(C) London Marathon, press conference for Flora 1000 Mile Challenge, December 2002
(C) London Marathon, press conference for Flora 1000 Mile Challenge, December 2002

 

News from 2008

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December 08

Sharon at Bislett 2008 - Copyright Bjorn HytjanstorpAfter 3 months of hard training the result is here for all to see, at the Bislett 24 Hours on 6th/7th December I set a new personal best of 219km, new stadium record, the World's Best Indoor 24 Hour Performance for 2008 and new British Indoor Record, so can safely say at this late stage in the year that my position as GB Number 1 at 24 hours is safe for the 12th consecutive year. Everything went to plan, apart from being much colder than anticipated the result was good and is something to build on for the future. I know I can still run further. The event was organised superbly but just a little congested for the first 12 hour, but a real experience should you wish to read the full report.


Download race report: Bislett_24_hours_report.doc

Thank you to those of you who sent wonderful messages of support. Read messages

Copyright Bjorn Hytjanstorp

Photo: Sharon with Ralf Weis (Bislett 2008 mens race winner)

After my most serious event of the year I followed it up with the most fun event of the year, a jog around the Albert Park Time Trial of 5km dressed as Santa, even Bill managed to have a run around with his hat and beard. The pictures are great and even got on TV so if you do wish to have a look at a few santas and link to the ITV program look at the Middlesbrough News section of www.parkrun.com. These are free events for anyone to run once you have registered and take place 9am every Saturday morning - I didn't even get a personal worst so was pretty chuffed at that performance too!!

Sharon with the Bislett trophy Although all my plans are in place for 2009 there may be some changes due to finances and work commitments,, Bill has now been made redundant with just 4 weeks pay and little prospect of finding work. I lost a major contract at Mulgrave Castle for 8 weeks that usually sees me through the year so we are both actively looking for work. If I get full time employment it will not be easy to get time off for racing and hence the reason 2009 may not go according to plan. But there are many people out there in the same position, we still have each other and still have our health which are far more important.

The trophy from Bislett Stadium 24 hours is the biggest, heaviest trophy I have got - weighing in at 9kg (20lb) - so big that it will not fit on the shelf in the garage!

November 08

Well I have had an excellent month so far and all training has gone according to plan, ran well in all my races, improved my 5km time by over a minute and racing hard every weekend. I have notched up wins in the Burley Bridge Hike and Wensleydale Wedge on consecutive weekends in atrocious underfoot conditions, over my knees in some bogs on the BBH and sticky, slippery mud on the WW. I have also moved up an age category on the Vets races and pleased to pick up some Veteran prizes in the much faster road races I am competing in.

Back in the gym the strength work has seen dividends and been increasing the weight the hips can take on a regular basis and can see no point in adding extra weight now and am just about to start my tapering for my next race. I can now see drastic changes since before Tooting Bec and am confident that I will now be able to run a decent 24 hour race, but where?

Having searched the internet and looking for the warmest run possible at this time of year I came up trumps – an indoor 24 hour race at the famous Bislett Stadium in Oslo, Norway on 6th/7th December. I have never run an indoor race before and they are very few and far between, probably the best known one is at Brno in the Czech Republic which is actually a 48 hour race. But having said that it is where the British Indoor Record of 207.5km was set by Eleanor Robinson in 1996, so am hoping to extend the record further. The only records showing further distances are by the Russian’s in Podolsk Stadium, but unfortunately laps times for the World Record by Sidorenkova have never been submitted for this to be formally ratified.

Bjoern Hytjanstorp kindly accepted me to compete in this race at a very late stage, the race is under the stadium on a 545m track with a “warm (18 degrees)” and “cold ” zone (depending on outside temperature but no lower than 5 degrees), which will probably feel strange changing between the temperatures, there is also only one change of direction after around 12 hours as the curves are not like a 400m track. Previous races here speak for themselves in terms of quality as some really good performances have been recorded and hope I can add to these. There appears to be a rather large field of around 100 runners (entry was oversubscribed and waiting list since September) but some are only doing the 12 hour race that is held simultaneously.

As for me, everything is booked and paid for courtesy of Darlington Building Society and look forward to finally achieving my ranking for the year at 24 hours – 11 years at the top, can this be extended to 12 years? ..... time will tell. I am very excited about the race, it feels like a new challenge in some ways, a new venue, a different country and an indoor race, no chance of rain to get wet feet and no rain jackets, also no sunshine, daylight or darkness to adapt to, I am guaranteed an experience. After 3 months of no running the hard weeks of training in the wind, mud and rain are an absolute pleasure and will never moan about training again – believe me, not running is far harder!!

