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Marathon Runner Trains on Coconut Water and Tree Climbing

The Barbados coconut marathon man

Running on Coconuts
"To climb a coconut tree you need to be strong in the mind and body. It takes concentration, you have to plan every move and anticipate: The tree can fall, the wind can twist and swing it like a bucking bronco. Rats bite, you catch them sometimes in the top eating coconuts. A man can tire and lose a grip, a foot can slip, the tree can be smooth with no grip. Coconut tree climbers do fall, trees fall and men can get hurt. A tree climber must be wary and not afraid, he must be strong, agile, determined and fit".

Ever slide I asked, thinking of the time I got 15 feet up a tree and decided to come down by sliding: "Sliding, never, never slide, sliding is lazy man. Dangerous, tear the skin off a body. Pretty hard to stop a slide if you start. When you ready, come down with the same strength and concentration that took you up. Place the feet, grip hard and think of every move".

Keith Cumberbatch climbs about 8 trees a day, everyday, so long as he is not racing a marathon or in training for a big race. "Tree climbing is my training, I love it, I sell coconut to live, people count on me for coconut water and jelly, I drink at least 8 coconuts a day. Coconut water is my tonic. Helps my stamina, cleans out the system, increases energy and libido. Its got all the essential vitamins and minerals to keep body and mind healthy. That is why I have to climb."

You believe what Burgie says about coconut water being so good for you? I asked.
"Long before Irving Burgie calypso, people know so. Now research is proving they were right. Just the other day I hear that coconut is a new health food. Coconuts and coconut oil have minerals and vitamins, but you don't need to know all this if you drink it regular. Soon it may be a banned substance for runners", he says with a smile. "If Roger Weeks had drunk some of my coconuts he would not have spent time in hospital suffering from dehydration that stopped his run in the 10K".

Keith speaks of the Run Barbados 10K marathon. A ten kilometer race that is held every year along with the 26 mile Run Barbados Marathon. Runners come from all over the world. Keith ran along with Roger Weeks and the favourites, Jerry Kooymans of Canada and Hugh Jones of Britain. Jones ran a blistering race in hot sun to finish 55 seconds seconds ahead of Kooymans, winning at 30:33:20.

Coconut vendor pushing his cart through traffic

"It was a hot day in Barbados" says Keith, "but Roger got dehydrated soon and ended up in hospital for a few days while they tried to restore his electrolytes. Racing is like that. It’s a hard sport and Jerry and Hugh were running pretty fast, pushing us all to extremes". Keith's time is not far off the best, in that race he finished 7th. "Its hard to beat the worlds top runners", he says, "but with coconut water and tree climbing this tiny island can come in pretty good".

A 7th place amongst 410 of the worlds best is pretty impressive for a tiny island I say. Pretty impressive for a Barbados Coconut man who climbs 8 trees a day and pushes his cart through heavy traffic to get the goods to his clients, many who do not even know they are dealing with a world class athlete: A winner and a contender of international standing, sponsored by Adidas, the BBC and others. He has placed in the top 10 in a hundred marathons and raced in Toronto, Boston, LA, the Caribbean and Africa. At 45 he is still running along with the best.

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© Ian Clayton, AXSES 2006-2024.

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