The things people will do to get a free T-shirt – like run 15 or more kilometres around Jamestown, for instance (not all at once). Or maybe they were running because actually, it’s healthy and quite fun and afterwards, you feel somehow better.
Thirty eight people lined up on the wharf, all smiling for the camera, at the start of the first of a series of three-kilometre runs under the banner, St Helena On The Move.
A little over half an hour later – 31 minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact – the last of them crossed the line. The fastest was back in a mere 14:25, as timed by the team from New Horizons.
Anyone completing at least five of the initial seven runs gets the free shirt, as a badge of honour.
The weekly runs, scheduled for seven Thursday afternoons from 12 January 2016, have been initiated by Dr Niall O’Keeffe, head of Enterprise St Helena, who brought the idea from his home in Ireland.
“I’ve been participating in and when possible helping to organise events like this for over 30 years,” he said.
“My home village of Ballycotton in Ireland is known by runners around the world for its events. We have regular 3km, 5km, 5-mile series and a 10-mile race in March capped at 3,300 entrants. I was also a member of East Cork AC and we had 3km winter series since the late 80s.
“The events have a very positive impact in the local community for participants, organiser, and supporters. The 10-mile event in March in particular draws competitors from around the world and has a significant tourism benefits.
“St Helena does have a running festival and I’d like to see more people having the confidence to participate by building up distance and frequency of running and walking.
“There are many people already walking and running the roads in St Helena on their own so it’s nice sometimes to participate with others.”
Enterprise St Helena is associated with economic development but Niall said the agency can also take a wider, “holistic” approach to helping people embark on new lives.
“At this time of the year many people’s thoughts turn to resolutions relating to health, career, education, business start-ups etc. ESH can provide support in most of these areas.”
He also said that St Helena On The Move could touch on all three of the National Goals – including strong community and family life.
- The island runs bear some similarity with the parkrun movement that started in a park in London and has spread to 11 countries worldwide, with well over a million people signed up (including the owner of St Helena Online – 88 runs and counting). The parkrun phenomenon sees people of all abilities turn up in parks on Saturday mornings to take part in free, 5km runs. To get a free shirt, though, adults have to complete 50 runs (children get one after 10). A 92-year-old man in Australia has earned his 100-run shirt and features in an inspirational film, here. Councillor Gavin Ellick made a fact-finding visit to Leamington parkrun in the UK, and there has been talk of trying to establish a parkrun on St Helena.