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

 

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December 2012

The race in Norway didn’t go according to plan. I ran well for 12-14 hours but my breathing deteriorated and after taking time out for this struggled to get back on target and wasn’t strong enough to achieve the goal I had set and so called it a day. It has been a very busy year with many races completed, and almost an ultra a month, two world records achieved and some great times experienced all over the world. It was time to rest and reflect and plan 2013, which has some exciting races I can’t wait to compete in. Since Norway I have come down with a cold that has completely wiped me out for running and as of 19th December I can boast just one 3 mile run for the month and a chest infection has now put me on antibiotics. I think my body is forcing me to rest and so have nothing planned for the rest of the month. A real rarity for me. There have been several highlights for the month though. It was a privilege to unveil a plaque to the late Ashok Kumar at our local Guisborough swimming pool where I am patron. This pool is so close to where I live and where I usually carry out aqua-jogging and is a real asset to this little town. Ashok fought hard to keep the pool open. The other highlight was going on stage at the Royal Albert Hall at the annual “evening with the stars” for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. I saw many famous faces and went on stage with 8 other torchbearers as part of the Olympic theme.

November 2012

Nearly every weekend this month I have run around marathon distance and done a shorter race. I have run 8 races in total and around 70-80 miles per week. Not easy in the cold, wet and muddy conditions experienced most weekends. It was good to do some consistent training and speedwork but the pace is not as good as I hoped for as it nears the end of the month and am having an easy week going into my last ultra for the year that is a 24 hour race in Bislett, Oslo in Norway on the first weekend in December. Although I am not running as fast as I hoped there is nothing wrong with my endurance and I am not “unfit” or injured. I have been informed that selection criteria is 206km and so am planning that as my goal. The world 24 hours do clash with the Hungarian 6 day race next year and may be this will help make my decision on which race to run.

For now you can watch live on the webcam at www.ustream.tv/channel/bislett-24-timers and updates every few minutes on results here http://topptid.no/results/live/race/949 and the race starts local time in Oslo at 10am on Saturday 1st December – and finishes 24 hours later of course! Weather outside in Oslo is predicted well below freezing during the day and evening, the stadium is heated but will be a cold journey back to the station after the race with evening temperatures predicted to be –16.

October 2012

I arrived home at the start of October after the Grand 2 Grand Ultra. The result was 167 miles of running over 6 stages, 1st lady and 5th overall in 42 hours 32 minutes – a hard training week! I had anticipated an amazing experience and that is exactly what I got. So much so that I had to write a full report – a very long one! Just as an overview this was how the event went:

The first stage was 31 miles, hard because the pack was at its heaviest with 7 days worth of dehydrated food and all the other essentials that go along with a self supported ultra. The camp was amazing, on the edge of the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Water was provided roughly every 10km. The first part was fast going along gravel tracks, can't say it was a highlight but a tarantula plodded across the path in front of me, hope to never see one again! Then along cross country which was rough bushes and VERY sharp cacti, had to stop a couple of times to take shoes off and remove needles from toes! More cross country of rough stones and undulations to finish. My shoulders were killing me by the time I finished 7 hrs later (only had time for 3 weeks training with the pack) and had taken asthma pumps a few times as it was quite high in altitude and very dusty.

Day 2 was 28 miles, starting with a long steep climb, then following tags in trees to the next checkpoint which was more undulating now and had two heavy falls on the same right knee that needed some patching up. The scenery was much better today and after the trees came some gravel tracks, then some more undulations and steep ravines to cross, finishing with some soft sand tracks. Over 7 hrs running again.

Day 3 was the long stage, 47 miles and the most spectacular day so far, there was always something superb to look at in this constantly moving event. The faster runners started an hour later than the rest of the field and I was in the top 11 to start after 9am. The terrain constantly changed. Initially some hard climbing, then some constant sharp undulations which were energy zapping, but the views were worth it. Then almost rock climbing where I certainly needed a helping hand when the foot holds ran out! A nice downhill sandy track to checkpoint 4 and then Cave Lakes Canyon and snakes! Scenic but scary and only 1 snake encountered by me. Then it was really soft sand dunes, nearly 5 miles of these as the light faded and ran this by moonlight, simply amazing. Some really rough cross country next with many scratches and falls and finally uphill on soft sand to camp. Finished very cold, just before midnight and first lady on this stage, this lead was enough to take me through to the end as the first female. Day three was around 14.5 hrs of running for me and was 4th person overall today, a big leap from 14th on the first day.

Day 4 was a rest day while the other runners were still finishing. The camp was stunning, on a high spot looking towards Zion National Park where we were to run. Felt a bit groggy in the morning but perked up by the afternoon and spent most of the day trying to eat food, I had not eaten much during this event. Total intake is in full report.

Day 5, the route just continued to get more amazing by the day, just under 26 miles today. Into the bottom of the Canyon and through a tunnel and up a ravine. Up yet more very soft sand to the finish.

Day 6, almost 26 miles again today, but even more fantastic scenery. Slot canyons today, weaving between very narrow slabs of rock right at the base of the canyon, occasionally ladders were needed to scale the base of the canyon. Looking up was amazing seeing the depth of the rocks. I felt very privileged to be here and was a very special experience. After this was a rocky river bed and then a steep climb out to hit gravel roads to camp.

Day 7 was a short 9 miles all uphill to finish with. An early start for the slower runners, morning call was 4:30am and normal 8am start for the faster runners so we could catch the bus back to Las Vegas at midday. The climb was hard with altitude finishing around 10,000ft and about 2 hrs of running for me. The finish emerged from the trees to a breathtaking finish line overlooking rock formations and back towards the north rim of the canyon where we started.

