M&S Runners, a romantic weekend in Guernsey

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away Gem (the wife) and I decided we would love a weekend away without the kids with maybe a race thrown in as well. After a bit of searching we came across Guernsey, which also had a run round the island! Perfect, Guernsey seemed nice in the photos and a race round the island would be interesting if nothing else. Everything all booked up and then promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to last weekend and we were on a very small plane to Guernsey airport landing in beautiful sunshine at a small Mediterranean looking airport! Our first experience of the island and it’s characters, was with the taxi driver. In no particular order, over 10 minutes of driving time and 10 minutes of time in front of the hotel, we covered: The history of the island since 1066, it’s position in the EU, the role of Brexit, the role of the lieutenant Governor, the occupation, the fact he was a small boy during it and he missed the boat (literally) to the UK whilst his sister made it, the fact he shares a birthday with Hitler so got lots of sweets and cakes off the Germans, the 30/30 cycling charity set up for the hospice that looked after his late wife and many other things I’m sure I’ve forgotten! Great guy and the £10 taxi ride was a small price to pay so we booked him for the return. He unfortunately couldn’t make it so he sent his mate Tiny who then covered: the housing market, the parishes across the island and took us to the tiny church as we weren’t allowed to leave the island without seeing it!

Hotel wise, we stayed in the Duke of Richmond Hotel. What a lovely hotel, made so good by the staff and how friendly they were and how they genuinely seemed interested in our stay! In addition, this is the first time I’ve ever had a good luck card from the hotel before a race!

To be clear, I think everyone doing the race got one and everyone’s feedback was excellent. Nothing was too much trouble including breakfast at 5am before the race!

(for the sake of integrity, we were also given an upgrade when our room was flooded by a burst water pipe – which to be honest seemed fair!)

In a nutshell – Friday afternoon we got a bit over excited at being off school, not having the kids and being in a new place. The obvious result was being in bed drunk by 10pm having had room service…

Saturday was more about re-hydrating from the night before in preparation for the race Sunday and buying some supplies for the race itself. Gem decided that M&S was where any self respecting ultra runner should be found pre-race and purchased enough food to feed a family of 4! (to be clear it was all eaten on the Sunday…). I still think she should have one of those race vests that the Vegan Runners wear that has M&S Runner on the front.

I still don’t understand the Vegan Runners thing…. Should I have meat and beer runner on the front or is that obvious from my size???

Anyway, the day was quite sedate so some pictures of the beautiful town of St Peters Port

So the race itself. Small field of 50 people (I think it ended up at 70), very friendly race director who patiently answered all the random questions we had about the island, 36 mile run round the coastal path of the island in 10 hours. First 16 miles crazy hilly up and down the cliffs via 8 million uneven steps and then 20 miles of flat running round all the bays. 3 checkpoints at 8, 16, 25 miles respectively with 2.5 hours cut off between each one. http://www.gu36.com

From my perspective, I wasn’t in peak condition for it and knew that my splits were at the wrong end of the 10 hours so in myself knew that it was quite likely I wouldn’t finish in the time limit. So instead, my ambitions for the race were: a) get as far as I could as a good bit of training b) embrace the hills as a good work out c) use my poles for the first time and see if they helped at all and d) wear my runderwear briefs for this race to start the decision making process between briefs and boxers for the OCC!!!

In terms of gear, I was in inov8’s for the trail section (first 16 miles) and Adidas Boosts for the flat section. Salomon socks, nike shorts, runderwear briefs, running club t-shirt, ultimate direction race vest, black diamond poles, M&S flapjacks, nobby’s salty nuts and my new Garmin 920XT watch. All went well apart from the race vest where the zip broke after 3 miles (less than a year old and new one being sent by the manufacturers).

Firstly a very rugged ultra-marathon type breakfast

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Then a leisurely stroll down to the liberation monument (start and finish) for 6am for registration and some faffing/worry wees.

After a laid back briefing, keep the sea on your left and you’ll be OK, we were off at 7 on the dot!

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The first 16 miles were tough, bl00dy tough as we went up and down, up and down for 16 miles on these rugged uneven steps. It just felt like relentless punishment, but we made OK time for the conditions and made the two checkpoints just before the cut offs. Just stunning views throughout and the photos probably don’t do it justice

Checkpoint 2 had these gorgeous sausage rolls and our bags from the morning so lots of food, replenish the race vest and change into road shoes for the 20 miles home.

Over the 16 miles, the poles had been helpful and whilst I felt a bit battered I wasn’t too bad and the last 20miles were flat so the 10 hours was within touching distance but still felt like I’d spent too long on the hills and hadn’t left myself enough time.

The last 20 was beautiful cove, after beautiful cove. My run walk strategy worked well here. Gem ran on (as we had agreed before) so me, myself and I just kept plugging away waiting for the watch to buzz with every passing km. I made checkpoint 3 within the time limit and then decided I had to up it a bit then (as needed to do 11m in 2.5 hours as opposed to the 9 I had just done in 2.5). I ran walked the first 6km pushing myself a bit harder and trying to hang on to the coat tails of some others runners to get me under the time limit so I could then go back to my normal run/walk. Once that was done I knew I had a chance, so just frog marched the last 10km calculating averages, pace and distance all the way with a few runs thrown in to make sure.

At 9 hours 49 I came to the monument. A bit broken but happier than I have been for a while with a race. The whole race, in fact the whole weekend had just been nice, good humoured and all about supporting people to finish and get involved. Everyone I met either in the race or across the island had just been nice.

(Gem smashed my time and was awesome in the race, running to the end and generally being quite cheerful – much to the surprise of other runners it turned out!)

In summary, I would recommend the race, actually the island to anyone. The race is just stunning, the organisation probably the most friendly and good natured I’ve experienced, the people competing were really really nice (we even had dinner with another runner after the race) and the finisher T-Shirt fits!!!

Also, I came last, properly last for the first time ever and the measure of the race is that I still loved every moment of it.

The island itself was beautiful. OK, we had fantastic weather but I would definitely recommend, even if their painting of Le Tiss on the wall by the Crowne Plaza, needs some imagination by the viewer!

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So lots of stretching this week and I leave you with what I think is the best Strava I’ve ever done!

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