THE Richard Jones Racing Club is expected to complete a hat-trick of titles in the TT International Marathon relay race on Friday, but team member Shirvan Baboolal said the internal rivalry will make the race a keen one. The relay race takes off from 5.30pm.
Baboolal, whose team includes former national half-marathon champ Jones, Matthew Hagley, Anthony Phillip, Tobagonian Elvis Turner and Genesis Joseph, said there is always competition among the team to see who could complete their leg in the fastest time.
For the first time. the marathon relay will be held on Friday evening and not on the same day as the TT International Marathon on Sunday. The event, which has been re-branded as a three-day festival, will run from Friday to Sunday. Following the relay on Friday, the Healthy Balance National 5K will take place on Saturday and the marathon will be held on Sunday.
The marathon relay starts and ends at White Hall, Queen's Park Savannah. A total of 23 relay teams will compete for TT$25,000 in prizes.
On Saturday, the 5K will start at Dere Street around the Queen's Park Savannah before athletes make one lap and finish at White Hall. Almost 700 athletes are expected to compete in the 5K event for TT $25,000 in prizes. The marathon on Sunday, which starts in Freeport and ends at White Hall, will feature almost 200 athletes competing for an overall purse of US$26,000. Walkers will start the marathon at 3.30 am and runners will start at 5 am.
All teams in the marathon relay must have an under-20 runner and an over-40 runner. Jones will be the team's over-40 runner and Joseph will be the under-20 representative.
The team is showing some top form heading into the relay on Friday as Baboolal, Phillip and Turner finished second, third and eighth respectively in the TT Unified Teachers Association 10K (6.21 miles) event on January 12 at the Queen's Park Savannah. In the marathon relay, each athlete is required to run 4.36 miles.
Baboolal is anticipating an excellent showing from his team. "I do not want to sound cocky, (but) I am almost 100 per cent sure we could pull it off because we have a really nice team this year," Baboolal said. The club won the 2018 marathon relay in two hours, 28 minutes and 52 seconds, which was 20 minutes ahead of second place.
Competing in a relay is not common for a distance runner, but Baboolal says team members sometimes think individually as they each want to complete a strong leg.
"It is a different experience and, even while you doing it, you tend to go back to an individual mindset. Each person at the end will compare their average pace. It is almost like we just waiting on our turn to do a four-mile time trial for ourselves."
Asked if it's friendly competition within the team, Baboolal said, "That is exactly it. It is a really a twist on the whole relay experience for distance runners."
He said most of their team members train on their own but because of another upcoming meet, some are conducting group sessions.
"The relay team won't train collectively, but a lot of the guys on the team preparing for an International Cross Country race, which so happens to be right here in Trinidad on the 16th of February. The guys on the team are myself, Anthony Phillip, Matthew Hagley and Richard is the coach. We actually meet twice a week to train together so we around each other a lot and we race for the past couple years, so we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. We really familiar with each other as friends rather than competitors."
Although booking victory, Baboolal is anticipating some competition from Defence Force.