Anyone who has run the To Hell And Back 10k knows it is not heavenly in usually extremely hot and dry conditions.
But the annual run – this year also titled the Jerry Harper 10k – is this Sunday, 18 November, and has become a permanent and popular fixture.
After the crowd assembles on West Bay Road opposite the northern side of the Westin Hotel, at the stroke of 7am the command will be issued to “Go to Hell!”
On the first stage of the journey past condominiums and Public Beach, some intrepid souls will be running like hell, as others settle into a rhythm which will serve them best to complete the entire 6.2 miles.
After passing Tiki Beach, to which all will eventually return for breakfast, the crew will proceed into West Bay and turn around at Devil’s Hangout.
The run, on the last day of Pirates Week has a long and chequered history.
Out to Hell and Back was for several years sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, located in The Strand Shopping Centre. In 2000, the run date coincided with the Sydney Olympics, so mile markers brought back from Aus portrayed Australian themes.
Kareem Streete-Thompson donated personal gear, Island Glassblowing created an Olympic torch and random prizes included a trip to the Outback Bowl.
Following the closing of Outback, distances and venues varied.
On one occasion, the run was undertaken by Heaven 97 and titled ‘From Heaven to Hell’, followed a course beginning near the radio station and ending at the Devil’s Hangout.
In another, a route was initiated which began at the Devil’s Hangout and concluded at the Paradise Grill on Harbour Drive. This was called ‘From Hell to Paradise’ and was planned for the following year as well. However, the owners changed the establishment’s name to Margaritaville.
Although this change was short lived, an alternative run related to the theme came about.
For a number of years now, the To Hell and Back 10K has been an integral activity on the Pirates Week schedule of events. Start and finish points have fluctuated dependent upon available venues.
Notable participants have included the world renowned Englishman Ron Hill, Commonwealth Games, European Championships and Boston Marathon winner who has competed in more than 100 countries and has run every day since December 1964.
Another big name was Bill Rodgers, several times winner of the Boston and New York Marathons and also Keith Brantly, US Olympic marathoner and distance running consultant, William Wuyke, two-time Olympian for Venezuela and former masters world record holder at 800 metres and Dieudonne Lamothe, Haiti’s first four-time Olympian.
Despite the many differences over time, two factors have remained consistent- the Devil’s Hangout has been the start, finish, or turnaround point on each occasion and the Phoenix Athletic Club’s coach Harper has taken responsibility for organisation and administration of each event.