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Porporato and Yoshioka Win St. John’s 8 Tuff Miles Road Race

Runners make the roundabout at Dolphin Market in the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race.
Runners make the roundabout at Dolphin Market in the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race.

ST. JOHN — More than 1,000 people took to the streets on St. John over the weekend to compete in the 25th annual 8 Tuff Miles Road Race, marking the official return of the popular event for the first time since 2020.

The race, which begins alongside the National Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay, stretches a grueling 8.38 miles east over to Coral Bay, with a peak elevation of 999 feet. Despite the challenging terrain, 1,366 people registered to participate in the event this year, according to race director Peter Alter.

Runners gather at the start of the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race.
Runners gather at the start of the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race.

Matias Porporato, 31, of St. Croix was the overall winner, crossing the finish line after 53 minutes, 57 seconds, averaging 6 minutes, 27 seconds per mile. The record time for completing the race was set in 2013 by David Riddle, who finished in 45 minutes, 46 seconds.

Overall winner of 8 Tuff Miles Road Race, Matias Porporato, crosses the finish line.

The fastest woman runner was Elise Yoshioka, 32, of St. Thomas, finishing in 58 minutes, 9 seconds, a time that placed her fifth overall. Yoshioka, who had just competed in the Miami Marathon on January 28, said she went into the race with no expectations.

“I didn't know if my body would be recovered or if I’d feel great or not,” Yoshioka said, referring to the marathon she had completed a month before. “But as soon as I hit the first hill, my body felt good and I said, ‘okay it’s go time.’ After I realized I felt good enough to run the race, I wanted to get under an hour. And I did that, so I can’t complain.”

Elise Yoshioka, was the first woman to cross the finish line in the 8 Tuff Miles Road race.

But for many, the race’s attraction is less about time records and more about the community spirit of the event. Bill Ward, 66, of Mayville, New York has traveled to St. John for the past 10 years to participate in the race, even running the three “unofficial” races that took place during the pandemic.

“I wanted to have a good finish time, but that wasn’t as important as the feeling of community that the race has,” Ward said. “It’s always more painful than other runs, but it’s always more fun than other runs.”

Ward, who didn’t start running until his 40s, placed fifth in his age group, finishing the race in 1 hour, 34 minutes. His sentiments about the community atmosphere of the event were echoed by Alter, the race director for 8 Tuff Miles.

“The volunteers definitely make the event happen, and the whole community just comes out in full strength,” Alter said. “That’s not a cliche, it’s true. It actually happens that way.”

Participants pay an entrance fee to race, and since 2003 the event has contributed more than $50,000 in scholarship money to students throughout the U.S. and British Virgin Islands as well as other students throughout the U.S. mainland.

Isabelle Teare is a new member of the WTJX team. She is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in radio broadcast and audio storytelling. Raised on the island of St. Thomas since the age of seven, Isabelle attended and graduated from Antilles School before moving to Washington, D.C. where she earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in Justice and Peace Studies. Originally planning on pursuing a career in the law, Isabelle worked as a paralegal on St. Thomas for several years before making the decision to pursue her passion for storytelling.