October 08

September had been a really good month, some wonderful training runs, decent mileage and three invited talks. The best was in Hanover where I was invited by my nutritional sponsors Mannatech. Looks like I will get another invite to Dallas again next year (was unable to take up the invite this year due to the Marathon des Sables falling the same week). I am already planning and have found a couple of 50 mile races not too far away and may be able to compete in at least one of these should the trip happen.

As I had entered Tooting Bec 24 hours I decided to have a crack, I had been running just 8 weeks by the time I did this race. Three very easy weeks of less that 40 miles, three very hard weeks in excess of 80 miles, a two week taper, then bang, straight into the race. I was in confident mode and if everything went to plan then I could run similar to last year where I achieved 212km, plan B was just in case I wasn't as fit as I thought and was to finish in good shape by 12 hours and treat it as a long training run.

The weather was kind to us and found a good window of calm, day weather. I started off exactly on schedule and by 10 hours had easily gone through 100km and feeling good and thought this was going to happen, but gradually my hips began to ache and came in for a quick massage. Not feeling much better I continued on and the pace was gradually dropping. After 12 hours came the crunch decision - do I battle on and hope for the best or do a call it a day and save myself while still in reasonable shape.

It was obvious that 3 months out was just far too long in terms of fitness to catch up in just 8 weeks and just 3 hard weeks, so cut my losses and withdrew in good shape after around 72 miles of running. Although a bit disappointed it was expected and just thought I was superhuman for just a short space of time. My longest race during the 8 weeks had been just 15 miles, although I had done a couple of long slow training runs of 28 miles and 38 miles on consecutive weeks. So it is now back to the drawing board and another training program to build on the 8 weeks done and a good long 12 hour training run. The following week I did the Albert Park Time Trial to see how much tiredness was left in me from my long run and was pleasantly surprised to get my fastest 5km time at Albert Park since the injury -so 12 hours running obviously did me good!!

For November I have got races planned for every weekend now and some extra strength training sessions specifically for the hips, which it where I was lacking in the 24 hours. Plans are also taking shape for another attempt at a 6 day race early next year.

Sept 08

Well I can finally say I am back running again at last and so far free from pain in my hip. It has been a long and frustrating 3 months of no running and a very slow return to running but am making progress. I have done a few short 5km races and a 10km race. I am building up nicely but need a few more weeks of solid distance running before revealing any big plans.

I have at last been able to run the new Albert Park Time Trial 5km in Middlesbrough just a few minutes from home which started up shortly after I got injured. I had run many of the Hyde Park Time Trials at Leeds and was looking forward to the new time trial closer to home. These are fantastic events to monitor fitness and free to enter - so do take a look at www.parkrun.com and register to take part.

August 08

I had hoped to be running by August but for the first three weeks I have had to use cross training yet again. There was still pain on running just 3 miles so had to keep stopping to give it another week than starting again. Finally it was obvious taking a week off and trying again was setting me back so it was bite the bullet and take another full three weeks off. It is now almost the end of August and have managed a couple of 3 miles runs pain free, but it will be a slow progress back up to full distance and I am taking it a day at a time until I am confident the stress fracture is fully fixed.

For the last couple of weeks I have been using a Magnetic Pulse machine that is supposed to help heal fractures, but is difficult to know if this is having a positive effect at present. David Beckham used an identical one for his famous metatarsal fracture before the World Cup, the theory bodes well. I can't quite afford the anti-gravity treadmilll that Paula Radcliffe used in her quest to get over a stress fracture. I will however be going for another bone density scan in the next couple of weeks to see if my status on this has changed since my previous scan.

I have a couple of big races that I would like to compete in before the year is out should I manage to get running again, but its too early to declare these yet as would like to be in a more positive position before I reveal the races.

My book is nearing completion, but did take a couple of weeks off to watch the Olympics, the hardest part at present is finishing with a positive chapter - should the rest of the year go according to plan I may put the book on hold to finish with what I hope will be another World Record set on soil very close to home!!

July 08

The holiday instead of Badwater ended up being an absolutely superb cycling trip. We set off from home along the Sustrans routes which amazing, so much was traffic free and incredibly minor roads we could cycle along, enjoy the countryside and each others company without the roar of traffic and fear of being run over. We picked up cycle route no 1 which took us via Wynyard and purpose built paths to South Shields, had a short disruption as we crossed a road in Sunderland as the police helicopter hovered over us and half a dozen police cars arrived with haste right in front of us and jumped out dressed in full riot gear, shields and guns in hand, just as in the movies and proceded immediately in front of us in drill form. Shocked that no one had noticed us and warned us back seeing the guns we took a diversion to avoid getting involved.

