‘It takes a certain kind of crazy to trail run’

Jersey Trail-Fest. Start of the 20 mile race from St Catherine's Breakwater. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (37990407)

THEY say that to be a runner, you have to be a little bit crazy.

To be a trail runner, then, requires a particular kind of craziness.

As well as the usual huffing and puffing, trail running adds in hundreds of metres of elevation, tricky terrain – and that added exhilaration of trying not to fall off the cliff edge.

It also brings stunning views, hard-to-beat endorphin highs, and a community of trail runners who all share that particular craziness.

Last Saturday’s first ever “Jersey Trail-Fest”, organised by Trail Monkey, brought together that community for a series of events over the course of one day.

While take-up of the 5k and 10k races was somewhat lacking, the 10-mile, 20-mile and 40-mile (Double Top) distances proved incredibly popular, with some of them selling out days before racing got under way.

As a relative newbie to the trail running scene, despite having run regularly for several years, I opted for the 10-mile distance – enough to challenge me, but not quite break my spirit. Half of the Island’s north coast seemed manageable.

Lining up on the start line opposite Les Fontaines Pub, I was unsure how much sizing up of the competition I should do, how elbow-y I should get.

Not very much, I decided, when it all seemed rather friendly and chatty. Some fellow runners said rather ominously that they “just wanted to make it to the end”.

Besides, you’ve got no energy for showboating or peacocking if you want to last ten miles of constant undulating trail – not to mention the quad-bashing descent into Grève de Lecq, quickly followed by the ascent back toward Plémont.

There’s an odd competitiveness to trail, partly owing to the fact that it’s not a spectator sport (if you want to be seen to be winning, then go somewhere else) and partly owing to how difficult it is to overtake on narrow paths.

But mainly this is due to the fact that the runners string out after a few miles, so that there are sometimes hundreds of metres between us.

Despite finishing in second place, I had no idea where I was for most of the race.

It becomes more of a race against yourself, a race against your personal limits – there was a moment when I was clapping myself up the hill; a moment where I was thinking that at least I didn’t have it as bad as Jasmin Paris, who recently became the first woman to complete the brutal 100-mile Barkley Marathons; and a moment where I realised that I was not as close to the end as I thought, and I might have said some bad words.

My only complaint was the loop around the thick grass of Les Landes racecourse at the end. Not to be dramatic, but I might have seen my life flash before my eyes.

At the finish line, as I chugged some of the sweetest Diet Coke I have ever tasted, I watched three women finish arm-in-arm, congratulating each other and high-fiving, posing for photographs.

One of the worst things about this sport (apart from the blisters), I find, is that it often feels like a solitary endeavour.

Of course, we run with clubs and natter over hills and dales, but when it comes to the end of it, it’s the lungs in your chest and your legs that need to carry you through; you and the trail and a whole load of miles to the finish line.

But the camaraderie really shone at that finish line on Saturday and showed how much the community is there, and how important it is.

When I read through comments on Strava (a running app) afterwards, all of them were to thank race organisers, kind aid-station volunteers and marshals, friends and family who turned out, and those fellow runners who ran with us up those hills.

So, thank you once again to all those people, and to the mastermind behind the event, Phil Burrows, who had planned the whole thing to a tee. And to the sun, for making a rare appearance.

Oh, and big up to the owners of the Les Fontaines Pub who opened their doors early to let runners use their toilets. Lifesavers.

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