Guernsey Race Walking : Sarnia Walking Club

Pre Sarnia WC 1965

 “Walking Past” before Sarnia Walking Club

By Robert Elliott for Sarnia Walking Club

(August 2003, original January 2000)

The year 2000 saw the Sarnia Walking Club celebrate it’s 35th anniversary since it’s first road walk back in March 1965 over a distance of 5 miles from L`ancresse to the bus terminus at the South Esplanade. Winner on that day being Len Duquemin in 41 minutes 22 seconds, John Moullin finishing in 2nd place in 42.40 only one second ahead of junior John Brouard. The fastest lady on the day was experienced walker Mrs J. H. Robert in 56.22 with Shirley Jeffreys only a stride behind.

Well before we came along walking was quite popular in the island as delving into the old Guernsey newspapers reveals and I would like to reflect on our predecessors.

Probably the earliest recorded walk was back in 1837 when the local Star newspaper reports on May 1st- “We learn from the Guernsey Gazette of the following walking match”. This information found almost a century later in 1936 when a challenge was thrown out to locals to walk between the island’s Parish Churches in under 3 hours 20 minutes as someone called Mr Eve D le Page had claimed to have done, with a few weeks later a St Peters lady showing that she had a piece of paper containing the 1837 information of 2 walkers, sex unknown but named as Martel and Robert who had walked around the churches in 3 hours 38 minutes, the exact route unknown but times between each church noted covering a distance of around 17 miles.

In between these two dates results of walks at the schools can be found, up to Inter School level at the half mile distance in the 20`s and 30`s.

Perhaps walkers of above this age were around as well?

Back to 1936 and the challenge of a church walk was accepted by local people with the event organized by Guernsey Wanderers Sports and Social Club, entries to a Mr D Canivet of 13, Pedvin Street.

This first event was won by 16 year old local Basil Bisson just ahead of “experienced walker ” H.G.Taylor of Jersey, in a field of 38 finishers.

The event was held for the next few years with the Occupation putting many sports to rest during the 40 to 45 period.

During this period in 1941 there is mentioning of island walk Champion “Biffer” Smith, also a renowned boxer. A correspondent under the name of Felix wishes a walk to be staged at the Island Sports Meeting during the summer and a race is set up of approximately 8 and a half to 9 miles and held a few days before the Bank Holiday meeting.

Starting at the Albert Pier the course went to Bordeaux, La Moye, Vale Church, Route Militaire then back to the Albert. The result was a win for Smith in 1 hour 19 minutes 54 seconds, 15 seconds ahead of H.F Le Marquand.

The following year a 5 mile event was staged with Norman Froome beating Smith by 20 yards.

Shortly after Guernsey’s Liberation the Island’s Sports Officer turned his attention to walking with the staging of a 15 miles walk starting at the Crown Hotel, up the Val des Terres along the main road to almost L`eree, (our modern Stones course in reverse), branching off towards Perelle, turning inland again at Gele Road, past the Kings Mills water station, left up to Delisle Chapel and St Georges, through to La Villocq and the Varendes, up the Rohais and down St Julians and back to the Crown.

The local Garrison being involved wanted a tough course and they got it.

Winner of the walk was Norman Froome finishing 6 minutes ahead of Le Gallez in a time of 2 hours 21 minutes.

This walk was leading to a showdown in the Island Champion stakes if letters to the Press were anything to go by.

A letter in October of 1945 from Stan Smith claimed that he was the new Champion as he had beaten Froome the month before in the Church Walk  (over a distance of less than that of today). The walk had been billed as a Smith V Froome walk with Smith winning by only 6 yards, but not from Froome but from a young R Le Poidevin.

With walking gaining momentum there were suggestions to hold more events as well as perhaps a handicap Church Walk, with nothing coming of this suggestion.

In 1946 the GAAC was formed (the” I” was added later) and took over the organization of the Church Walk using the 1945 Victory Cup for the winner after the original “Joybell ” trophy went missing. Smith retained his title and even had his picture in the paper with a small feature on his other exploits at boxing and tug of war.

The GIAAC continued to hold walks with a new event being the 2 miles won by F Le Cocq in 18.53. C Lovering won a 6-lap 1 mile walk in 8.32 from 2 mile winner Le Cocq.

Other clubs were now involved with walks with Sylvans Sports Club putting on a 6 and a quarter mile walk from Grandes Rocques to Pleinmont, won by John Broughton in 56.50.

This walk was repeated the following year, with Vale Rec in 1951 staging a walk as part of their Festival Week. The race started at the tennis courts went to L`ancresse Terminus, Mazotte Road, Clospains Lane. Vale Methodist Church Hall Gate and back to the start and had 10 starters with J H Robert winning from Mahy and John Sebire.

Into the early  60`s and Jersey and Guernsey were racing each other with an annual 7 mile event which in 1963 saw Ron Robinson walking for Jersey to win in 64.09 from Guernsey’s Tony Le Gallez and Ossie Naftel. At this time Guernsey walkers could also be seen in action in Jersey’s 27.5. miles Parish Walk. The first GIAAC 10 miles walk was held in 1963 and won by Ossie Naftel in 89.21, Robinson winning a 2 miles track walk at Cambridge Park in 16.58.  Len Duquemin went to Jersey and finished in 2nd place in the Parish Walk behind an Englishman.

With their busiest season for years the GIAAC held the first Championship for the Sportsman Cup with John Moullin finishing the season as Champion. Guernsey continued the team success with Jersey and National coach Alf Cotton made visits to help out Channel Island walkers.

By the end of 1964 the walkers were thinking of branching out on their own and a request for affiliation to the Race Walking Association was to be heard in February 1965. They were accepted and by the March were in walking action.

The president was Wyndham Mann, Vice Presidents Wilson Robin, Mrs J H Robert, secretary Eddie Robins, and Treasurer Graham Mann. The club was 22 strong and had a good foundation.

Walk trophies were passed on to the new Sarnia Walking Club and along with them came the organization of the Church to Church Walk.



  1. me chamo Elianay sou Brasileira e gostaraia de poder treinar por alguns meses nos Estados Unidos.. Como faço para fazer contato com alguem dai

    My name Elianay am Brazilian and like to be able to train for a few months in the United States .. How do I make contact with someone dai

    Comment by Elianay — March 22, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

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