Round the Rock – Jersey, 2023

Last updated on September 14, 2023

In short – it’s a great race, do it – a varied course (48 miles/75k ish), beautiful terrain, with a well run friendly race.

Work your your logistics well in advance though!

It’s strangely refreshing when a race name is about as descriptive as it can be, beyond ‘a painful / enjoyable / long / short stagger along a course’ – in this case, Trail Monkey Jersey’s Round The Rock – a 48 mile Ultra Marathon…..well, you can guess.

I’ve wanted to do this race for a while – I have family in Jersey and good memories of parts of it – and the race is at a distance I’m getting increasingly comfortable with, if not being particularly fast. Coming four weeks after doing a 100k Ultra (Race To The Stones) I was hoping to go into this relatively recovered and on form – although in the end a couple of health issues kicked in, meaning I was running with relatively dead legs.

As with most Ultras, it’s worth breaking down a race into sections, and Jersey’s route makes this easy – effectively treat it as four different coastlines, with the the race starting on the south coast at St Helier (at the Steam Clock), looping around past the power station for some road running then going anti-clockwise around the island, combining cliff running with woodland and plenty of inlets to navigate – then beaches interspersed with occasional paths up the side of cliffs linking them together. For extra fun if the tide is right then when you get to the beaches and don’t mind wet feet you can short cut a couple of kilometres.

Getting to Jersey

We got to Jersey a couple of days before the race, and a day earlier than planned – we’d decided to drive, get the ferry and then camp given that surely it would be great weather in August, right? Right?

The hint to how this went lies in the fact that our ferry was cancelled then moved forwards a day by Condor Ferries due to predicted bad weather (we were on the Catamaran – fast when it works, but seemingly weather and scheduling challenged) – we ended up putting up a tent in a rain storm with force 8 gusts of wind, and didn’t even try to put up some of our other gear until a day later – the weather was grim (yes, there’s a theme here for when I’m doing ultras), and we spent a couple of days trying to stay dry and wishing we’d got a hotel or apartment…. (although the weather improved whilst we were there).

Anyway – race numbers were picked up from the local running shop the afternoon before the race, gear and food was prepped, my usual wingman Tim arrived with his family, and we got ready for the race.

The race itself

On the morning of the race, we were up traditionally early for some quick breakfast before being given a lift by the ever patient Ceri to the start. A quick race briefing ensued from in front of the Steam Clock (the locals seem decidedly split on that particular subject), with the Race Director’s intro including general bemusement about quite how windy it was going to be on the north west tip of the island at Grosnez, then we were off.

The first section of the race was largely both the fastest, but for a trail runner also the least fun as it was largely flat and on road, looping around the back of Grouville Bay until it reached the impressive Mont-Orguiel (go there as a tourist!) after around 12km. With that done, the route kicked up a hill and started to get more varied until reaching St Catherine’s point for Checkpoint 1 – with some water available.

At this point I was still running with Tim, keeping pace well – my legs felt fairly bad, but were slowly easing in, and getting to coastal paths heading up towards Rozel Bay – with a distinctly more ‘Cornwall’ feel to it, classic trail paths going down into inlets then back up and out to the coast again. This section was far more to my taste (most of my running is trail running), and as usual I was a little slower up hills, but a lot faster going back down the other side causing me to gap TIm – plenty of very pretty scenery, with the only oddity being a runner in front of me missing a branch across the path at head height and almost braining himself.

Round The Rock 2023 route

If you’re thinking of doing this race – get some hill training in – this is a classic of steps up and out of bays, technical terrain, then descent into the next – there was a lot of time to be made on this. It was especially interesting as the weather started to pick up, with sideways rain and gale force winds kicking in – I put on a rain jacket at this point, and it didn’t come off for the rest of the race although it was a little warm to start.

Each bay was uniquely beautiful – although the gaps between them were longer than I’d grown accustomed to when recce’ing and driving between them! Checkpoint two came in approximatley halfway along the top of the island with access to a drop bag – I’d not packed much and not gotten through much food, so stocked up on water, changed socks (with the rain they were soaking), and got moving.

Sand blowing across the beach – both hypnotising, and exfoliating.

I think I’d be forgiven for feeling that this part of the race dragged – the rain and wind were incessant, and even the prettiest coastline can get repetitive (although I went back to a couple like the Devil’s Hole a few days later) – and the top of the island was the longest single ‘edge’ stage of the race. It got more entertaining as I approached Grosnez at the top left of the island – they’d routed the race slightly inland due to quite how strong the wind was, and after getting past the back of the horse racing track and being greeted by a very friendly marshall, it was a very welcome respite to drop down to the next checkpoint at L’Etacq at the top of St Ouen’s bay, one of the longest beaches.

At this point, firstly there was great food available at the checkpoint (sandwiches, cake, coke, crisps, etc) – I stocked up and switched to some solid food (I’d largely had gels and Active Root up to this point, and we were around 49km in) – and had a choice. The official route was to follow the road alongside the bay – however the tide was out with a hard packed if slightly damp beach stretching into the distance, so I convinced another runner to join me, and we headed onto the beach.

