Run, Cycle, Swim on Guam
Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands offer white sand beaches, resort hotels and many other treasures for residents and tourists. So with all of these ways to relax in the sun what do many people choose to do here? Run, cycle and swim in individual races and marathons – and they love it. Here’s why.
Running seems to be the most popular of the three activities, with the third annual Guam International Marathon expected to attract thousands of runners April 12. In fact, there seems to be a road race almost every weekend on Guam, making the island, which is only 4 to 8 miles wide and 32 miles long, one of the busiest running spots in the world.
The course of the Guam Marathon, which has been dubbed “More than a Run, a Håfa Adai Experience,” follows a scenic path along the island’s coastline and passes a number of historical markers and sites commemorating the island’s experience during World War II.
It is telling that many of the course directions of the marathon as well as other races are full of references to streets like Marine Corps Drive and landmarks such as the USO and the Naval Station Pass & Decal Building, illustrating the enduring American influence on the island and continuing presence of U.S. military personnel and their families.
In fact, a good number of participants in local races are service members from nearby bases, who also support the competitions by cheering on their friends and other runners.
Races on Guam sometimes highlight stories from native Chamorro culture. The St. Valentine’s Couples 5K, for example, starts and ends near Two Lovers Point, a cliff in northern Guam overlooking the Philippine Sea that is the site of a legend telling of two lovers who, forbidden from being together in life, leap to their deaths so they can be together for eternity.
They also may commemorate events from modern history, with the Liberation Day Mile, held every year on July 21, celebrating the island’s liberation from Japanese occupation during World War II by American military forces.
Others are used to raise money for good causes. While this year’s Guam International Marathon will raise funds for the Guam USO, the Islandwide Beautification Task Force and the Tourism Education Council, the annual Guam Ko’Ko’ Road Race, seeks support to save the Ko’Ko’ bird, a flightless rail bird indigenous to Guam that was almost driven to extinction by the brown tree snake.
Island beauty is one of the great attractions of all races on Guam and its neighboring islands. Dramatic scenery highlights the Marianas Coffee Trail Run, a 15-kilometer Saipan race that meanders up to the 1,500-foot peak of Mt. Tapochau, traversing a ridge before returning to American Memorial Park.
Some of the best routes, however, are those run by ordinary people, away from the hoopla of competition. Some runners post their favorites on running websites. One suggests as a good beach run to start at Ypao Beach Park, located next to Guam Hilton International. It’s a four-mile run that is best done during low tide. Another recommends a route that takes her down “Snake Road,” a winding street with only a few cars, so it is quiet and calm, with beautiful greenery and fragrant flowers and bamboo on both sides as she runs.
Visitors can create their own routes, whether from a luxury hotel on Tumon Bay or a smaller inn outside of town. There are countless places to run, and due to the weather, they can do so all year round.
In recent years, cycling has been picking up speed on islands. In addition to the cycling component of triathlons, there are a growing number of bicycle races on tap each year, many of which are directly sponsored or indirectly supported by the Guam Cycling Federation. As with running events, Pacific Island Club is also an avid sponsor of these events such as the Bike for Life meet on Saipan.
One of the most popular cycling events is the intriguing sounding Hell of the Marianas Century Cycle. Dubbed “the toughest race in Micronesia,” annual event’s course traverses nearly every major hill on Saipan. With elevations spiking and dipping every 12 miles or so, the 62-mile course circles the perimeter of the 12.5-mile-long island.
The course is certainly doable for the average cyclist, although they must ride continuously for four to five hours. Racing as part of a team makes it much easier, with the members of tandem squads riding 31 miles each and those on quads riding 15.5 miles apiece. The race has grown steadily since its start in 2007.
Somewhat surprisingly, since Guam and the Northern Marianas are islands, swimming events are just starting to come into their own.
The Tumon Bay Ocean Swim, held last year in October, featured beginner (200-1000 meter), intermediate (800 m-1 mile) and advanced (2 km +) courses amid scenic tropical fish and colorful coral.
One of the oldest races is the Saipan Swim Club Ocean Swim, which took place in March with courses ranging from 200 m to 2.5 km. The courses are sometimes affected by strong winds and rough waters that make them harder to negotiate, with the longest event going around partially submerged World War II tanks.
So while you’re here, take advantage of the myriad of opportunities to run, cycle and swim in the natural beauty that awaits you on Guam and the Northern Marianas. You’ll be glad that you did.
Run, Cycle, Swim Events & Info
Guam Running Club:
Guam International Marathon (April 12, 2015):
Guam Koko Road Race:
Pacific Islands Club Saipan Road Race
Hell of the Mariana Century Cycle: www.hell-of-the-marianas.com
Guam Cycling Federation: www.facebook.com/guamcyclingfederation
Tour of Guam (competitive and non-competitive cycling events): www.tourofguam.com
Saipan Swim Club: www.openwaterswimming.com/tag/saipan-swim-club
Aquatics Guam: www.aquaticsguam.com
Guam Triathlon Federation: www.triathlonguam.com
Xterra Guam Championship (April 11, 2015, off-road triathlon): xterraguam.com
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