From then on we took the Coast and Castles route hitting the tides at the right time to take a visit ot Holy Island, somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time, Bamburgh Castle was also the most impressive castle I think I have ever seen.

After Berwick it was across to Kelso and some stiff clims to Edinburth. Our quick visit to friends Murdo and Jo was generously extended for another day as the weather did its worst and plenty to sightsee in Edinburgh anyway. Bill was also thankful of the recovery, good food, good company and superb accommodation (and even clean clothes to go), friends like this are invaluable. We decided not to proceed any further North and continued to Glasgow and back down the Lochs and Glens route to Carlisle finishing with Hadrians Wall cycle path.

It was great to be out and exercising every day and had hoped that on my return my term had been served for the stress fracture and would be out running again. It's been 9 weeks since Surgeres but the injury is proving to be rather stubborn and although I can walk pain free I can still feel minor pain on running indicating that the bone probably needs another couple of weeks. So its back to book writing and sitting on my backside for a little longer, but there is plenty of planning going on for what I might do by the end of the year.

June 08

It has taken three weeks to finallly diagnose the stress fracture I suspected in my left hip, a long frustrating story. The biggest disappointment is that I will now have to withdraw from Badwater as will not be able to run for a couple of months. My sponsors Darlington Building Society have been very understanding and supportive as ever, it really helps that many staff are runners themselves and know plans do not always run smoothly. Injuries happen and when you are running long distances and always on the border of "doing too much" this is just another lesson to learn from. Looks like the main mistake was running Marathon des Sables and getting back so soon. The long hours running with extra weight on my back and poor diet on freeze-dried food probably contributed to a negative burn turnover by the time I got home. As I was not stiff or particularly tired as had not run hard I had got straight back into hard training and short, sharp stuff to regain my speed. I should be able to start running again the week of Badwater, but as Bill has time off work we are now thinking of going for a cycle back over the LEJOG route.

The time off is giving me plenty of time to get my book well under way, although time consuming is very enjoyable looking back over my slow beginnings to running and have to keep getting out old scrapbooks to confirm dates to get the information correct. I have also been on a course at Lancaster University for "writing your life story", which really just confirmed that I do know what I am doing and am happy with what I have written so far.

May 08

The big one for this month was the Surgeres 48 hour race in France. Only the World's best athletes get invited to this race and was not let down by the organisation. It was probably the best organised race I had ever been to and was a big honour to be invited. From being picked up from the airport, the hotel in the same road as the track, a friendly dinner together with all the athletes, many of whom were international friends I had known for many years.

The race was on a 300m cinder track that was newly re-surfaced the day we arrived and again just before the start of the race. All the athletes were given a caravan each for sleeping and storing equipment and for the crew to look after you. Bill was my handler as usual and the organisers provided him with food throughout the event. Each runner had an individual lap recorder who was trackside in a tent with all numbers labelled so was easy to find. Hourly splits were printed out and handed to crew along with a leader board that was updated.

I was very excited about competing in this race, I had been invited several times before but never been in a position to compete, I have wanted to run a 48 hour race for some time so was really pleased to finally be making my debut but was unsure exactly how far I could run and so although I did have several schedules written it was very much "go out and try it and see how much sleep you need".

The race set off at 4pm on Friday, shortly after a heavy shower had fallen. This actually had the advantage of damping down the fine grit that can get into shoes and linger in the air, although there were a few puddles to avoid. I set off at my slowest pace ever, just trying to run as slowly as possible without any effort whatsoever, this was very difficult to achieve as had a target of no more than 32 laps per hour so was quite chuffed when the first hour results came out at exactly 32 laps and around 9.5km. The next two hours I ran 33 laps per hour but was not concerned as this was really only 300m further than planned in an hour. By the end of three hours I was aware that I had a pain beginning near the top of my adductors, particularly on the left side.

At 4 hours I had by first planned walk and food, a bowl full of noodles. This went down well and after continuing on my way was aware that my adductors were beginning to invade my head and took a couple of Ibuprofen to settle them down, I could not believe I was having a problem so early on in the race and thought the problem would just settle down and go away and probably due to running so slowly on this smaller than usual track. The surface of the track was drying out now and quite liked running on cinder, just like an old railway line surface.

