THE Standard Chartered Stanley Marathon in the Falkland Islands has always been challenging. Not just because it is the most southerly AIMS certified marathon, but because of the persistent westerly winds. This makes the slug along the exposed By-Pass up to the turning point at Sapper Hill especially demoralising; the marathon is not just about fitness levels, but also a psychological feat.
The start was a promising one with patches of blue sky and a slight wind; not quite perfect, but acceptable for the 44 individual runners and 16 teams to take on the challenge.
Unfortunately half marathon winner Kyle Turner was injured, but he completed the marathon by providing support for colleague Jack Hindle, who led the pack from the start.
Jack Hindle was ahead of second place Peter Bird early on, the distance stretching out to a seemingly unbeatable length; a race reminiscent of the 2014 battle between Tim Drew and Iain Bailey. However, Jack kept up the pace and finished with a time of 2:43:15 (the course record being 2:31:46 in 2017). Triathlete Jack hails from Lancashire and has been running for 15 years, and competitively for 6 years. Asked about how he had dealt with the challenging conditions he described himself as a “seasoned professional now.” He confirmed that, “mental resilience” was needed, adding, “you get used to having to do this.”
Runners are required to face the onslaught of the bypass westerly wind twice along the course. From the starting line at the Bank, competitors run along Ross Road to the Beaver Hanger, along Jeremy Moore Ave, back onto Ross Road and along to Rowlands Rise. At the Bypass Road, they run east to FIGAS, then the strenuous 6 mile stretch begins up to Sapper Hill. From the turning point at the 13 mile mark (roughly), the competitors can enjoy a slightly easier time back towards FIGAS, before turning to face the exposed westerly run to Rowlands Rise. Along Ross Road and past the Bank, there is then only just under 2 miles left, but a slight hill up to the Battle Day monument is a punishing one on tired legs. Once the turn has been completed, runners are into the home stretch. For the most part this is downhill, but there is a deceiving slight upward rise near the Liberation monument, but by then the finish line is in sight.
At around two and a half hours into the race the heavens opened and a hail storm rained down on the course. Those still on the Bypass endured the full force as they battled to the Sapper Hill turning point, running straight into the weather front. This is where runners had to be both physically and mentally strong to get through the tough section, finding blessed relief at the 180 degree turn, and have the weather working with them for the stretch back to FIGAS.
Second place went to Peter Bird who came over the line 19 minutes later with a time of 3:02:33. Third place went to Thomas Ashford (3:21:58) and fourth place to Canadian Alexander Friesen (3:25:40). Visiting Argentine Marcelo de Bernadis, who has run this course for many years, took 13th place with a time of 4:13:41.
For those in a relay team, the 2nd team member has arguably the toughest of the four sections; from Surf Bay to FIGAS and then turning to take in the Bypass up to Sapper Hill. The third person takes over, down to FIGAS again and swaps at Surf Bay, with the final person taking the last section to the finish line which is slightly over 10K. 16 teams took part this year with the two man band of Zimselect coming in first with 3:08:46. Second place team was Nice Guys Finish Fast, made up of Matthew, Thomas, Benjamin and Teslyn, who finished in a time of 3:24:39.
First Falkland Born runner (who receives a special prize) was Stephen Aldridge with a time of 4:16:41, and First Woman was seasoned Falklands runner Ros Cheek who crossed the line not long after at 4:17:09.
Fourth woman across the line was Amy Guest in her first marathon with a time of 4:51:39. Amy said she enjoyed the experience, “It was mostly fun, the atmosphere was great. At times pretty tough–the weather was very unforgiving.”