As you may know I’ve had a bit of a turbulent time with running leading up to the Island Games. First I experienced excitement and sheer terror at the prospect of running which then turned into distress that I might not be able to compete due to twingy calves and a sore shin. All of those emotions now feel like such a long time ago as I sit writing this looking back on a few thoroughly enjoyable and memorable days in Jersey.
Julie King, Adam Tuck and I travelled by air – as we weren’t staying for the whole week, this was the quickest way to get there. After nearly losing my team mate at the airport it was quite a shock to be allowed to walk out onto the tarmac and board the (very!) small plane without having to get onto a transfer bus or walk through some sealed tunnel to magically appear inside a plane. However, the plane was small but perfectly formed and got us there without any problems.
On landing we were greeted with sunshine and very friendly Games Makers who fed us chocolate and transported us to our accommodation. The hotel was great apart from mine and Julie’s room(s)! The first one had some silver tube-like contraption outside which was really noisy and meant that we couldn’t have our windows open (the air-con unit apparently) so we asked to move rooms to get a better night’s sleep. Ha! More fool us! Our second room was basically in the reception area and made me feel like I was back at uni trying to sleep in someone’s living room whilst a party was happening! Anyway needless to say I ‘woke’ the morning before running feeling exhausted and teary. (My second favourite hobby after running is sleeping and I don’t function well on less than eight hours, so two was not going to cut the mustard!)
On Saturday myself, Julie and our team mate Laura Brackley (an IOW runner who runs for Aldershot Farnham and District) met my parents, there for support and a holiday, who drove us round the course to get an idea of what it was like. During this journey we were all very up-beat and managed to somehow convince ourselves and each other that the route was uphill until about 5 miles when it was then either downhill or flat. My mum did try to point out that some of our ‘flat’ sections seemed a little uphill to her but this was information that I for one did not want to hear, so I chose to ignore it! Needless to say by the end of the drive we were all feeling positive.
I’m not going to keep going on about my sleep deprivation but I just have to mention that the night before the race I did not sleep again! This time it was nothing to do with our (third) room and everything to do with my stupid brain! By the time 5.45am came and breakfast was on the cards, I was ready to crack on and get on with running.
It was a hot and beautiful morning as the six of us competing in the half marathon jogged down to the nearby track and start line. This is definitely one of those little memories that will stay with me – looking at the scenery, saying hello to fellow runners, feeling excited about the race and the comradeship of being part of a team. At 8am all of the competing ladies had to give in all electronic equipment and go to a holding area (this is something to do with international rules) whereby we registered and had our running kit checked over to make sure that it didn’t have too much branding on show. About fifteen minutes later the men had to go through the same process as they were starting shortly after us. Then before I knew it we were on the start line. (This was after the rules were stated and everyone agreed to stay on the left hand side of the road which made me laugh as all runners immediately gravitated for the shade, whether that was on the left, middle or the right-hand side.)
Now, down to business…Julie and I had been advised to start steady and not pay for an unsustainably fast start later on in the race, so I took it steady and started off at the back of the pack. The first mile was on the flat, which was a good ease-in and I got the chance to take in my surroundings (I spotted some Jersey cows) before the climb came at mile two, which did in fact last until mile 5 or so, but there were some stretches of flat for recovery. Being completely honest, I absolutely loved the first 6 miles, hills included, as it just felt so great to be running injury free in such a beautiful place and I had my parents cheering me on and occasionally whizzing by in their car yelling “Come on Sa!” out of the window. It was at about mile 6 that a competitor from Bermuda came back past me. I was feeling quite jolly at the time so congratulated her on her running to which she replied that we should work together. This proved to be hugely beneficial as I don’t think there was one section of the course that I ran on my own despite the small field.
Miles 6-10 were also pretty enjoyable and included a wonderful downhill section that took in a great view of the sea and castle. (And yes, some slight inclines too!) At some point during this downhill stretch, feeling enthusiastic, I went back past the lady from Bermuda and worked hard to catch a girl from Ynys Mon. That’s when the tiredness kicked in. I’d had such a lovely time, and yes I was trying my hardest but I was also enjoying it and feeling on the right side of comfortable. At mile 10 my legs began to protest and the interesting and scenic course started to move away from the stunning coastline and head inland slightly through more residential areas. (During some point along here our first Island male runner, Scott Edgington came whizzing past me looking really strong) The lady from Bermuda was back on my shoulder and after a short encouraging conversation, was striding ahead. I wanted so much to stay with her but my legs just wouldn’t listen to my brain so instead I concentrated hard on keeping going and trying to beat the girl from Ynys Mon who appeared to want to beat me too. As it turned out her name was also Sarah, so coming in to the home stretch and back to the track there were lots of shouts of “Sarah!” which could have all been for her for all I knew, but I took the encouragement and went with it.
Finally the left hand turn to enter the track was back in sight. I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd cheering me on and pushed hard to run the last 500m or so on the track to finish just in front of the girl from Ynys Mon and 15 seconds behind the lady from Bermuda. I was done, completely shattered but so pleased to have done it!
The next bit was all a bit of a blur of emotions and cheering others in. I knew Laura would do amazingly well (confirmed by a passing cyclist who yelled, ‘your girl up-front is doing brilliantly!’) and soon found out that she’d finished fourth, just shy of third place. Julie also had a great race (although it took her a while to realise it) and came over the line to be given a congratulatory sweaty hug! I also managed to have a chat (and swap Island pins) with the runners from Bermuda and Ynys Mon.
The whole event was brilliantly organised. Competitors were really looked after by the hosting island, people were all friendly and supportive and IOW track and field athletes were taken care of brilliantly by leaders Paul Simpson and Nicola Canning.
In my few days in Jersey I learned a lot, especially the power of a positive mind set. I think I’m just about coming down from the whole experience and feel immensely privileged to have been a part of it. Anyone thinking of aiming for Gotland in two years time or Menorca in four years should go for – It’s an experience that will stay with me forever.
Laura Brackley 1:23:41 Sarah Kavanagh 1:32:47 Julie King 1:37:30 (5th team)
Scott Edgington 76:32 Paul Cameron 78:29 George Shoulder 88:21 (8th team)