By 5 hours my adductors were really giving me pain again and so decided to come in for a massage from Bill in order to solve the problem. He massaged the area but the adductors didn't really feel sore and could not find the route cause of the problem. The problem appeared to be directly on the bone and began to worry that this was not a soft tissue problem. I carried on but was walking and running now as it was quite painful still. I came in again and decided to see the race Medical Team to try to shed further light on the nature of my problem. There was quite a language barrier and between a translator the doctor examined me. He thought it was soft tissue and gave me strong pain killers and continue.

I was not confident now, had been here before in Monaco, it was just too early on in the race to take anything stronger than Ibuprofen. Bill suggested taking an hour's break and seeing if rest made any differece. It was dark now anyway. I rested in the caravan for an hour and then tried again. Bill said to just walk a few laps to warm it up and let it settle, but one lap was enough to tell me the answer, this was painful and was hobbling just to walk on this and ended my race. It was very disappointing, I was so curious to see how I would have performed for 24 hours with having a slower than normal start and what my debut performance would have been, I have been left to ponder and still not know how well I can run this event. It was disappointing as I have wanted to run a 48 hour race for so long and this is the best 48 hour race in the World, I suppose I will just have to wait and see if the organisers will be kind enough to invite me again next year as I would really like to have a real crack at this.

April 08

It feels as though I have barely been home, I finished the Marathon des Sables but my feet had not really recovered from Libya and my back gave me a few problems carrying the extra weight. The good news though is that I only had 8 blisters on returning instead of 20+ and didn’t lose any extra toe nails as I only had two remaining at the start of the Marathon des Sables. It was a wonderful experience and nice to tick off one of the “classics” in the calendar, but doubt I will ever run it again. It was so desolate and monotonous compared to Libya and can’t say I really enjoy living in the camp conditions with absolutely everything being covered in sand and unable to shower for a whole week. Although the freeze-dried food had improved dramatically since I last had this it was not suitable for 7 days of hard running and needed to eat much more to have the energy to run at a competitive pace. Also I can’t say running with 800 competitors was great, I am so used to smaller events of around 100 people that it was hard to get used to having people constantly with me and never out of sight. I must say I really do enjoy the “loneliness of the long distance runner” and drifting off in my own thoughts. The hot temperatures of up to 46 degrees was good though as this showed how well I could cope with the heat with Badwater not too far off. The other bit of news was that I managed to sort out the “piles” translation from Libya – they had to be put into different disposal bags, piles being batteries and hence the problems with GPS.

As I did not run the hardest of races (and do not believe for one minute this is the “toughest race on earth” as billed) I have recovered well and after a couple of visits to the Osteopath the back is in order again and back to running lots of short races to get my running legs back. For most of the year I have been training with a back pack and really alters the running style and slows the pace considerably. Five short races (half marathon and below) in seven days has helped inject a little speed back and gain back a more normal style, but there is not a great deal of time for recover as my debut to the 48 hour race in Surgeres, France is only a couple of weeks into May. I am not targeting anything special as I really don’t know what to expect and how long I should sleep for, the best advice given is that I should not need any more than 2 hours and given that I ran 36 hours non-stop in Libya sounds like this should be adequate.

Download full report: marathon des sables 2008.doc

March 08

Well the Libyan Challenge report is written and is available for download:
Libyan Challenge 2008.doc (78.5KB)
What an absolutely wonderful event, I enjoyed every minute of it and can't wait to be out in the desert again after the cold, snowy spell since I have been home. My feet took a real bashing and took time (and anibiotics) to recover. But my legs are in fine shape and hoping that the Marathon des Sables will be another great experience to remember, two desert runs in one month. I have had little time in between to race with catching up with jobs at home and preparing my kit, food and more importantly shoes and gaiters for the next trip. First lady again, faster time on a tougher,longer course and 4th person overall, no complaints here and a race I think will definitely be on the cards again one year, but not next year. Certainly extreme in terms of underfoot conditions, running by GPS, no getting out of the sun and just the big distances betweeen checkpoints where so much fluid has to be carried, all part of the experience and fun of running on this planet.

Download: ITV's report on Sharon's preparation for the Libya run (wmv video clip 7.4Mb)

February 08

Conditions for this month have been bitterly cold so far and although my underlying fitness has improved dramatically along with my speed, my performances in a couple of the longer runs have not shown my real fitness due to my asthma. The regular 5km time trials at Hyde Park have improved by 2 minutes and have a new pb for 3km on the track. I did long runs of 25 miles in the Rombalds Stride which was severly hampered by snow and ice and in the flat 54 miles of the Thames Meander the bittlerly cold weather hit my breathing by the first checkpoint and was taking my asthma pumps and walking quite a bit to keep the breathing under control, but was pleased to report that I managed to finish and do over 8 1/2 hours of running as this was my last chance for a long run before Libya, just two weeks later, where I should have no problems with cold weather!!!

