St Helena Online

Tag: running

Pioneer runners get St Helena on the move

On The Move run 01 2500

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.

On The Move poster 400A 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.



It’s a record: ten runners to sail in for ‘really hard’ races

The first record has already been broken in the St Helena Festival of Running, a fortnight before it has even begun.

Ten visiting athletes are lined up to take part in St Helena’s next festival of running – which is ten times as many as the year before.

In 2012, UK runner Henrietta Knight was the only overseas participant. She won three races, setting a new women’s record in the marathon.

A previous runner had been guaranteed a win in the marathon – she was the only competitor.

Cathy Alberts, the island’s head of tourism, said: “We have got ten international runners coming, which is absolutely great.

“We managed to get St Helena Line to agree to a little bit of discount, because it’s very expensive to get here.”

Henrietta said she would recommend other overseas athletes to compete in such “a spectacular place with marvellous people.”

But she added: “The running is really hard.”

St Helena Festival of Running takes place from 13 – 20 June 2013

Marathon relief: chef in bomb suit gets more than a red nose

Falklands governor Nigel Haywood has completed the Stanley Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 30 minutes and 1 second – on his birthday.

He was nearly three times as fast as chef David Bradley, who predicted he’d be a bit of a plodder on his online fund-raising page:

“I’m doing a marathon in a 45kg bomb disposal suit for Red Nose Day because I’M STUPID!!”

The first male and female islanders to finish were Richard Short and Lindsay Sutcliffe. The race winner was Andrew Van Kints, a pilot from Cheltenham, UK, who finished in under three hours. The fastest woman was Dawn Teed, partner of previous winner Hugh Marsden.

Picture of Governor Haywood with his medal
David Bradley’s fund-raising page

Graham beats Jacob’s Ladder record – hands down

picture by Tina Yon-Stevens, St Helena
I’ll crawl if I have to: Graham Doig sets a new Jacob’s Ladder record. Picture by Tina Yon-Stevens

The record for climbing Jacob’s Ladder has been broken by less than a second – by a “runner” who went up on all fours.

Graham Doig cleared the 699th step of the St Helena landmark in a time of 5 minutes, 16.78 seconds, using feet and hands. Then he rolled on to the ground at the feet of spectators.

copyright: Tiny Yon-Stevens, St Helena
That hurt: Graham reaches the top. Picture: Tina Yon-Stevens

The previous record was 5 minutes 17 seconds.

And island resident Martin Squibbs set a new record for others to try to beat – five ascents of the Ladder (and four descents) in a time of one hour, 14 minutes and 4 seconds, with the clock running throughout.

Martin is an outdoor enthusiast who has made a practice of climbing the notorious flight of steps out of Jamestown at least twice a week.

He had previously managed three ascents in succession before deciding to set himself the five-climb challenge.

Charlotte Hubbard climbed three times.
Charlotte Hubbard climbed three times.

School student Charlotte Hubbard also completed three ascents, but her overall time was not recorded because organisers had not known in advance that she would do so.

Graham is a visiting consultant working for engineering firm Fairhurst, due to leave the island on 25 January 2013 after a two-week visit. He is a keen mountain biker.

He passed up on the technique used by most Ladder challengers, who use the wide handrails to pull themselves up, and instead pitched forward and placed both his hands and his feet on the steps, as though climbing a fireman’s ladder.

The same approach could be adopted by future runners – especially those with short arms.

Martin leads the way
Martin leads the way

In all, 24 people took part in the Ladder Challenge in aid of New Horizons youth centre – many of them members of the organisation. Chairman Derek Richards and his wife Linda joined the climb, as did manager Nick Stevens.

Ten-year-old Josh Benjamin managed the climb in 9 minutes and 28 seconds, six seconds faster than Aiden Yon-Stevens – Nick’s son – who was the youngest challenger, aged just seven.

Every participant was asked to raise at least £5 in sponsorship.

All pictures by Tina Yon-Stevens


Each of the Ladder’s 699 steps is roughly 11 inches high and 11 inches deep, making an incline of about 1:1. But cruelly, it’s much steeper at the top.

There used to be 700 steps. The bottom one is now below ground.

Jacob’s Ladder was originally built as an inclined railway for hauling animal dung and guano out of Jamestown, and to lower fresh produce into the town. Construction was supervised by Lieutenant G W Mellis during the governorship of Brigadier-General Dallas. Trucks were pulled by ropes linked to a capstan, powered by donkeys. The railway fell into ruin when the East India Company lost control of St Helena.

Island children learned to slide down the rails of the ladder, extending their arms along one rail and using their feet to brake against the other. It is said they carried hot food down to soldiers, on their stomachs.

The original Jacob’s Ladder appears in the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible. It led to Heaven. The St Helena Jacob’s Ladder leads somewhere else.

Several other places around the world have flights of steps called Jacob’s Ladder. They are found in the UK at Sidmouth, Cheddar Gorge and the iconic Kinder Scout hill, and in Massachusetts (USA), Auckland (New Zealand) and Perth (Australia).

Andrew Gurr, governor from 2007 to 2011, climbed the Ladder regularly. He invited islanders to join him on his hundredth ascent, and many did.

Ladder challenges are staged every two years as the final event in the St Helena Festival of Running. If it was the first event, runners would suffer “ladder legs” and be unable to manage the run up Diana’s Peak.

Records are now kept of the fastest ascent times, but they do not include the results of a challenge staged for the first Governor’s Cup yacht race carnival in 1996. For the record, a yachtie from New Caledonia won a crate of beer for running up in 5 mins, 33 secs. Second place – and no beer – went to the future editor of St Helena Online, with a time of 5 mins 45.12 secs. Chris, a UK half-Saint from Portsmouth, was third in 5.52.

