04 July 2017, 7am
It lies at 51 degrees 41 minutes south, only a few miles further south from the equator than London is to the north. There are other races further south – within the AIMS membership there are the two Antarctica Marathons at 62 degrees S and 80 degrees S – but these are run on surfaces where official methods of measurement do not apply.
Stanley Marathon sticks steadfastly to the small amount of tarmac road that exists on East Falkland (there are no other tarmac roads on West Falkland or any of the 700-odd smaller islands that make up the archipelago).
Despite its remote location the race is well-connected to its sister marathons. It shares the benefits of having Standard Chartered Bank as the title sponsor with such huge events as the Hong Kong Marathon and the Singapore Marathon. Standard Chartered is the only bank on the islands, serving a population of about 3000 people.
In 2005 Standard Chartered developed a marathon circuit which included the best-known races that they sponsored or in some cases directly set up themselves. These comprised those marathons in Mumbai, Hong Kong, Nairobi and Singapore. This was “The Greatest Race on Earth” series, where individuals and teams competed on the basis of nationality.
One participant in the series was Stuart Horsewood who at the age of 21 had joined the bank for an overseas assignment and has remained with them for the 48 years since. He had been active from an early age and somewhat precociously made his race debut in a 50-mile (80km) race across hills in rural England. This was the John F. Kennedy Memorial Run, a race he did for three successive years – before medical belief concluded that doing so much so early could present problems for bone development.
But his job with Standard Chartered offered the opportunity to get involved in running all around the world. He started with the China Coast Marathon in the New Territories of Hong Kong (Standard Chartered’s centre of operations). Macau, a short jetfoil ride away was next and was repeated five times subsequently. He then ran the Hong Kong Marathon after it became firmly established from 1997.
Standard Chartered grew their portfolio of races beyond ‘The Greatest Race on Earth’ to include at various times those in Dubai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei and the Channel Island’s Jersey Marathon – and Stanley. Because of his enthusiasm for running his employer invited Horsewood to the Falkland Islands in 2005 to help organise the very first edition of the Stanley Marathon.
The highlights of this race are a hole in the Ozone layer that makes exposure to the sun potentially dangerous, strong and cold winds coming up from nearby Antarctica, driving rain and even the threat of snow. The field is usually around 100 individuals with another 100 in relay teams of four runners each. Despite its modest size the exotic location attracts interest and entries from around the world as a race featuring on people’s ‘bucket lists’.
Horsewood is now the race director and, taking advantage of his new location, has used it as a jumping-off point to complete his project of running marathons on all seven continents: he finished the Antarctica Ice Marathon last November. Next up will be the North Pole Marathon in April 2018 where the ice will only be a few metres thick above the clearly visible Arctic Ocean.
But before that there’s a race to organise: the 2018 Falkland Islands Marathon on 18 March 2018. It will be the 14th running – races in those parts seem about as hardy a breed as the flora and fauna.