A Marathon in Paradise ...

The Tahiti Black Pearl Inline Marathon ... a Planet Preview

By Robert "Appreciates a Good Lei" Burnson

After a season in hell, a season of hills, of aches and breaks and shivering at dawn at the starting line and then broiling and breaking through a thousand barriers of pain, it's understandable why marathoners might set their sights on Tahiti in November.

The white sand beaches, the coral reefs, the jungles hung low with tropical fruit.

But why, for crissake, would you go there to skate in another marathon!

Brain damage? ... Perhaps. But then again, the Tahiti Black Pearl Inline Marathon (Nov. 7) is a different kind of animal --- a marathon in which racing is said to be secondary to fun.

(And besides, if you book the package deal, you get six days on the island of Moorea. Subtract one day for the marathon, and you still have five days in a Polynesian paradise!)

To prepare our preview of this post-season vacation marathon, we sent a list of questions to organizer Christopher Pierre of Way Beyond, the adventure travel agency that puts on the event. Christopher lives on Moorea, which is nine miles from Tahiti across the Sea of the Moon. (Now there's an address for you!)

So why would anyone go to Tahiti for a marathon? ... Do you really have to ask!

Robert: Could you first tell me something about yourself and your involvement with the Tahiti Inline Marathon?

Christopher: In 1997, I was working for AOM French Airline [Air Outré Mer] in Los Angeles as reservations manager. AOM was flying Paris to LAX to Tahiti.

I loved endurance running, but I got injured. A friend of mine had a skate shop in Venice Beach. He sold me some Bauer five-wheel skates, which I used in my first inline marathon in Culver city in 1997. I have loved skating ever since.

In March 1998, I decided to put on an inline marathon on the island of Moorea in conjunction with a running marathon there. As I did not have any promotional contacts, I found Ernie Printzen from Get Inline events to promote the race.

Our first race was in February 1999. Since then, I have been promoting the race by myself with the help of Eddy Matzger and all the skaters who have come to experience Tahiti.

I was traveling back and forth between Tahiti and Los Angeles for 10 years. But I moved there with my wife, Karima, a year ago for the birth of our son Teva.

Robert: Tell me about the marathon. What is it like?

Christopher: It is the most exotic inline marathon in the world. The racecourse [which is flat] is on our small island in the middle of the South Pacific. The island is filled with flowers, exotic fruits and beautiful volcanic peaks. The main attraction, however, is the turquoise lagoons.

At the race, we have tables filled with exotic fruits, bananas, pineapples, grapefruits, papayas, coconuts, corossol and rambutan.

Every participant crossing the finish line gets a shell finishers medal and a flower lei. We also have local entertainment with Vahine and Tane dancers.

Robert: How is the marathon shaping up for this year?

Christopher: This year is the smallest ever. We have about 25 U.S. skaters, two Australians and about 50 locals.

Attendance is declining. The price for a 5-night travel package from Los Angeles in 1999 was $700 plus $50 airport tax and that included round-trip air fare, transfers to Moorea and five nights in your own private thatched-roof bungalow.

The price is now $1289 plus $121 airport tax.

Robert: Will there be any pro racers this year?

Christopher: The only pro racer this year is Eddy Matzger.

Robert: What will be given out in prize money?

Christopher: Prize money will be $3000.

Robert: Is inline skating becoming more popular in Tahiti?

Christopher: Yes. In our first year, he had only one local skater. This year we will have about 50 locals. And we have four very fast skaters who have been participating in races in France and Long Beach in the pro categories.

No one sells inline speed skating equipment here. So almost every speed skater's equipment has been donated by Eddy Matzger, myself, and other foreign skaters who come to the marathon. ... I always ask everybody to bring used wheels, bearings and skates.



Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson

Related Reading:

The official site of the Tahiti Black Pearl Marathon

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