Matty John, a legendary squeezebox player in the mid 20th Century, would climb the Ladder every Saturday night after sessions in the White Horse. Once, near the top, he fell, but was saved when his braces got snagged. He was spotted by an inmate in the prison below, and rescued.

When first-time climbers think they’re half way up the Ladder, they’re not.

Twenty four people took part in the Ladder Challenge on 21 January 2013. With the eight ascents completed by Martin Squibbs and Charlotte Hubbard, the total number of steps climbed was 20,970.

For more Jacob’s Ladder facts, visit John Turner’s St Helena website

Henrietta says island running is ‘spectacular’

New women’s record in St Helena marathon

A new women’s record has been set in the world’s most remote marathon race, on the opening weekend of the 2012 St Helena Festival of Running.

Henrietta Timms won the race round the 42-kilometre circuit of St Helena’s mountain roads in 4 hours, 27 minutes and 57 seconds.

She finished ahead of two male entrants, Lieuke Hepkema and Barry Cahill. However, their times suggest they were out to do the distance, not break records. The event is open to both runners and walkers.

The St Helena Marathon is described as “a challenging but rewarding feat along a breathtaking route over varied terrain, through Sandy Bay Ridges, Halley’s Mount, Green Hill and Levelwood.”

Stephen Bagley won the 21km half-marathon in a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 33 seconds, with John Woollacot crossing the line nine minutes later.

The third man and first woman home both shared the same finishing time – and the same surname. Grant and Suzie Pearson completed the run in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 31 seconds, three and a half minutes ahead of Tara Pelembe.

Grant is a visiting adviser on waste disposal and Tara is head of the island’s new environmental directorate. The run gave them plenty of time to admire the landscape they’re protecting.

Mary and Michael Cahill were the lead (and only) walkers, finishing together.

Results of the 3km and 10km “fun runs” on 26 June 2012 will appear on this site as soon as they are available.

Thursday sees the gruelling Diana’s Peak race, from Jamestown sea front to the highest point on the island – a distance of about six miles and just under 3,000 feet of ascent.

Which sets runners up nicely for the island’s unique showcase event: the brutal Jacob’s Ladder Challenge, which closes the festival on Friday.

A 15-kilometre off-road trail run – won by Financial Secretary Paul Blessington in 2010 in a very rapid 1:05:54 – is not being repeated this year.


We were lucky with the weather I think. Clear enough for excellent views and overcast enough to avoid overheating. Big thanks to Grant who helped me overcome the last hill…he would have had a MUCH better time if he’d not been running with me all the way!

– Suzie Pearson, St Helena – blog

Race Records:

21KM (half-marathon)
1 Jean-Paul Van Belle: 1:40:46, set in 2001
2 Errol Duncan 1:43:14, in 2001
3 Ronald Morris 1:45:57, in 2011

42KM (marathon)
1 Errol Duncan 4:01:16, set in 2007
2 Errol Duncan 4:06:46, in 2003
3 Stefan Schlett 4:13:52, in 2007
(Stefan Schlett holds the record for running up the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder:
5 mins, 17.46 secs)

St Helena’s just not horrible enough for marathon runners
Governor crosses line in Falklands marathon: your turn, Mr Capes?

2012 Marathon results
Three months on St Helena – blog by Suzie Pearson

Governor crosses line in Falklands marathon: your turn, Mr Capes?

Poster for the Standard Chartered Stanley Marathon, showing a female runner with sea and distant hills beyond
Stanley Marathon is officially the world's most southerly 26-miler

Falklands Radio reports that the Falkland Islands’ governor, Nigel Haywood, has crossed the finishing line in the the world’s most southerly marathon “with the governor’s flag in his hand”.

Which begs the question: will his counterpart on St Helena, Mark Capes, be tackling the world’s most remote marathon in June 2012?

Or maybe he’ll pass the flag to the island’s financial secretary, Paul Blessington, who has a history of running home after work on a Tuesday – six miles, 2,000 feet of ascent, partly off-road, in under an hour.

There is some pressure on His Excellency here: his predecessor, Governor Gurr, was known to go running, and also completed 100 ascents of Jacob’s Ladder, the brutal flight of 699 steps rising up from Jamestown.

A picture on the news website on the Falklands shows a sizeable field setting off for this year’s event – including relay teams.

So how do the Falklands manage to attract so many runners, when the result of the last St Helena marathon was a foregone conclusion, just so long as the only entrant managed to finish? (She did).

The first male and female finishers in the Stanley Marathon (Robert Harden and Argentinian Claudia Camargo) each won £1,100. The first relay team shared £900.

That might have something to do with it.

Sergeant Harden, a gym instructor based on the islands at Hillside, had already won the Cape Pembroke half-marathon, running in aid of the Royal British Legion.

He’d set himself a challenge of completing both events in a combined time of 4 hours and 45 minutes – meaning he had to finish the full 26-miler in 3 hours 28 minutes. For every minute he went over that time, he’d promised to donate an extra pound to the legion.

Frank Jaffray was the only Falklands-born runner to go the full distance.

The official times haven’t yet been published (as at 1800hrs UK time on 19 March 2012).

Congratulations to all the runners. And good luck to Governor Capes…


BFBS Radio interview with Sergeant Harden


Standard Chartered Stanley Marathon
St Helena Festival of Running 2012

Note, this post has been being written by someone who managed a time of 5 mins and 45 seconds when a race up the Jacob’s Ladder was staged to mark the first Governor’s Cup yacht race, and who was recently irked to discover that because the St Helena media didn’t work over the Christmas holidays back then, the result went unrecorded. The winner, from New Caledonia, was 12 seconds faster, which would put him high up the current top ten – but the records make no mention of it. Unless anyone kept a copy?