A couple of things to note at this point – firstly, from this stage on there was a couple running who had been filming the event, and they were going at a decent pace – but always followed the road meaning that whenever I went onto the beach I’d inevitably be in front of them again when rejoining them – that was a little odd!

Secondly – getting onto the beach was great – I got to lengthen my stride and speed up, and with the waterproof on used the wind as a sail – a couple of us picked up some significant benefits here!

Corbiere lighthouse was the next port of call at the end of the bay, a beautiful lighthouse defining the south west end of the island, at around 58km in – here sadly I lost my sunglasses due to quite how strong the wind was coming around the corner (and being flipped down the edge of steep rocks into the sea) – after a few fruitless minutes looking for them, I carried on (if the weather had been better that would have been a great place to get an ice cream!).

Corbiere lighthouse. Some poetic license involved as I grabbed this picture the day after whilst having dinner

Nb. I’ve stayed in a hotel in this area before and there’s a great old railway track running across to St Brelades Bay inland, and it’s a great run before then taking the coast path back to Corbiere.

The next section was hard on tired legs – a range of technical trails going up and down to the sea then along a common round the back of a prison. Avoid the temptation of the bar that you run past! (or don’t – it’s up to you!)

I got chatting to a group of us who had coalesced by this stage (before being overtaken again by the couple who’d followed the road). Another checkpoint came and went (sausage rolls and sandwiches this time – couldn’t deal with the idea of cake), then we hacked downhill to the beautiful St Brelades Bay, for another inevitable cutting across the beach (which usefully cut out a small hill), then guided up a footpath / scramble back up to the cliff tops by more enthusiastic marshals. A special mention has to go to my aunt who lives on the island and had been tracking me and came out onto a very damp beach to cheer me on!)

The final stretch of the race had us dropping into the start of St Aubin’s bay and having what felt like a strange drop back into civilisation – having run the beaches instead of the road at places such as St Ouens or St Brelades, we’d not really seen many people apart from occasional dog walkers braving the sand being whipped down the beaches. One of the chaps I was running with cheered up seeing family, another found the public toilets with great anticipation, leaving only a couple of us to hit the beach.

There was an interesting curveball with running the beach on St Aubin – I knew that the beach motor racing event was on but hadn’t considered that it would close off nearly all access across the beach where it was being held – apart from that, it was plain sailing with tired legs running towards St Helier which like it wasn’t getting any closer.

Finally, the inverted boat shape of the La Fregate restaurant started to loom on the horizon, then an obligatory sprint up the ramp to the park – and the finish line!

Should you do this race?

How was the race? I think it’s great – there’s varied terrain, the race was well organised and the volunteers were helpful and friendly – and there was food when you needed it. I’d been expecting it to be a battle with heat – and the main challenge was the wind and rain, although it cleared up towards the end.

Some sections of the race arn’t perfect – the road running at the start mainly avoiding rocky sections then a golf course, but I also understand why it’s there in terms of safety and available paths. The top of the island is beautiful, but also tough if your legs arn’t feeling good – but you’ll get respite later on when you need it.

It’s not a massively expensive race given the distance and logistics – and there’s marathon and half marathon options also on the same day running shorter sections of the course.

Give it a try – maybe not as your first ultra, but somewhere close once you reckon you can do the distance – it’s safe, there’s cafes and civilisation around the course, and the atmosphere is great. As an added benefit, spend a few days in Jersey around it!


  • Travel – we got the Condor Ferries catamaran which takes 4-5 hours (on a good day!), and took our car as we were camping.
  • Accommodation – we stayed at the Rozel Bay campsite which was fairly old school but good – they have pastries and bread from the local boulangerie, games rooms, cleaning, decent show blocks, power hookup and so on. There’s not too much directly nearby, but we dropped down to Rozel Bay for food a few times. As we got there a day early, we also stayed at Chateau La Chaire – it’s not the cheapest but also not bad for the island – it has a great ‘old school’ feel, a good gastro pub down the road, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can explore its lost gardens which were originally put in by Samuel Curtis in 1841, the famous botanist and a former director of Kew Gardens.
  • Food – there’s a lot of good beach cafes and restaurants. I’d recommend breakfast at the Happy Egg around the back of St Helier, or also at the Hungry Man at Rozel Bay (a little more basic), dinner at Corbiere Phare (it’s not perfect but the view is great), or lunch at the markets in St Helier. We also had great galletes at Samares Manor (drop in when visiting their beautiful gardens)
    • …..also, go to Portelet Bay. Just do it. It’s pretty, there’s a great cafe, you could spend a day there exploring the beach, swimming, paddle boarding, snorkelling, or just relaxing – just be aware that you park on the road at the top, then walk down a relatively steep path to the beach.
  • Activities – we headed into St Helier (largely for the markets as well as supplies), Samares Manor (gardens), the crazy golf at St Ouens, went Paddleboarding at St Brelades Bay, swimming at St Ouens, to the vineyards, the Devil’s Hole – you get the idea, there’s plenty to do. We also sadly missed the Battle of the Flowers by a couple of days which looked good
  • Want a take a look at the route? Here’s my Strava trace from the event – I was near the back due to health gremlins, but speed aside the route’s there!

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