Sat | Sep 23, 2023

Road racing back in stride after COVID – Francis

Published:Saturday | November 19, 2022 | 12:07 AMHubert Lawrence/Gleaner Writer
Alfred Francis, managing director at Running Events.
Alfred Francis, managing director at Running Events.

Struck down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the local road racing circuit is back in stride. That’s the observation from Alfred Francis, managing director of Running Events. Though he is happy to see the revival, Francis thinks Jamaica can do more to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Speaking on Sunday at the Burger King 5K event in Portmore, Francis said: “We’re getting back on board after COVID. For 2020 and 2021, only a few races. It was Sigma basically and we did virtual runs, Reggae Marathon and so on. Now, things are getting back to normal. We are doing 18 races a year and I’m looking at a calendar for next year with 15 so far, and that can increase and we’re getting mass participation.”

An avid runner himself, Francis says the return to the roads has economic benefits. “A healthy lifestyle eases the budget when it comes to illnesses. It builds camaraderie at the workplace and it keeps people fit in general and the non-communicable challenges like diabetes and heart problems and so on, they are staved off by physical activity”, he recommended.

However, he feels strongly that more can be done to encourage Jamaicans to keep fit. “We can do much more, as a country, in terms of encouraging a healthy lifestyle,” Francis said. “I would encourage, not only young athletes, who are running competitively but also parents and others to maintain a healthy lifestyle because illness is very expensive and, if you don’t take time out for wellness, you’re going to have to take time out for sickness.”

He also cited the fundraising benefits of the road racing circuit.

“Today (Sunday), we see more than $700,000 in prize money going mostly to high schools, which is tremendous and we must commend Burger King for doing that,” he said.

He sees the CB Group UWI 5K and Smart Eggs Kids K in the same light. Staged virtually in 2020 and 2021, it will return to a road race format tomorrow.

“Next weekend, we have the UWI/CB event which is another event which has given over 300 scholarships to young people, you know, by money raised from the event. So we find that the fundraising aspect of events like these is tremendous when it comes to helping the hospital facilities, helping by giving scholarships, helping by funding schools’ track programmes,” he explained on Sunday.

Those who miss the UWI event can try their legs the following weekend at the St Catherine High School PTA 5K Run/Walk on November 27, starting at the school’s St John’s Road campus at 7.30 a.m.

Francis rolled all the health, economic and fundraising benefits into one.

“It’s a multiplicity of benefits, a multiplicity of goodness that’s there when it comes to road racing,” he concluded.