Saint Martin: A Hiker’s Dream.
“My dream was to run a marathon”
Sophie Berthelot is born in France and living in Saint Martin for about 24 years. Before arriving in Saint Martin, she lived for 10 years in Guadeloupe. Currently she works at the sales and marketing department of a health product. She has a daughter and 2 grandchildren. After all these years of living in the Caribbean, she considers herself as a Caribbean woman where she highly values the people, the nature and the quality of life. Scrolling through her social media, it is obvious that she is a very active person. We wanted to know more and interviewed her.
Tell me a little bit more about your running and fitness background: how did you first got into running?
I started practicing many sports in my twenties. Windsurfing, snorkeling, squash, skydiving… However, at one point I discovered that the party life was more interesting, so I stopped practicing sports for a while. Many years later, the ultra-trailer Jean-Marc Aubry started working with the team I was part of and I honestly had no clue what he was talking about when he explained the sport he was doing. I was also sure I would never join him because I did not like walking or running. One day I joined Jean-Marc to the natural pool (Guana Bay), which I was not even aware of the existence of it and ever since, I love hiking! I quickly became part of the Dream of Trail group, where Jean-Marc was the president of at that time.
After one year of intense hiking, I wanted to discover new horizons and learn how to run. At the age of 51, I started joining the ‘Monday training’ organized by Dream of Trail and because of my motivation and dedication I progressed fast. On February 9 2020, I finished my first marathon in 4h38m. That really felt like a dream came true.
“It is you against you.“
What is your current position regarding the Dream of Trail group?
I run 2 to 3 times a week with the club and I am part of the head of association. That means we organize 4 to 5 trainings a week and we schedule trail running races. Another thing I’m part of is the Family Trail, which I organize together with my friend Nathalie. The purpose is to bring kids and families together and hike to different beautiful places on the French side of the island. We gather every Friday at 5:30pm and we really try to show and share our love for the island and the amazing places it has to offer.
What has been your biggest running accomplishment to date? Do you have any future dream race in mind?
It was definitely my dream to run a marathon. I am so happy that I could fulfill that dream right before the pandemic struck.. I had to go through a very intense preparation program with 5 specific trainings a week. It was absolutely worth it! For a brief moment I was in doubt that I could actually finish the race but I surpassed my own expectation and made it to the end. I’m so proud of my achievement! Many famous races cancelled since there are lockdowns worldwide so at this point I do not know what the future entails for me.
What do you find to be most rewarding thing about running?
Ultra trailers run an average of 50 to100 km. In contrast my specialty is practice trail which does not involve such long distances. I mostly run about 10 to 20 km. Running is the most difficult sport to me because it is you against you. You can wear the best shoes however, you are depending on your own body, your own engine. The positive energy I get from spending time with my friends and enjoying the scenery is just amazing.
“The most important is to enjoy our little paradise.“
Saint Martin is small. Aren’t you tired of running the same trails over again?
There are about 60km of trails on the French side alone so we do have many possibilities. For me it is impossible to be tired of these stunning views and landscapes. Every season, nature is portraying different colors and because Saint Martin is small, we can witness the turquoise water almost all the time.
What is your favorite trail on the island?
Every trail has different aspects I like, so this might be a hard question to answer. However if I need to pick one, I would say ‘Le Chemin des Froussard’ is my all-time favorite. If you have ever run the trail, you know the diversity it has to offer. You run on sand, rocks, dirt and the hillsides make it even more challenging. Another hike I really like starts at Orient Bay, via “Jack Spania” up to Pic Paradis and goes down by “La Careta Ravine”. A last nice trail goes from Petit Plage to Green Valley via Bell Beach, View point (in front of Creol Rock) and Pigeon Pea Hill.
What kind of thoughts do you have while you run?
It depends on the type of run but when I run by myself, I think about life and how fortunate I am. I tend to always run with company so I actually have a good time with my friends and we can talk a lot about various topics.
How would you motivate others to stay active?
The benefit of living on a Caribbean island is the weather. It is possible to be active all year round. If you are not a runner, hiking might be more convenient. The most important is to enjoy our little paradise, no matter what type of activity you do. Dream of Trail organizes running and walking training sessions every Monday so if you’re interested it is possible to register and participate.
On your Instagram, you mention you are vegetarian. Does this choice reflects health reasons, ethical reasons or both?
Being eco-responsible is align with my core values. I stopped eating meat about 33 years ago for ethical reasons and for the same reason I stopped eating fish a few years ago. More and more restaurants on the island start offering vegan and vegetarian courses which I think is a big step forward.
“I really try to share my love for the island.“
If you could pick one picture on your Instagram, which one would that be and why? Can you provide us with a background story?
This photo (December 2019) means a lot to me because it displays why I love trail running in Saint Martin so much: the views.