Sabrina Verjee has set a new fastest female time on Saint Lucia’s three highest peaks in the Caribbean. The record-breaking British ultra-runner ran the height of Petit Piton (2438ft ), Gros Piton (2618.9ft) and Mount Gimie (3117ft) in a total time of 5 hrs 16 mins on March 3, 2022. The run is a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the route and just 4 minutes off the fastest time set by a Saint Lucian male runner.
Brilliantly, Saint Lucia’s strapline is “Let Her Inspire You”, which tied in nicely with Sabrina’s bid to run the 3 peaks challenge.
Sabrina, from Cumbria, was invited to take on the challenge by Cap Maison Hotel and Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. The aim at the time of the invitation was to challenge a record of 7 hours set by Julian Toussiant and Jason Sayers. But Julian, a successful long-distance runner and massage therapist at Cap Maison Hotel, went back in December 2021 and took the record time down to 5:12.
Sabrina said: “I thought Julian’s time was an impossible target. But I did my best to try to beat the record and I was chuffed to bits to only be four minutes off. It’s an odd challenge because the watch is stopped after each climb.
“Julian also said that he stopped the watch at the top of each climb and restarted it after he had eaten, drunk water and recovered and I could have done the same, but that didn’t feel quite right to me.
“I did, however, have to stop the watch on top of Petit Piton for less than three minutes to allow the media team to catch up so that they were off the ropes for me to descend and, again, on Gros Piton for a minute to allow a couple of tourists to get out of the way. There wasn’t a soul on Mount Gimie, so I didn’t have to stop there at all.
“The challenge involves untimed drives between the mountains. Each took about 45 minutes to an hour and it would be hard to make these part of the overall timed challenge due to the poor conditions of the roads and lack of passing places.”
Sabrina’s running trip to Saint Lucia
The conditions for the challenge were rather different from Sabrina’s normal training ground – the fells and mountains of Cumbria where she holds the overall record for the 325-mile circuit of the Wainwrights taking 5 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes. The gradients of the Pitons are extreme and the dense tropical vegetation make it a tough climb.
The 3 peaks stats
Elevation climbed: 648m
Sabrina said: “The statistics of the first mountain give you an idea of how steep this one is. I have never gained so much height in such a short distance. At least half of it would be considered a scramble/rock climb but there are fixed ropes that you can use to muscle your way up, but nothing to clip yourself into for safety.
“It took me longer to descend this than climb it because at the time I climbed it the rocks were wet after a heavy downpour. Making a mistake would have been fatal.
“This is an amazing climb and achievable for outdoor enthusiasts with a head for heights, but I cannot emphasise enough the need to go carefully.
“However, it was definitely the most rewarding climb with amazing panoramic views from the dramatic pinnacle.”
Elevation climbed: 764m
Sabrina said: “This was the most runnable of the three peaks and I gained the most time on this one as I didn’t have to worry about falling over.
“Although, ironically, on the way done an over-enthusiastic Saint Lucian twice the size of me slipped and managed to take me out!
“I was glad I broke his fall as he might have really hurt himself but I was a little stunned for a while as I lay on the ground with a very large man on top of me.”
Elevation climbed: 849m
Sabrina said: “This was my favourite mountain because it was deep in the rainforest, muddy and rooty. It really feels like an Adventure and you get to hear all those amazing jungle sounds. Naturally, it’s quite wet there, too. I couldn’t descend this too quickly either as the wet tree roots were very slippery.”
Active trips to Saint Lucia
The island of Saint Lucia offers visitors many options to take in the scenery, while being active and keeping fit. Examples include hiking Gros Piton, Pigeon Island and along the more remote east coast; zip-lining over the rainforest; horse riding along the beach; swimming along the coastline; snorkelling around coral reefs; and cycling along a scenic west coast road.
Sabrina, who travelled with her husband Ben, said: “I had such a fantastic time in Saint Lucia. It really was the best holiday that Ben and I have ever had I am so grateful for having had the opportunity.
“I’d like to thank Cap Maison for providing a homely, luxurious stay and incredible food and the tourist board for our flights.
“Thanks got to everyone that assisted me over in Saint Lucia, especially Julian and the mountain guiding team and, of course, my husband for coming with me and supporting me.
“Saint Lucia is a great holiday destination with beautiful coastline, sea snorkelling – I saw an eagle spotted ray, a 6ft barracuda, damselfish, parrot fish and pipefish, to name a few – kayaking, sailing, kitesurfing, surfing, jet skiing and adventurous hiking with stunning views.”
Patricia Charlery-Leon, from the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, says: “We hope that Sabrina will inspire others to come to Saint Lucia for an active holiday. The tropical scenery and dramatic topography of the island make it perfect for an adventure.”