This is my first visit to the World Relays, in the Bahamas, by J. Stuart Weir


DSCN0006.JPGThe loneliness of the athletics writer, Stuart Weir's working venue, photo by J. Stuart Weir

So, somebody had to go. Stuart Weir got the proverbial short stick and had to sit near a wonderful pool, with an ocean vista and write about (dear god), athletics. Feel his pain, feel the torture, feel the drama. After you get done sucking down one of the those colada somethings with a colorful umbrella, please get back to your writing!

Oh, the agony.

This is my first visit to the World Relays in the Bahamas. While Larry has crossed the Atlantic to be at the London Marathon - an hour from where I live, I have spent 20 hours travelling to the Bahamas. Apart from the long and weary journey via Atlanta as there are few direct flights from London to Nassau, I think I got the better deal. The Bahamas is hotter and has more beaches than London.

The last athletics Track and Field event I went to was in Belgrade. Serbia. Can't quite understand why people see that trip as work but not spending a week in Bahamas!

As well as the normal championship distances (4 by 100 and 4 by 400 the event programme includes 4 by 200 and 4 by 800 relays). The World Relays is a serious athletics competition but held in an atmosphere of fun or a touch of carnival. The location certainly helps.

To help me get a handle on the event, I asked a few athletes. Tianna Bartoletta, who has been in a World Record-breaking relay team in her time and who is making her third appearance in the event, told me: "It is a very unique event. It is very laid back and perhaps centred around entertainment. It's cool and I appreciate that it is at the beginning of the season because I probably would not be able to be this relaxed much later in the year".

Lavaia Nielsen, a young British athlete, whose last competition was Belgrade, was enjoying the environment: "It's a lovely place right next to the beach. It kinda feels like you're on holiday but there's still work to be done so you can't enjoy it too much. It's not one of the worst places I have been taken to".

There is a mixed 4 by 400 relay with no proscribed running order so men may find themselves racing women. Great Britain had considered putting a team in the mixed relay but were uncomfortable with men and women running against each other, not in lanes. Tianna told me that mixed relays had all the potential of a NASCAR pile-up: "A 4 by 100 would be interesting - like a NASCAR race. Because of the differences in the ways that men and women accelerate it could be a disaster. It would be fun to see but I don't know if I would be brave enough to try it for myself"

Let's give the last word to Christine Ohuruogu, former Olympic and world champion at 400m, who has also run more relays that most people: "I love this event. It's a chance for you to find your feet early in the season without the pressure of an individual event. It really nice to have an international event to see how everyone else is getting on. That it's in the Bahamas - in a holiday resort with a beach - doesn't hurt. Why shouldn't we enjoy it?"

Athletes enjoying a track event? Now that is an interesting concept!

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