They gathered by a wharf fronting Harthaven harbor and Seaview avenue. There were a dozen or so people, a golf cart, a cooler full of champagne and a large British flag. The British had landed and with the support of these American turncoats, they had come to run the Martha’s Vineyard marathon and half marathon. Leading the Harthaven cheering section was lifelong summer resident Mary Lee Gifford assisted by her daughter, Katherine Gifford Sherras. The runners were led by Katherine’s husband, Brian Sherras.

Our story begins more than a year earlier in the small British town where Brian grew up—Ripley in Derbyshire. Brian’s business often takes him to the UK and whenever he’s in Ripley he runs with the Ripley running club. Following one of those dashes through the tranquil British countryside, Brian shared with club friends that he planned to enter this year’s Martha’s Vineyard marathon, in part because Katherine’s family, the Gifford clan, owns a summer home in Harthaven just a mile from the finish line. Would anyone like to join him? Brian thought maybe three or four might make the journey but 18 signed up, more than the Gifford house could hold. The tight-knit Harthaven community came to the rescue with offers of accommodation from Adrienne Boardman and the Everett family, so the trip was on.

Three Ripley runners, including Sherras, competed in the full marathon, 15 ran in the half and one non-running spouse volunteered at one of the water stations. Unfortunately, husband and wife runners Peter and Maddy Collinge picked up injuries so they couldn’t run, but they came anyway and also manned a water station. Mary Lee’s American grandchildren, Everett Gifford and Elizabeth Charpentier, competed as honorary members of RRC.

Following a few days to acclimate to the time difference and explore the Island by foot, bus and bicycle, 18 Ripley runners lined up with 2,000 others on the start line at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. Anticipation was high for the Ripley team. Among them were two half-marathoners—Luke Beresford and Matt Jones—with personal best times that made them genuine contenders and one full marathoner—Jo Zakrzewski —who was competing for top honors having won the Race of Champions, a 155-mile ultra-marathon in Namibia, just a week before boarding the plane for Martha’s Vineyard.

The Brits didn’t disappoint. Zakrzewski won top female honors with a time of 3:02:42, a new course record, and Baresford took third overall in the half-marathon with a time of 1:24:02 with Jones just 4/100ths of a second behind him. They also took top age-group honors in several classes. In the half marathon Jones was top male V45, Cathy Cresswell top female V45, Jo Howett second female V45 and Eleanor Robinson top female V70 (less than a year after a full hip replacement no less). Sherras, under the pressure of performing in front of his family and visitors, won best V60 in the marathon with a new personal best time of 3:29:22.

Of the two Americans in the group—the Gifford cousins—Everett beat Elizabeth by a four seconds but there was some debate at dinner over who was really fastest. “I should get a champagne handicap,” Elizabeth argued, “because I stopped for a glass with our cheering squad just before the finish. It only seemed appropriate to toast our family who were there to support us.”

Sam Low lives in Oak Bluffs.