Steady Speirs returns in style

Heard the one about the Welshman living in the United States who went to Cayman and shocked the locals by winning their local marathon?

spiers marathon

Speirs only entered on a whim. Photo: Ron Shillingford

Well it was no joke for Cayman’s best because that’s what happened on Sunday.

Steve Speirs took the Cayman Islands Marathon title in a time of 2 hours 59 minutes and 5 seconds after race favourite Scott Brittain dropped out a couple of miles short of the 26.2 mile finish.

This was the annual race’s biggest ever entry, totalling 674 in marathon, half-marathon and four-member team relays. With 500 kids in their own event, the organisers led, by race director Rhonda Kelly, partner Laurie-Ann Holding (Michael Holding’s wife) and Bev Sinclair, all deserve a pat on the back.

It started at 5am from Breezes by the Bay on the waterfront and raised funds for the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps and the Cancer Society as well as other organisations.

Vanessa Hansen and James Bebarfald kept the ever increasing crowd informed throughout.

Kelly was pleased with the record turnout and also the fact that so many worthy causes also benefitted.

‘Apart from our designated two charities, many more were well supported,’ she said. ‘They include Meals On Wheels and the crisis centre. Derek Haines always supports this event and his attitude is that if he can do something he loves doing daily and also raise money for charity, it’s not a problem.

‘Alastair Walters too, raised thousands for charity although he didn’t run in a tutu as promised.’

Kelly was also pleased that despite the recession around 200 overseas runners dug deep to make this a lovely winter break. They included six Italians, one of which had his left arm in a cast, obviously from a recent serious injury.

Kelly added: ‘There’s a woman who did the full marathon who is from Quebec. She is here with her husband, two kids and her parents. They’re staying until 13 December.’

The kids ran in their race to make himself useful the husband gave his services as a volunteer. As the average visitor spend in Cayman is $2,200, this event alone must have injected a significant amount.

Brittain was hoping to make it a historic hat-trick having won the previous two Cayman Marathons in record time but a foot injury that had hampered his training came back to haunt him and Speirs seized his chance, overhauling the previously unbeaten Aussie and a couple of others to take the title.

The only other time Speirs, who lives in Virginia Beach, had raced here was the two-mile Breeze fun race last year.

He won that too and promised to come back for a crack at the big one and sure enough he showed up – with wife Allyson who ran the half – and saw off all male opposition. The next one to cross the line was Eduardo Torres in fifth place.

Second home was Cayman’s distance queen Beth Schreader in 3:08:24. Katharine Jones from Southampton, UK, was third in 3:14:24 and then came Toronto’s Laura Couvrette in 3:20:21.

Torres was 13 seconds behind Couvrette and next to finish was American Daryl Hultguist followed by Brit Collin Parrack, then Cayman’s Dean Gaffigan.

Cayman’s Caroline Cahill was ninth and British visitor Steve Goodwin tenth.

Relaxing in Breezes with Allyson after, a beaming Speirs, 43, looked as if Santa had come exceptionally early. His best time is 2 hours 51, around 20 minutes slower than Brittain’s best ever.

At least the Speirs were race-fit having done a marathon only three weeks previously.

‘I went out at a steady pace and didn’t know who was ahead of me because it was dark,’ Speirs said. ‘I knew that four were ahead of me at the half-way point and just continued to run at my own pace.

‘At around the 22-mile mark I caught Scott. He was walking a little as well as running. I pressed on and thought he might finish strongly but thankfully he didn’t.

‘I’m still in shock. I only signed up about a week before because I was recovering from a stress fracture. I admit, I’m not that fast but have a lot of endurance. I didn’t really know what to expect from the Cayman Marathon because of the heat, but it wasn’t too bad.’

The half-marathon winner was pretty predictable. Marius Acker did it again for the umpteenth time, almost two minutes ahead of Mike Ridsdale.

The South African banker won in 1:18:00 to Ridsdale’s 1:19:53. Russell Coleman, last year’s second placed marathon runner, was third in 1:20:35 and fourth was David Conen.

Mark Hogan, Cayman Free Press super salesman, was fifth followed by Tom Stephens, then Tim Blackwell in seventh, Sung Cho next, JP Hanekom ninth, followed by Julie-Anne Pearson in tenth. She was the first female home in the half.

In the team event, Yoshi’s intended to win in a sizzling time under three hours but James Ogden pulled out injured during the race and they failed to finish.

Team Road Kill was the first four-member outfit home, in 3:25:02 followed by Kiss N Run then PWC Fantastic Four.

Fourth were Queen Nilani and the 55ers followed by Heineken Light. Cayman Imports Girls Rugby Team were sixth.

Wheelchair athletes Ryan Chalmers and Brian Siemann again competed.

There were plenty of familiar faces stretching their legs, including journalists Kafara Augustine and Cynthia Hew, former Miss Cayman Rebecca Parchment, Jim Fraser and Tony ‘Duff Geezer’ Watts.

The water stops were fantastic again with helpers in zany costumes and encouraging flagging legs throughout the route around South Sound, Prospect Point and George Town.

The top male and female marathoners received great prizes from sponsors that included Kirk Freeport, Island Companies, Digicel and Dolphin Discovery.

All in all, it was another marvellous, safe and thoroughly enjoyable marathon that will again resonate around the running world. Reaching that magic figure of 1,000-plus is only a matter of time.