Nearly two months after their impressive outing at the 2022 Schneider Electric Paris Marathon de Paris, a group of Saint Lucian runners recall their historic feat and they prepare for even greater accomplishments.
The team from the Distance Group Runners who made the trip to France are Jason Sayers, Zepherinus Joseph, Julian Toussaint, Michael Biscette, Gerald Charles, and Winsbert Sylvester.
The Paris Marathon, held on April 3 this year, began on the iconic Avenue des Champs Elysees and ends on Avenue Foch, close to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s Europe’s biggest and one of the world’s best marathons.
While this was a first for the six runners at the event, Sayers has competed in mainland France before, placing 8th out of 1000-plus runners at a 10-kilometre race in Paris in 2016.
Sayers was the first Saint Lucian to cross the finish line at 2 hours and 45 minutes, just 40 minutes behind the ultimate winner. He placed 192nd from over 34,000 runners who finished the race. That feat placed him in the top 1% of the total number of runners.
“There are so many positives to take away from us competing at the Paris Marathon,” Sayers said. “But what really stands out for me is that we had majority of Saint Lucians behind us for this event. It was very nice to see people on social media, people on the street, and the media having positive things to say…We hope to continue doing what we’re doing and are looking forward to our upcoming races in Trinidad and Barbados.”
Biscette began suffering from cramps around the 30th kilometer, which slowed him down quite a bit. Up until then, he pretty much had the lead, maintaining a pace of about 3 minutes and 55 seconds. The cramps slowed him down a bit, but he still managed to finish the race in 2 hours and 47 minutes, practically limping across the finish line.
Sylvester was the third Saint Lucian runner to cross the finish line, doing so in 2 hours and 50 minutes, beating his personal best of 2 hours and 57 minutes. The Paris Marathon was his second-ever marathon.
“It was a great trip experience to Paris,” Sylvester recalled. “Going on that field to run an international marathon for the very first time was a great moment. I went there with a race plan and stuck to it. Since I had already ran a time of 2 hours and 57 minutes before in Trinidad, I was looking to beat my personal best and ended up finishing in 2 hours and 50 minutes. So I was satisfied with my performance despite the weather conditions.”
Charles, a relatively unknown runner, started the race quickly, but had to slow down, and ended up finishing at 3 hours and 54 minutes.
Toussaint ran in the 3 hours and 45 minutes group of runners and ended up finishing in 3 hours and 50 minutes, and within the time range he was aiming for in his very first marathon. He described the Paris Marathon as one of the most amazing and memorable events he has ever experienced in his sporting career.
“The vibe, the people, the atmosphere were absolutely amazing,” Toussaint noted. “Running 26 miles in the cold was a great experience and a first for me. I intended to give a better performance, but with a little hindrance here and there from an old injury, and waiting an hour in the cold before the start of the race, kind of affected my performance.”
Joseph, an Olympian, had been plagued with pain in his calves for some time. He started off well, but his legs gave out around the 8th kilometer. However, being the determined person he is, he walked and jogged the rest of the race and crossed the finish line a little over 4 hours.
Meanwhile, Kamille Huggins, Chef de Mission, Paris Marathon Team, said the team did pretty well, given the challenging circumstances they had to deal with, especially the cold weather in Paris.
“All in all, I think that the Paris Marathon being the first international event for some of these guys, the results were impressive,” said Huggins. “I think Jason surprised himself and some of the other runners. We really had our eyes on Michael and Winsbert being the first two to finish, but I think Jason pleasantly surprised everyone, including himself.”
Huggins said the team is already setting its hopes on Run Barbados, which will be held in December.
“The guys have begun training again,” she said. “They will also participate in some smaller events in Martinique, including road relays. We’ll also organize some events here in Saint Lucia and try to get more youths involved.”