PHILIPSBURG—The French side SXtreme Running Club won Wednesday’s 33rd Around the Island Relay Race, one minute ahead of rivals Intergeneration Runners, and three minutes ahead of SXM Tri Academie.
SXtreme’s Julien Chaboeuf brought the baton home into the Raoul Illidge Stadium in 2: 18: 18, closely followed by Intergeneration Runners in 2:19: 32. The two elite teams engaged in a see saw battle until the Bellevue leg when SXtreme Runners overtook Intergeneration. SXM Tri Academie, who have been consistently on the podium for the last 10 years settled for third place in 2:21:29, to seal a dominating performance by the three top French-side clubs.
The anti-clockwise race started in perfect running conditions; cool, damp, and overcast for the first hour, but then turned extremely wet with a blanket of rain lasting to the end of the race. Fortunately, it eased up by the time the prize giving ceremony began in the stadium. The rain had no effect on the enthusiasm of the teams on the course and the atmosphere was electric as usual.
Winner of the Pre-Junior Team was Avenir Sportif SXM Jeunes finishing in 3:2:37. The teenage teams saw Dynamics Club take first place in 2:54:48. MPC Ice Pack was second in 3:0:57, and LAB Sports Academy third in 3:01:25.
The NAPA SXM Beep Beep Classic Runners, traditionally the team with the oldest runners, started one hour earlier which meant they could avoid the mayhem at the transitions for the early part of the race. The team did not have their usual American runners this time so recruited some younger local runners. Paul Steeman and Klass Steffens were still the oldest runners, 84 and 82 respectively.
“It was a good decision to start earlier, and worked out very well for us,” said team captain Grace Spencer. The funny thing was when we came in on leg four, a smart French runner getting ready for his leg saw this grey-haired runner coming into view, and could not believe how we could have been so fast. C’est pas possible,” he said.
The Remarkable Feat award went to Celine Verdonck from SXtreme Runners. She has trained many beginners to become athletes. Also nominated for awards were Adrian Nicasio from the Colosseum Team. He has made lifestyle changes and lost a considerable amount of weight. Perhaps the most inspiring feat was attributed to Greg Thomson nominated by the Pain Cave Team who recovered from having two strokes. He did the last leg in a wheelchair coming across the finish line to loud applause. His effort has now inspired a wheelchair category for next year.
Some 47 teams took part this year. Of note was the welcome return of a Dutch-side police team and a new team from the Dutch marines. The Gendarmes did not participate this year. The race was made possible by support from NAGICO, Alite, CC1, Tri Sport, Philipsburg Pharmacy, Indigo Green, Island Water World, and Green Meds SXM.
Despite the weather the event came to another successful conclusion. “Knowing what the weather forecast was going to be, it was a bit of a gamble to continue or cancel right up to the last minute,” said St. Maarten Roadrunners co-organiser Juan Pablo Piscione. “We’ve had bad weather on two previous occasions but this time it was extreme.”