On June 24th, you’ll be organizing the St Helena Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?
St Helena remains one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands situated 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa and is currently only accessible by sea. The most regular means to reach the Island is on board the RMS St Helena – a five-day voyage from Cape Town. This is remote running at its best!
How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?
The marathon first took place in 2000. It formed the centre point of the brand new Festival of Running, which was set up to encourage both local people to enjoy running and jogging to improve their fitness and also to extend the attractions and activities on St Helena to a different type of visitor. The Festival of Running was originally held every other year, but the island is now trying to make it an annual event.
What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?
It’s a fairly challenging route. The course is hilly, but rewarding views along the way will help the mileage tick by. The route takes runners past some of the island’s key attractions, including High Knoll Fort, Diana’s Peak (the highest point on the island) and Plantation House, residence of the island’s Governor.
How many runners do you expect on Sunday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?
Being an island with just 4,000 residents, the number of entries is never going to rival London or New York! Usually there are around half a dozen serious runners who want to take on the marathon or the half-marathon. The two distances are run in tandem for organisational practicalities. There is a very friendly atmosphere, and the run is well supported even if there are just a few runners.
Do you organize other races during the Week? If so, on what distances?
The marathon is part of the wider weeklong Festival of Running which takes place from 22-30 June. As well as the 42.2km course, runners can sign up for 10km or 3km races so there’s something to suit all fitness levels. In addition to these, there’s also the Diana’s Peak Ascent – a completely uphill run ending up at the highest point on St Helena – and the infamous Jacob’s Ladder Challenge. Jacob’s Ladder is a 699-step climb out of the capital, Jamestown. The challenge is a run up the Ladder against the clock and it’s not for the faint hearted!
At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?
The weather is similar all year round on St Helena and for much of the year temperatures are between 20-27°C (70-80°F).
Have you planned festivities around the marathon?
The running activities during the week are interspersed with walks and other events. There is always an awards evening at the end of the Festival, built around a social event. There are also more tourist-focussed activities including dolphin watching and charity events to help raise money for local causes.
The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to St Helena before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?
It’s a small island, just 47-sq miles, but there’s an astonishing amount to do once the running action is over. Napoleon is the reason many people have heard of St Helena so any first time visitors should make time to visit Longwood House – his main residence whilst exiled on the island. St Helena is also a walkers paradise, so if your legs aren’t too weary, there are some incredible coastal walks to enjoy. Runners can also re-fuel with some fresh fish and chips, or sit back and relax with a mug of St Helena’s much sought after coffee and embrace the island’s beautifully laid-back pace.
In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the St Helena Marathon?
One of the most remote marathon’s in the world – this event is very much about the destination not just running the distance and it’s an event that still has the ‘exclusivity’ factor with very few people laying claim to having compete in it.
Interview with Mike Dean, Tourism Development Executive, St Helena. Originally from the UK, Mike Dean has lived on St Helena for almost 18 months driving forward the tourism development on the Island. He is a keen runner and an active participant in local life and events. He tells us all about the forthcoming St Helena Marathon, part of the Festival of Running….