a 15th birthday in 2015 was a historic and unique position, worthy of note.
With 2, 500 participants and 35 countries expected on December 4-5, 2015, the conceptualiser was effervescent with pride, pinpointing the objectives that underpinned Reggae Marathon, “One of the first things we considered was our contribution to Sports Tourism, we wanted to build Sports Tourism in Jamaica, and have a good marathon……something that would make people want to come to Jamaica, having been exposed to running marathons all over the world with the Jamdammers Running Club. We know that every major city has a marathon and the boost that it gives to the economy and we wanted to do that for Jamaica, and in doing that, we created a first class event of the highest standard.”
The Saturday Jamaica Observer reports, “Alfred 'Frano' Francis was awarded the national honour of the Order of Distinction (Officer Class), in recognition of his contribution to altering the fitness and healthy lifestyle landscape in Jamaica.”
Congratulations Frano and Team, Trackalerts.com salutes you.
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