I have had a little bit of trouble with my left knee due to training with a heavy pack that will be needed for both the Libyan Challlenge and Marathon des Sables, but the problem has been found and well on its way to recovery. It was caused by altering my running style and was landing on my heels far more putting the impact through my knees instead of being absorbed more by my feet. Darren Cooper at the Univesity of Teesside was extremely helpful as usual and as he is now used to seeing my style could instantly see the difference, a fat pad in my knee was swollen and pushing the tracking line of my knee cap out causing the problem - running faster and without the pack stopped the pain and ice and compression on the area is reducing the swelling so should get through the big events ok.

January 08

I started running again just before Christmas and am now well into my program preparing for the Libyan Challenge at the end of February. My distance work has been easy but the speed has suffered a lot by having time out. I am slowly progressing on this aspect but some way to go yet.

Winter is never my favourite time and can’t wait to get the warmer weather again. I have raced most weeks and most impressed at the new Hyde Park Time Trials that are held every Saturday morning in Leeds, just 5km runs but a good workout and easy to monitor progress. My 10 mile time at Ferriby was 75 minutes, around 5 minutes slower than expected on an average fitness level and this was done off the back of a 90 mile week and shows how much more I still have to claw back.

The World 24 Hours were finally announced for Korea in October and there is to be no European 24 Hours, the bad news at present is that it is unlikely that UKA are going to send any athletes to these championships. Will have to see how that progresses and whether I want to compete there as an individual. The statistics for the year have now been reported, GB number 1 at 24 hours again, this makes 11 consecutive years now and in the World Statistics for 24 hours I dropped from 8th last year to 11th this year, however I have done a 12 hour performance that would rank me 5th in the World.

My plans for the year are now finalised and have changed yet again. Although I desperately want to have another crack at running a 6 day race this may have to wait until 2009 now. I am back to my original plan for a very “HOT” year. The Libyan Challenge is first on the list, followed by the Marathon des Sables, in May is the Surgeres 48 hour race, with all these being hot races it just seemed appropriate to go back to my original plan for running in the World’s Hottest Race across Death Valley – the Badwater 135 miles in July. As my races prior to this event are all hot races I don’t think any other year would prepare me so well for the heat.

------------------

Thank you for the wonderful comments after the Bislett race:

CB wrote:

I have just read your report with disbelief and wonderment.
You definitely are a 'legend' and you deserve the highest congratulations for your epic achievements.

GD wrote:

Now I know you're mad. Absolutely and completely mad! Totally bonkers. How anybody could run round and round an indoor track of cold zones and warm zones etc. etc. for 24 hrs., survive the ordeal and then write about it at such length that it's taken me about three hours to read, beats me!! Quite extraordinary. I'm lost for words. Admiration, congratulations, ..... astonishment... sympathy. All are emotions that fill my mind after reading your mind boggling account of your latest truly remarkable mind boggling achievement.

JR wrote:

You are absolutely amazing!
I am so proud of you and so happy for you.
What a race and what an achievement

AD wrote:

This is absolutely amazing, fantastic, unbelievable!!! Congratulations!What a comeback after this years turmoil. I am very proud of you! And another great chapter for your book! A fantastic well written report.

MP wrote:

WOW! Well done! And that was the best read I've had for ages! Since I didn't know the result it was really exciting - you should consider a change of career to writing!
Seriously, that was an awesome performance that just blows my mind thinking about it - I love expressions like 'the next 4 hours passed quickly'! Its a different running world to the one I inhabit. (at least my pulse is as low as yours:-)
Congratulations on being back on top.

AR wrote:

Should be speaking to you on the phone now, but I a am crying! Have read the account of your 24 hour race. I did not cheat and look to the end first and became more choked up as you neared and passed your 24 hour race goals.
There are a few people who know how much you wanted this and the fewer who know how you struggled to get back to fitnessmafter your stress fracture.
You are an example to us all Sharon and you deserve this so much.
I shall be there to shake your hand and give you a hug tomorrow. I shall be in my full Santa suit, so no PB's. Just hope the rain stays off, or my santa bottoms could desintegrate and give the spectators more than they bargained for!

MA wrote:

Dear Champion,
This is absolutely, incredibly, breathtakingly brilliant. Well done! They tell journalists to stick the most important fact in the first paragraph and I'm scrolling down the email, trying to find out what happened and you;re even building up the suspense. If you ever hang up your running shoes, we'll make a journalist of you.
You really have excelled this time

   
   
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