Just 22 miles separate the island rivals of Jersey and Guernsey but different types of sweater is just the start of the differences.
Jersey wear red and are represented by a toad (Crapaud) while Guernsey wear green and take donkeys (anes) as their symbolic animal. It’s a real life Lilliput and Blefuscu.
Each year the biggest clashes of the sporting calendar are the Muratti Vase (football) and the Siam Cup (rugby).
But this year, the power of running helped to bring the islands closer, at least over four relay legs and a couple of beers.
Me and three colleagues from Jersey-based Ashburton Investments had been invited by sister company FNB International Trustees in Guernsey to compete in a race around the cobbled, hilly streets of St Peter Port.
Each team member was to run around a twisty, looped mile before a punishing 10% gradient sprint up Smith Street and passing a proverbial baton (a weary low-five as it turned out).
There was also a legitimate business purpose to take place as we presented an overview of our funds and strategy to visiting staff members and to meet prospective clients.
A mile may not sound long but during training for the North Downs Way, I had been aiming for 12 minute miles. For this I was looking to half that.
So we jumped on a boat from St Helier (plane cancelled due to the notorious Channel Island fog) and got into our kit in the FNBIT offices – literally in one of the unused offices – for added team bonding.
The Guernsey team consisted of Rory, Julian, Alex and Owen who had an interesting mix of vests and t-shirts while myself, Simon, Grant and Tim managed to get our branding on point with the famous Ashburton claret (thanks to a last minute bike dash home on a Fund Manager’s bike to pick up my forgotten shirt).
The important business of attire and team photos done, we headed to the start line.
The great and good of Guernsey business life were there including a number of people looking very professional and keen which was slightly worrying.
I was beginning to think that my palm tree socks would not have the required intimidation effect…
To kill a bit of time, we headed out on a course recce and were surprised just how winding and undulating it was for such a small distance.
The high street was also cobbled and part of our route was along the main road where we had to dodge a couple of buses, not exactly PB material.
Back at the start line, there was a strange mix of stretching and networking before the race debrief and racers from the 60+ teams made their way to the start.
Grant was lead runner for us and shot off from the start alongside Rory and a number of other runners.
It’s an amazing sight to watch so many people sprint past you, like one fluid body – watching on TV really doesn’t do sport justice.
And like that they were gone, round war memorial and down a -14% chicane into the town.
We spotted Grant again on his first loop and thought he was top 10 before waiting anxiously to see where he would be when attempted THE HILL.
The distance was barely 90 metres but at the end of a flat out mile it really sapped the legs and lungs.
He crossed the line, tapped Tim and then looked like he might be sick. This was when I remembered how hard it was to run a mile.
As third runner, I entered the pen to wait for Tim’s return and the atmosphere was brilliant, it felt like the Tour de France as the teams crowded the cobbled hill to find their runner.
I spotted a flash of claret at the bottom of the hill and headed to the start line.
A nervous wait as Tim put in a final sprint and I started the Garmin, stuck out my hand and sprinted out as quickly as I could.
I love descending so spend the first 300 metres careering down the back streets around parked cars and marshals before turning right onto The Pollet.
I tried to carry in as much speed as possible for the slight incline before then heading down briefly and turning onto the front.
There was a photographer in the middle of the road so I tried my hardest to adopt a sprinter’s pose in my sunglasses and tropical socks.
The hairpin left was where I was overtaken but I thought I had already overtaken two people so wasn’t too bothered, I just wanted to save some energy for the end.
Miles are over far too quickly so just as you think you’ve settled into a rhythm, you reach the end. I turned right up Smith Street, head down, quick steps, tapped on to Simon and then almost fell over.
My legs were jelly and wobbled for a bit with a couple of those around me before getting the feeling back and trying to find the team.
By the time I had fully recovered, Simon was already on his way up the hill comfortably securing a 6th place (top decile) for Ashburton A’s and FNB finished in a respectable 35th.
We joined up to discuss how we’d got on in a meeting room called “The Prince of Wales” which was busier than expected but the refreshments went down a treat.
It always amazes me how much better face-to-face contact is rather than phone calls or emails despite the trend towards the latter.
I need to work on meeting people rather than the lazy option of an email or whatsapp.
We left the bar, sorry meeting room, to get changed but then managed to get locked out of the office before being rescued by a man who’d left a surprise meal with his girlfriend. Thanks Jules!
The next day, we were introduced to more colleagues and spent time discussing our work within the business before heading to the airport and straight back into the Jersey office.
In 24 hours we had left one island, run a mile, met colleagues, met potential clients, learnt, taught and were now back.
It may not have been a long race, but it took a lot to run that little.
To Canaccord Genuity for sponsoring the relay and to Guernsey Island Amateur Athletics Club for making sure it ran so smoothly (pun semi intended).
To everyone at FNBIT for being so welcoming and to Alan Corlett for taking the pictures.