26th November 1909

Guernsey held its first full marathon

On 26 November 1909, Guernsey held its first full marathon. Previous “marathons”, of which there had been two, both held in September, were only 15 miles 604 yards long. These shorter races had used a course that ran from Queen’s Road in St Peter Port, to Vazon, up to Grande Rocque, across to Bordeaux Harbour, and then back down to White Rock for the finish.

In contrast, the first “full” marathon stretched for 26.25 miles. It started at 1.12pm at the Gouffre Hotel, where it was also expected to end at around half past four.

A return race

The 1909 race was the result of a grudge between W Mahy, winner of that year’s shorter September Marathon (in one hour, 33 minutes and 55 seconds), and H Becker, who had taken part in the previous races but not done as well as had been expected.

Becker claimed that this was because he was a skilled cross-country runner and was therefore not used to running as part of a pack. When given the freedom to run unhindered, with more space to swing his arms and no need to think about overtaking, he might be expected to do better.

To make things more interesting, the two men were joined by another pair of runners: a Belgian waiter called G Babbé, and Mr E Le Moigne.

Babbé had taken an early lead but, according to a report in The Jersey Times, Becker passed him within the first few miles and maintained his position until the finish line.

Becker crossed with a time of three hours and three minutes, perhaps justifying his request that the race take place at all, and proving that he was, indeed, a better runner than his result in the autumn would have suggested.

Babbé was 32 minutes behind him, but Mahy, who had won the shorter marathon in September, failed to complete the course, dropping out at Albecq.

According to the Guernsey Marathon website, Becker was awarded £1 and a silver hot-water kettle. The BBC reveals that Babbe received 15 shillings and a silver tray.

The Poly Marathon

Guernsey Marathon wasn’t the only long-distance race to first be held in 1909. London’s Polytechnic Marathon, which was a precursor to the modern-day London Marathon, was also held for the first time that same year.

It was won by Henry Barrett with a time of two hours, 42 minutes and 31 seconds. This was 21 minutes quicker than the time in which Becker had completed the Guernsey Marathon but, being held on flat paved streets, it’s arguable that Becker’s time was at least as good.

Barrett and his rivals, after all, didn’t need to face the steep hill at the Gouffre.


FREE Guernsey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Guernsey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want. We'll also keep you up to date with our latest book releases and early-bird discounts.


Other events that occured in November

Car plane air crash caused airport fireball 1st
A hospital worker stood accused of murder 2nd
Sark’s vineyards were vandalised 3rd
The original Torteval church was consecrated 4th
Sibyl Beaumont married Robert Hathaway 5th
The papers were excited by a Guernsey execution 6th
The States agrees to pay the Bailiff 7th
States of Guernsey hired its first independent vet
The Little Theatre was reprieved… for a while 8th
Guernsey was declared free of cholera 9th
Guernsey optician Specsavers was founded 10th
The court considered a Guernsey porn dealer’s testimony 11th
Guernsey Yacht Club was founded 12th
Guernsey aimed for equal adoption rights 13th
Jethou’s tenant fell off his own cliff 14th
Dad’s Army actor John le Mesurier died 15th
A Guernsey recruit regretted signing up 16th
Horticultural painter William Caparne was born 17th
German forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios 18th
A plane crashed on Crevichon 19th
Sark featured in the music charts 20th
Guernsey recruits caused concern in Parliament 21st
First Guernsey competitor took part in Miss World 22nd
A Lancaster bomber crashed on Sark 23rd
Sark women get the right to inherit 24th
Spanish flu arrived on Guernsey 25th
Guernsey held its first full marathon 26th
Admiral Thomas Le Marchant Gosselin died 27th
HMS Boreas sank at Hanois 28th
Radio station Contact 94 went off the air 29th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry memorial was unveiled 30th