Outdoor endurance challenges thrive in Antigua and Barbuda despite COVID-19 adjustments

By Christal Clashing

2020 has been a wipeout year for many sports around the world, and 2021 doesn’t look much better. That has certainly been the case for many local sports in Antigua and Barbuda. However, one sporting association has shown that staying active and getting outdoors is not only part of the new normal in Antigua and Barbuda, but it an upward trend in the country.

In July 2020, as the lockdown was lifted in the island nation, the Rohrman Sports Association supported Paul David Mather, a regular UK visitor to Antigua to hold the first of what has become a monthly series of outdoor and off-road semi-endurance events across the rolling hills, green trails and relatively warm waters of Antigua and Barbuda.

The first event of many

The Dockyard Challenge, as it was dubbed, involved a 400m swim straight into a 3mile trail run, followed by a return swim to the start point, only to complete an additional 4mile trail run-up to and back down Antigua’s iconic Shirley Heights. With all participants armed with face masks and race starts staggered and spaced out to ensure 6foot distancing, this has been the protocol followed in all subsequent events held by those Rohrman Sports Association.

Such events have included the Run-Dez-Vous bike and run challenge, the Five Islands & 3 Peaks Challenge swim and run event, and Mud the Halls - an obstacle course run in aid of funds for Antigua’s St. John’s hospice, the only palliative care facility in the Eastern Caribbean. Co-founder of the Rohrman Sports Association, Rory Butler, says that their association was able to gain sanctions from the government due to the nature of these events. Participants naturally spread out along the course as some entrants treat the event courses as a race, while other a personal challenge and others approach it like a nice morning outing in nature. As a result, there are a variety of paces and persons are rarely in close contact with each other along the course. At registration and at prize-givings, hand sanitising is compulsory as is mask-wearing.

It is useful to note that the Rohrman Sports Association is not a governmental organisation but rather works with National Governing Bodies of its various multi-sports components such as the athletics, cycling and swimming and the clubs that fall under those bodies. If you think that those sports sound very much like the parts of a typical triathlon, you would be right.

A history in multisport events

The Rohrman Sports Association was created to put on the Tinman International Triathlon back in 2011 and they haven’t looked back since. Each year they put on the memorial Rohrman Triathlon which has gone through several name changes over the years but has retained its spirit of inclusivity for kids and adults alike. In the last few years, they have extended their activities to include triathlon inspired events over in the sister island of Barbuda. Both the signature triathlon event and the association is named after founding member and medical student Jonathan Rohr, who passed away at age 25 before the first event even launched.

The response to the annual triathlon events has always been healthy and included regional and international competitors. COVID-19 has done nothing to quell the enthusiastic response of endurance athletes and weekend warriors across Antigua and Barbuda. It’s been quite the opposite.

A promising future

More and more participants are entering the Rohrman Sports Association events with each passing month. Given the absence of fetes, parties and social events that Antiguans and Barbudans are able to typically partake of, a portion of the population has taken to getting outdoors into nature, into the beauty that is Antigua and Barbuda, and into an active lifestyle that gives them a much-needed reprieve for the stresses and strain as life as we know it in 2020 and 2021.

What’s next for the Rorhman Sports Association? Follow their Facebook page and get informed on upcoming events throughout the year!