The Main Event

The Jersey Marathon

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

Hav­ing be­come an outand-out Lon­doner over the past 15 years, I must ad­mit I ex­pected lit­tle when I rocked up on Jersey. Race di­rec­tor An­drew Thomas had been tena­cious in court­ing Run­ner’s World over a num­ber of years, in­sist­ing they had a small but per­fectly formed 26.2 that de­served out­side in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A vet­eran of many, many day­time re­runs of Berg­erac as a stu­dent I was fairly sure An­drew was ex­ag­ger­at­ing, so I packed a week­end bag, switched my brain to ‘parochial’ mode and set off for a jolly week­end of pa­tro­n­is­ing the lo­cals.

An hour af­ter ar­riv­ing in Jersey’s cap­i­tal, St He­lier, I had counted 23 4x4s with tinted win­dows; wan­dered through a swanky shop­ping pa­rade that looked like it had

been trans­planted from Re­gent Street; drunk one of the best flat whites I’ve ever had and sat watch­ing an army of work­ers swarm­ing all over the main square, Weigh­bridge Place, fin­ish­ing off a race HQ as thought­fully done as any­thing you’ll see at a Great Run event. Damn you, out­dated tele­vi­sion drama series.

The pre­race pasta party was equally im­pres­sive. For an ad­mit­tedly punchy £12 you chose one of five per­fectly cooked and hugely por­tioned pasta dishes, and also re­ceived cof­fee/tea, a soft drink and a gooey-yet-crumbly choco­late brownie ap­proach­ing the di­men­sions of a brick.

As I lined up the next morn­ing in driz­zly but calm con­di­tions it took a start-line pep talk from for­mer triple jump world champ Jonathan Ed­wards to make me for­get the can­non­ball of food still ly­ing in my stom­ach and fo­cus on the task at hand. I needn’t have wor­ried, as once we ran out of St He­lier and north to­wards St Lawrence I turned my at­ten­tion to run­ning with my head up so I could take ev­ery­thing in.

The route is a big an­ti­clock­wise loop that cov­ers most of the western half of the is­land, tak­ing you through seven of Jersey’s 12 parishes (St He­lier, St Lawrence, St John, St Mary, St Ouen, St Peter and St Bre­lade). The is­lan­ders stress that each is very dif­fer­ent from the oth­ers, but to the out­sider merely pass­ing through on foot, it was only re­ally pos­si­ble to no­tice the sim­i­lar­i­ties: the nar­row lanes with tun­nels of over­hang­ing trees, the coun­try cot­tages with laden trel­lises, creep­ing ivy and pla­toons of gnomes; brooks and streams weav­ing their way through pretty ham­lets, signs ev­ery­where warn­ing of the is­land­wide speed limit of 40mph; and, yes, gangs of Jersey cows mooching around fields with the chilled-out con­fi­dence of beasts who know they are the queens of cream.

Out­side the com­mer­cial hub of St He­lier much of the Jersey I saw was a ru­ral idyll, and to a city dweller used to a daily cock­tail of smog, scowl­ing and car horns, run­ning through such pas­toral splen­dour was a sooth­ing balm for the mind.

The lo­cals who came out to watch were sim­i­larly laid-back. There was no fren­zied shout­ing, no boom­ing stereos, no foam fin­gers and no crowds six-deep; just a steady flow of peo­ple who’d taken time out of their day to stop and of­fer a few low-key words of en­cour­age­ment, such as ‘ Well done’, ‘ You look fine’ and (my favourite) ‘ You’re not do­ing too bad, lad’. The lack of glib su­perla­tives ac­tu­ally made me all the more grate­ful for their sup­port.

Back in St He­lier I’ve never felt so com­posed cross­ing a fin­ish line – a feel­ing en­hanced by the fin­isher’s to­ken, which en­ti­tled me to a whop­ping cheese­burger and a pint of beer in the main tent.

Be­tween chews I con­sid­ered two things: firstly, that in this mod­ern run­ning world of more – more run­ners, more noise, more races, more gim­micks – races that do not fol­low this trend, but in­stead fo­cus on be­ing true to their com­mu­nity and of­fer­ing qual­ity of ex­pe­ri­ence over quan­tity, are not only lovely to dis­cover but help us re­mem­ber why we run in the first place.

The sec­ond thing? An­drew Thomas was right: Jersey has a crack­ing marathon.

Run­ning through such splen­dour was a sooth­ing balm for the mind

STREET THEATRE Run­ning through the cen­tre of St He­lier

IN YOUR FACE Beat that, ac­tual Bat­man! START­ING YOUNG Warm­ing up be­fore the 3K fun run RW ON THE ROAD Kerry Mccarthy (left) pre­tends to ig­nore the cam­era

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