BK commits to going all the way in growing long-distance running
DISTANCE running in Jamaica lags far behind the sprints, but things seem to be looking up.
And one corporate entity that has demonstrated its commitment to the develeopment of the discipline is Burger King.
The fast food giant's local franchise has stayed with distance running for the past 20 years, and can be safely credited for the new craze, which is road racing.
When Burger King jumped in, opportunities to compete in road races back then were few and far between. Now there is an average of two per month, affording those interested ample chances to race and improve.
"We are the pioneers in distance running in Jamaica," stated Sabrina McDonald, sales and marketing manager at Burger King (BK). "Everybody else has followed the king to road racing. We have been investing in youth and sports for a long time. When we started, nobody else was putting investment in terms of developing athletes and encouraging a healthy lifestyle." She said her company's continuous participation is allowing everyone to train and compete for fun.
"A lot of Jamaica's best long distance runners came through our road races and have gone on to do
great things," McDonald said proudly.
Through the years, BK has maintained its position as lead sponsor, pumping millions into the Burger King Gran Prix, a three-race event run in Montego Bay, Negril and culminating in Portmore. There was wide participation throughout the age groups as usual, with record numbers of individuals and teams participating.
Individually, none were better than Marleena Eubanks of Edwin Allen and Damion Bent. They dominated their peers and Bent went on to grab a spot on Jamaica's team to the North and Central America Confederation of Athletics (NACAC), which takes place in Trinidad and Tobago later this month.
Eubanks would have been favoured to win a spot to the championships but her school did not enter the Jamaica cross country championship/trials. Both were in good spirits at the presentation of cash prizes at the BK corporate office recently.
"The road races help me a lot," said Eubanks, who has been dominating the middle distances at Champs for the last four years. "It gives me more endurance to run the 800 and 1,500 metres. I intend to break the 800m record at Champs," she said.
"I have been running since 2003, " Eubanks said.
One of those individuals who has dedicated himself to the development of long distance running is head coach of Mavis Bank High School and Running Club, Devon Grant.
"The community has bought into running," he informed. "Before road racing and track and field, not much was known of Mavis Bank. We are now getting the support of the community but we need some help from the business community if we are to expand."
Another of the coaches on hand at the presentation was head coach at Vere Technical and former national sprinter and Olympian, John Mair.
"We had six girls participating in the Grand Prix series and they have all improved tremendously," Mair beamed. "Their participation in the road races helps to develop the 800, 1,500 and 3,000m on the track. It gives them a stamina base to help them on the track,"