It is often said that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Next month, hundreds of people will not gather at Regatta Park in Exuma for the 6th annual Exuma Half Marathon, featuring the Run for Pompey. This gathering of runners from all around the world traditionally provides an economic boost to the island and raises funds for an annual scholarship so a bright, young Bahamian can attend University of The Bahamas.
Nevertheless, while the big race in Exuma won’t happen this year, the spirit of giving is alive and well. In lieu of a registration fee, participants have been registering online to “run virtually” in their home cities, generating more than $12,000 so far for the Exuma Food Bank and tablets for students.
“Exuma is a special place. Those who have visited before understand that the people are just as beautiful as the island’s world-class beaches and water,” Peter Nicholson says, President of GIV Bahamas Inc, the largest owner at Grand Isle Resort and founder of the Exuma Half Marathon.
“We knew a race with big crowds wouldn’t be possible this year, so we decided to hold a virtual race. And the response has been fantastic. People from all walks of life, around the world, want to sign up and give back to those in need.”
Last weekend, Chester Cooper, Member of Parliament for Exuma and Ragged Island, accepted a cheque of more than $10,000 for the Exuma Food Bank from Dean Spychalla, Owners’ Representative at Grand Isle Resort & Spa. Although the event is not until November 21, event organizers were keen to make a donation right away so the funds could be put to work.
Donations will go towards food baskets for hundreds of people on island, including basic necessities such as flour, rice, water, milk and canned goods.
Another $1,240 donation will allow 10 Exuma students to receive new tablets with organizers including race patron Pauline Davis noting the connectivity between a virtual race for a virtual education cause.
Participants can learn more by visiting the event’s website and register their team.
“These are hard times for all Bahamians,” Cooper added, whose company, BAF Financial & Insurance, has also served as Title Sponsor of the event since its inception.
“But it is comforting to know that those that have visited our shores for this event are still thinking of the island. We thank these donors from the bottom of our hearts. These donations will go a very long way to helping Exumians get through this pandemic.”
This year, the virtual race, held on November 21, allows runners to suit up in official Run For Pompey t-shirts and participate in The Pompey Dash, a 5 mile (8km) walk or run in support of the Exuma Food Bank of Leno Learning Link, an official partner of the Ministry of Education to support distance learning by providing a tablet or computer to as many students in The Bahamas as possible.
Runners are also encouraged to share their experience on social media and share why they choose to “Run for Pompey”.
The race is named after Pompey, a 32-year-old slave, who in 1830 led a rebellion on Exuma to stop the transfer of 77 men, women and children – an act that would have separated families from their loved ones. Pompey’s movement helped stop the transfer order, and today, it is widely seen as a key moment in the Bahamian fight for freedom.
Led by Title Sponsor BAF Financial & Insurance (Bahamas) Limited, Exuma Half Marathon has also been supported by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Diane Phillips & Associates, Grand Isle Resort & Spa, Sands Beer, Aliv, Caribbean Bottling Company, BahamasLocal.com, Chat N Chill, Ty’s Sunset and Grill, and others.
Legendary “Golden Girl” Pauline Davis-Thompson has served as the event’s patron from the beginning. In past years, she would visit all the schools on the island for inspirational speeches, and personally draping commemorative medals around the necks of runners as they cross the finish line.
With November 21 marking the event’s 6th year anniversary, it has become an important tradition for the island, on that event organizers still wanted to commemorate while also doing something positive for the community.
Nicholson adds that, although the registration fees will go towards the food bank this year, the Exuma Foundation of Canada will still award the usual Pompey Scholarship to a worthy recipient next summer, so yet another young Bahamian will have a chance to attend University of The Bahamas.
“COVID-19 may have driven us more apart physically, but it can also bring us closer together,” he says.