For those of us of a certain age, we remember ABC Wide World of Sports as a mainstay of Saturday afternoons. One must-see episode every year was the Ironman from Kona, Hawaii. Perhaps you, like my brother and I, would sit on your sofa (ours was in northern New Jersey), and for an hour or two forget about the snow or rain outside while you watched world-class athletes testing their limits under the heat and sun of the Big Island. 

The most iconic of these races was the 1982 Ironman World Championship in which Kathleen McCartney won a gut-wrenching, dramatic and historic finish over second place finisher Julie Moss. It epitomized “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, inspired millions and brought Ironman to the attention of the world. ABC’s legendary sportscaster Jim McKay called the 1982 Ironman finish, “the most inspiring sports moment he had ever witnessed”. 

Ironman World Champion and 10-time Ironman finisher, Kathleen has been featured on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, NBC Sports, The Johnny Carson Show, ABC Superstars, and ABC’s 25th Anniversary Greatest Moments of Wide World of Sports. She has also been featured in National publications including Outside, Runner’s World, Triathlete and Lava Magazine. 

Even closer to our heart, Kathleen is a Classic Journeys guest, who recently joined our Long Weekend in Havana trip that we scheduled in partnership with Road Runner Sports to overlap with the Havana Marathon. Kathleen and other Classic Journeys guests had the opportunity to join the 10k, half or full marathon in addition to connecting with the island’s irresistible people, music, food and art. As it turns out, it was a long weekend that none of them will ever forget. Here, Kathleen shares some of her memories from the trip.

CJ: What made you want to travel to Cuba?

Kathleen: Travel to Cuba has been off limits for most of my life. As an avid and curious traveler, I wondered if I would ever have the chance to see Cuba with my own eyes in my lifetime! Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to experience the Long Weekend in Havana and Marabana Havana Marathon with Classic Journeys and Roadrunner Sports. I was thrilled to combine my love of travel and adventure with my passion for running- my idea of an ultimate and epic trip! 

Guest laughing in front of classic car

CJ: What did you love most about traveling with Classic Journeys? 

Kathleen: Because Classic Journeys takes care of all of the meticulous planning and details of the trip, all that I had to do to prepare for this trip was pack my bag! From the moment I arrived in Havana, I was excited to hit the ground running and each day’s activities exceeded my expectations. I loved the fact that we had an incredible tour guide who wove a rich history lesson throughout our journey to help us fully appreciate what we were seeing and doing. Whether it was a cultural excursion, strolling the historic streets, dining at a paladar, or a tour of the cigar factory, every aspect of the trip felt like the ultimate Cuban experience.

Kathleen in revolution square havana

CJ: What surprised you about Cuba? 

Kathleen: My first sight from my hotel room at the Melia Cohiba was astonishing! Looking out my window to the east, the rolling landscape was a blanket of vibrant, colorful buildings as far as the eye could see. I was equally amazed by the feeling that I had stepped back in time and I could experience Havana just as it was decades ago. When we stepped out of the hotel for our first night on the town, a line of 1950’s classic convertibles was waiting for us (one of every color)! We cruised along the scenic Malecon on our way to Old Havana for a memorable dinner followed by a daiquiri at Hemingway’s favorite bar, El Floridita.

classic cars along malecon in Havana, Cuba

CJ: What was your favorite part of the trip?

Kathleen: When I travel I like to feel that I’m experiencing the people and their rich traditions and culture in the most authentic way possible. Classic Journeys provided us with a unique opportunity to spend time with locals to listen, learn, share and engage. We visited La Muraleando where we spent time with local artists. We had salsa dancing lessons one afternoon partnered with amazing (and patient) dancers.  Experiencing Havana from an insider’s perspective gave me a feeling of deeper appreciation, understanding and a connection to the all the people we met. After all, the feelings are what stays with us long after the trip is over!

salsa dancing in Havana, Cuba

CJ: What was it like running a race in Cuba? 

Kathleen: It was quite an adventure to participate in a running race in a foreign country. Everything was unfamiliar (in a good way) and as a result, the race was a sense of discovery with every step and every mile. Race morning greeted us with warmth, a beautiful sunrise and magnificent photo opportunities. Most of the runners in our group ran the half marathon and we assembled together at the start line ready for adventure! We were in a great mix of thousands of locals and runners from all over the world. I can’t imagine a better way to see and explore a city than to run 13.1 miles through it; running along the Malecon, past iconic landmarks and beautiful views to the sights and sounds of the people of Havana waking up to a new day. I treasured every minute, and I earned a most memorable race journey!

Kathleen with RRS flag after marathon in Havana, Cuba

CJ: What is one thing you would tell anyone who is thinking about traveling to Cuba? 

Kathleen: Traveling with Classic Journeys was my first group tour experience, and I loved it! Our amazing group of people (now friends!) from all over the U.S. definitely enhanced my overall travel experience in Cuba. I wouldn’t even consider traveling to Cuba without Classic Journeys. The unique cultural experiences and impeccable itinerary and service that Classic Journeys provides is the essence of your trip. Be prepared to be delighted!

group after race in Havana, Cuba

CJ: What’s next on your travel bucket list? 

Kathleen: In no particular order – 

Marvel at the northern lights in Iceland or Norway

An African safari

Birthday celebration in 2019 with my loved ones 

More travel in Europe

Anywhere in the World with Classic Journeys!