Chris Quine provides the unofficial visitors guide to the
Isle of Man Easter Athletics Festival
The Isle of Man Easter Athletics Festival is a great social and athletic weekend. Organised by Manx Harriers for many it has become an annual ritual and time to renew old acquaintances with a number of universities organising trips for students past and present.
For many the social side is the highlight of the weekend with many taking advantage of the fairly liberal licensing laws. However, there are also a number of subventions to be won. In recent years a number of athletes have won several hundred pounds for the efforts over the week. With a number of team prizes too, those with a strong team are likely to increase their chances of earning a sufficient amount to cover the cost of their trip.
The festival has traditionally attracted competitors from all parts of the British Isles and so offers the opportunity to race against different faces from your average local road race.
The festival has four main parts – three of these involve running and the fourth is for unwinding after a hard weekend’s athletics.
Good Friday sees the start of the festival with a 10K road race. Held in the evening, men and women run together although there are, of course, separate prizes for the women. There are also team prizes to be won and in the past there have also been awards for the leading veterans and juniors.
The race will start by the harbour in Port Erin and heads up to the Promenade and then out of town before following the pictureque coastal footpath to Port St. Mary harbour and returning to Port Erin finishing outside The Bay View Pub by the beach. After the race there will be live music and food available
On Saturday afternoon, action moves to Peel in the west of Island for the hill race. Transport is provided from Douglas to the start.
The men compete over a four mile course and the women over a three mile route. The races are held separately. With the exception of the first and last half mile the course is on grass. There are two main climbs on the route for the men and one for the women with a number of short sharp climbs as well. The descent is less steep. Therefore, the climb suits the fell/hill runners but they have less of an edge over the road and track runners on the downhill.
Tradition for many is to run back to Douglas – a distance of around 11 miles taking in a few of the local pubs on route!
Sunday morning concludes the running with a 5K road relay (teams of 4 ) for men and 5K road race for women on an out and back course along Douglas Promenade. Those without a full complement of runners will be allowed to form composite teams and whilst these cannot win a prize in the relay, they will be eligible for a fastest leg award.
All events are well marshalled with a high level of assistance and cooperation from the local police.
The festival concludes with what for many is the highlight of the weekend. The prize giving on Sunday night. This is always a great night and features a disco and the famous beer drinking races.
In short, this is a great athletic and social weekend. Good, friendly competition in a different environment and, for some, the chance to win a bit of beer money (or more) along the way as well.