The adopted Guernseyman and ultra-running ace won Sunday’s GU36 – a 36-mile clockwise circumnavigation of the island’s coastline from the Liberation Monument – in a stunning new record of 4hrs 12min. 56sec.
That is some dominance when his fastest chaser finished nearly an hour behind, while many of the 109 finishers would have been overjoyed with a time in the 5hr range for the gruelling ultramarathon.
The South African national got a taste for what was possible when he ran his old record of under 4-20 four years ago, but injury in the interim and a rough build-up – he retired from the Winter Spine Race due to an infection and missed an Easter road marathon due to Covid – left him without expectation.
After a slower run-in to the Petit Bot checkpoint (six miles) on the generally pleasant but slightly warm morning, he rallied up to Portelet (16 miles) to make four minutes on the split from his old benchmark.
Then, after soldiering on and facing his darkest hour around Chouet, he put his foot down to secure a shock result.
‘I did not have any expectations for this race at all,’ he said.
‘I was just hoping to get in under five hours and see how it goes.
‘It’s a strong field and I did not expect that outcome. It went really, really well.’
Ahead of chasing redemption at the 268-mile Summer Spine, then racing the 205-mile Tor des Geants, he added: ‘I absolutely think it’s the confidence booster that I need going into the summertime.’
After a long wait, Highgate’s William Dawber claimed second in 5-10-13, with Fabio Telles also finishing within an hour of the impressive winner.
But that race for second delivered some surprisingly neck-and-neck competition, while playing true to the demands of ultra-running.
Even after Aivis Kergalvis passed the Rousse checkpoint at 24 miles firmly in runner-up position, with over a minute on third, heavy cramping proved his undoing.
Former resident Dawber had taken over by Vale Castle as Telles followed him home, with Thames Hare and Hounds’ James Whetman and Guernsey superveteran Graham Merfield filling the top five in 5-21 or faster. Kergalvis held on for sixth another 5min. back.
Coming home in 10th overall, Belgrave’s Justine Lynch proved a worthy winner of the women’s race. The UK runner finished in 5-52-58 after a good battle – at least initially – with Guernsey’s own Caroline Barby.
Barby had been right on her coming off the cliffs to the Portelet checkpoint, whereupon the local contender stopped to address a cut on her leg.
That decision gifted Lynch a lead, which she more than maintained as she strode out to a 21-30 victory margin.
London-based South African runner Toosie Bawden completed the women’s podium.
Lynch is hoping to return for a very different test, the seven-day Trident Trust All Terrain Challenge, in two months’ time.