Saunders relishes Acker rivalry

There has been a mass exodus of Cayman’s top runners this year but at least one relative newcomer is helping to fill the gap. Jason Saunders is an agriculturalist and landscape gardener who rakes over the ground faster than most.

He won the Intertrust Cayman Islands half marathon last week and could be challenging the established order in the new year now he is back in serious training. Saunders turned 35 last week, an age when middle and long distance runners are generally coming into their prime. A devout Christian with the Mount Calvery Deliverance Church of God in Windsor Park, he prefers not to run on Sundays.

Although Saunders won the half in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes and 55 seconds, nearly four minutes faster than American visitor Abby Anderson, the fastest recorded chip time was by fourth placed Marius Acker, the event’s champion the previous five years and Cayman’s undisputed king of triathletes.

Acker overslept and reached the start line when everyone was already traipsing around the course. His chip time was 37 seconds faster than Saunders so if they had run together it would have been an intriguing race.

“I wish Acker had been there,” Saunders said. “It would have been a good race. But I will be around next year and there are many races to come. If I train well I’ll be racing and if God wants me to win, so be it.”

Saunders was one of Jamaica’s top runners until he arrived here three years ago. One of his best victories was winning the gruelling High Mountain Coffee 10k six years ago in a time of around 33 minutes. He only started running at 24 and that was by accident when entered for all the middle distance running events at his workplace at an agricultural institution. Soon he was winning everything he entered and being picked for the national squad.

Saunders, who grew up in Clarendon, represented Jamaica in two races in the US and once in Colombia. Best run in Cayman before last week was coming a close third behind Russell Coleman and winner Scott Brittain in the St Patrick’s Day run a couple of years ago.

Since then he has married Sophia and only really started training again in October, winning the two-mile Breeze Run comfortably. What with Chadwick Webster also coming out of retirement, Acker cannot take for granted race victories any more.