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Headway supporters’ epic 144-mile run around Jersey

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FACE-DOWN, delirious with fatigue in the dirt above Beauport Bay with the sun not yet peaking over the horizon, Bryce Alford was just weeks shy of his 50th birthday.

Bryce and Harry

He and friend Harry McAlinden – a 60-year-old veteran of ultra-marathon running – were just nine miles from finishing an epic 144-mile run that would take them around Jersey’s coastline three times, when they paused ahead of the final push.

‘That was the point when I was at my darkest,’ said Mr Alford, a fundraising manager for Headway Jersey. ‘It’s nine miles from the finish but when you are 135 miles in, nauseous and delirious, it was the darkest. I just laid face down while Harry was having his feet tended to.’

The two friends eventually completed the challenge in 47 hours – sleeping for just 40 minutes in total – just before 5am on Monday. They first set off from the Steam Clock, with the Round the Rock competitors, at about 6am on Saturday. The Round the Rock is a 48-mile ultramarathon that covers Jersey’s coastline once.

The pair are raising money for Headway Jersey – a charity that supports Islanders with brain injuries – and have set themselves a £10,000 target. To date, they have raised just short of £8,000.

‘It costs Headway £350,000 a year to keep going,’ said Mr Alford, who has worked for the charity for just over a year. ‘We have around 140 members and, of those, 60 or 70 actively engage with us on a weekly basis.

‘I suppose I would just appeal to anyone to donate what they can. I think it deserves it. And businesses too. If they’re looking for a charity to support this month, or in 2020, please think of us.

‘Headway supports people with all sorts of brain injuries. Not just those who have suffered from trauma or accidents but people who have had brain tumours, strokes or encephalitis.’

The idea for the challenge was Mr McAlinden’s. He recently completed the West Highland Way – a 96-mile ultra-marathon – and, among other challenges, has run up and down Mount Kilimanjaro in less than 20 hours. It usually takes people days to scale it.

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Mr Alford is no stranger to long-distance challenges either.

Last year he ran around Les Quennevais cycle track continuously for 24 hours, covering a total of 122 miles.

‘Harry came up with the idea and I asked to join,’ said Mr Alford. ‘We thought it was going to take us about 40 hours but the north coast at night – some of the cliff paths are quite overgrown – is just unrunnable.

‘I tried to avoid eating gels on the way round and we just kept our energy levels up with oat bars and seeds and nuts. I didn’t sleep for long on Monday after it finished, just short bursts here and there. It’s going to take some time to recover.

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‘It’s the hardest thing I have ever done and I think Harry would say the same. There was a point on the first night where he was sweating so much but also shivering.

‘We couldn’t have done it without our support teams and people running with us for sections. We had some Headway members come out and cheer us on at 2am too, which gave us a great push.’

To donate, type Race Nation Triple Jersey Challenge into a search engine and click on the top link. Alternatively, call Headway on 505937 for details.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
author

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