"A quick note of thanks for an excellent race at the weekend. The race setup was very professional, with full kit check and gps tracking of all the competitors. Add in the roving marshals and the welcome checkpoint at the half way point, I don't recall a race on this scale where I've been so well looked after.
The course was almost flawlessly marked, but no less challenging than during daylight - except that you can't see what's coming next. The cliff paths were so peaceful at night, and with the clear starry skies and the sounds of the sea below making for a serene night of running, despite the endless climbs and descents.
Seeing the leading and chasing head torches at various points as you crested a climb, or rounded a corner, was great motivation to keep moving, and seeing the sky start to colour for dawn helped to stay focussed during the latter hours into the welcome finish, complete with coffee and bacon butty.
Thanks to all the marshals and helpers, and of course yourself for putting the event together. It deserves to fill-up as quickly, if not quicker than the GU36." - Pete
"Thank you for a great event! So so many stairs! Will be back next year!" - Kirsty
"Many thanks to Peter and the team. Super well organised event. Just need to make the course a bit easier next time." - Tom
"Thank you so much to all helpers and marshals. Well organised friendly race as always." - Brett
"Thank you so much to all of the organisers for your time and efforts to make the Gun31 happen - so much appreciated - the course marking was excellent, the warm cuppa tea at half-way was very welcome, and the encouragement from the guys in the sweeper-car made the difference between keeping going or bailing. I was certainly not on running form so all the extra help got me home - thank you." - Jonny
"Thank you Peter and all helpers was a great race." - Rex
"Once again all the super crew put on a fantastic race thank you and well done you all deserve medals oh and well done the runners." - Harry
The Guernsey Ultra Gun31 is a 31 mile night race on the cliffs of Guernsey starting at midnight on Saturday 20th November 2021.
Organising ultra races is never an easy task. The Gun31 2021 was my last as race director and was probably the most difficult yet and it seems I wasn’t the only one having difficulties. From a sell-out start list of 50 places, a steady stream of drop outs that even the healthy waiting list could not absorb saw only 26 on the final list sent to the GB Trackers a couple of days before Saturday’s event.
With even more retirements before race registration we were further surprised that only 14 registered before the start.
Despite a few showers when setting up, conditions were very good for the runners with no wind. The race village this year was at the Belvedere Fort and worked quite well as an alternative to Clarence Battery – still hampered by the steps that collapsed in 2020. The tents were erected on the canon firing positions and despite there being no actual cannons at this location, the fire pits helped create that 18th century vibe.
On previous races a pattern appeared to be developing that, albeit with a couple of early retirements, everyone reached Fort Pezeries, the checkpoint and turn-around, by the cut-off.
When watching the tracker this year (in addition to the input from the motorised sweepers who monitored the runners’ health and progress) it became apparent that some were struggling. Several reached the checkpoint to retire and await return to the start/finish then further DNFs on the return leg were transported back. Despite that, 56% finished which is good for the race and all bar one finished within the 7.5 hour time necessary to receive the big black medal. All nine finishers received the “Gunrunner” t-shirt along with a trophy for placed runners.
Despite a stern warning in the race briefing, a few fell on the treacherous Saints Bay wooden steps but fortunately no significant injuries were sustained on the race. The reflective marking system meant that no-one went off course or felt lost and we had no need of the emergency services who had been primed with the race timings, contacts and race tracker link.
Tiaan Erwee, who will be competing in the Spine Race this winter, put in an outstanding performance – beating the previous record by 51 minutes with a time of 4 hours 36 minutes and 44 seconds (previous record was 2019 Aivis Kergalvis 5 hours 27 minutes). We will be watching Tiaan in the Spine with interest and wish him best of luck in this brutal winter race on the Pennine Way.
Tiaan stayed to welcome in the following runners and enjoyed a bacon roll before running home!
Graham Merfield put in an outstanding performance and was probably expecting the win before Tiaan’s late entry but with a time only 13 minutes off the standing record had to be happy with second.
Will Dawber of the UK was the third male to finish. Six and a half hours is an extremely respectable time especially given unfamiliarity with the tough terrain and steps of the Guernsey cliffs.
Sarah Smith missed out on a medal by just under 45 minutes but she received the trophy for First Female. Although tardy at the checkpoint, Sarah ran a consistent return leg and was well within the 9.5 hour final cut-off. As the only female finisher ever within the 9:30 cut-off, Sarah sets the female course record at 08:14:37!
Rex Bisson was ready to throw in the towel at the checkpoint but was persuaded to carry on. I bet he’s glad he did as he finished well within the medal cut-off and returned home happy to moan about his legs.
A special thanks from me to Mark Hoskins, Martin Walker and Dave Wood who came over from the UK to run my last race. Mark, Martin and the rest of the “Bristol Lads” have been staunch supporters of Guernsey Ultra since running my first GU36. Hopefully we will see them on the island for races in the future.
Dave Cox has completed many tough ultras and triathlons but seemed to be surprised at how tough Guernsey’s cliffs can be. His experience obviously got him through to a medal finish.
Despite being abandoned by his training buddies (who deferred before the race), Martin Lock battled through to a medal finish.
As this was my last race, I want to say a few words of thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who have helped me put these events on over the years. When I started one of my biggest worries was finding enough people to help but I am happy to say that many people stepped up to help – some of which I would have not expected. It could not have happened without many hours from all of those exceptional people but a few special mentions and thanks seem appropriate.
Firstly to my wife Michele who has not only directly helped in the races themselves but has also supported me throughout and to my boys who, despite running not being their thing, have put themselves out to help me.
Liz and Gareth Fretwell who, in almost every race I have put on, have travelled from the UK to give their experience and time to the races.
Louise Sauvarin, who is not a runner but has been an invaluable and familiar presence at registration and GU36 checkpoint 3 with her daughters since the beginning along with Ian Gillespie.
Nic and Ali Cleveland – also not runners – who probably think that starting a race at midnight in late autumn is quite mad but have nonetheless turned out in the dark nights and mornings to help as well as being recognisable faces on the GU36 checkpoints.
Jac Hunt who has driven vans, manned checkpoints and generally been supportive every year even though busy with her own organisation, Guernsey Swim Adventures.
To all the local runners who, when unable to take part themselves, immediately put themselves forward to help, thank you. Too numerous to mention individually but you know who you are!
Michael Quittenden and Paul Smith will be running Guernsey Ultra (GU36 and Gun31) in future. Thanks for your extra help in my last races and wishing you every success with these and other events you will be involved in.
I have loved my time organising these races. I started with a determination to have an ultra race in Guernsey as there were none. Now there are several and many good ultra runners are able to train in race conditions here without having to travel. I am also pleased that I have been able in some small part to promote the island and have brought hundreds of visitors here both for the races and on an ongoing basis. I think Guernsey is definitely now on the ultra map and long may this continue.
I have made some wonderful friends through these events and look forward to seeing familiar faces as I help out myself at future races.
Thank you all for your support over the years.
Ex-Guernsey Ultra Race Director