This event was amazing and the reason I signed up, it was a fantastic adventure of spiders, snakes, sand and super stunning scenery. Many people get to see the Grand Canyon, but how many will ever go into the Canyon and run through it and get to see what we saw. An unforgettable experience. The freedom of camping for a week away from technology and phones. It was wonderful to get back to basics, simply water provided by the organisers along with tents and unbelievably portaloos! I switched my phone off at Manchester and never switched it on again until returning back to the UK. A week I will remember fondly for many years to come.

Download full report: Grand_to_Grand-2012.doc (2.9Mb)

As for the rest of the month, I have done a few more off-road races, the Pathfinder 25 miles and Kilburn Kanter 24 miles, November will simply be another hard training month and adapting back to the cold damp weather.

September 2012

A very busy month planned. With the van purchased, just a day after it was taxed I went to Wales to take part in the Dragons Back race, around 200 miles and 50,000ft of climbing over 5 days. I was ready for long days, ready for the climbing and distance, more than ready for the glorious weather, but was not ready for scrambling and rock climbing! This was billed as one of Britain’s toughest races that was held 20 years ago and was resurrected this year. It was a special one to be part of but the terrain underfoot was beyond me. I am a runner and for nearly 12 hours I tripped, stumbled, fell and clung to rocks trying to make progress. For me it wasn’t fun and by the time I had to descend from Tryfan I was at my limits and was left clinging to a rock face being coaxed down by some walkers. The first day involved all 15 peaks over 3,000ft, some 35 miles and 15,000ft of climbing and the route was only revealed 10 minutes before starting. Previously this was just 7 of the peaks. They claim it to be one of the toughest races as many races do, but believe me this was a tough one. Although the first day was the hardest, there was less climbing on subsequent days and most of those that made it through the first day went on to finish. Around 2/3 of the field failed the first day, myself included. I retreated off the mountain with a couple of others and then hitch-hiked back to camp. I had the dilemma whether or not to continue the next day, which this organisers allowed, but talking to others the underfoot conditions were not for good running and there was also some more scrambling involved and decided it was not for me. This was supposed to be a training run for the next event just two weeks later and could not risk getting injured for this one.

So the next one – I am off in a few days for this adventure and can’t wait. A week in the Grand Canyon. This is a 6 stage race over 7 days, along the lines of the Marathon des Sables where you carry everything for the week and water and tents are provided, but what a spectacular setting! You can follow my progress at www.g2gultra.com. Do take a look at the photos, who could not be envious of this one? It’s been hard work training and getting used to the pack again, my shoulders are aching more than my legs, but as least the load will get lighter as the days progress and the food is consumed.

August 2012

I had a great month of training and racing. Lots of short 5km and 10km races, some fell races and some off-road marathons. It was another good month of solid, consistent training without any ultras to prepare for another busy month in September. At the end of the month we were going to have a week away walking and running in Wales and visit an auction to buy a van. Things didn’t quite go according to plan. Our little dog Walnut is getting on a bit now and fell down the stairs and was unable to take her with us and couldn’t leave her as she couldn’t walk too well. So none of us went and Bill cancelled his holidays and continued working.

As for the auction, I did a telephone bid on an unseen vehicle and we now have a VW transporter that needs kitting out as a campervan. The only thing we have brought for it is a new registration plate that suits me nicely!

July 2012

This month started with my third ultra in five weeks. The race was the Energia 24 hours in Belfast and the goal was to run the minimum standard for selection criteria for the 24 Hr World Champs. Unfortunately I chose the wrong weekend to run this as it was the weekend of the rain, it was torrential for hours. As we didn’t have a vehicle with us we took a tent. It didn’t take long for this to become waterlogged enough to tip water out of the tent. In the early hours of the morning (this was an evening race start) I had been wet for so long and was getting cold and it was time for dry kit. There was no chance, although I had stacks of kit it was all soaked, as was poor Bill who was trying to support me. I had no option other than to withdraw with no dry clothes to put on. I came home in others clothes (thanks again Jenkin’s family).

Ed did a great job in organising the race and had a good enough field of runners to qualify the event for an IAU Silver label, but the weather hampered anyone’s chance of a decent run and it was a challenge for anyone to go over the 200km mark, just two men achieved this and only the winner made over the 204km mark that is female selection! For the rest of the month it was back to consistent training again and a progressive training program. Within a couple of weeks of the Energia race I had already run five short races with my speed improving all the time.

June 2012

I have had a wonderful month of training and racing and enjoyed every minute of it. The highlight of the month had to be carrying the Olympic Flame through Redcar with massive crowd support at 7:30 in the morning, the weather played ball too and gave us all a glorious sunny morning. The torch has barely rested since, I have duly obliged every request to see it.

In terms of running, at the start of the month I ran the first 60 miles of the Hardmoors 110 from Helmsley to Saltburn. This was barely two months after my world record and at it was so local decided to put in a last minute entrant. I enjoyed the section I ran and this was an event that had to be within my comfort levels as consistent training was now important. By Saltburn I was content and stopped close to home and was back racing again midweek and recovered well.

Next up was the most superb trip to Salzburg. I have been to Europe many times but this has to be one of my favourite cities. We were fortunate in having a few days to explore the city, a rare break for us and the closest we ever get to a holiday. We had three days to enjoy the city and then ran the Mozart 100 on the Saturday. There were many races going on, a 100km, 56km, 24km and relay. The route was typical “The Sound of Music” countryside and a real mixture of quiet lanes, tracks and footpaths – oh, and about 8,000ft of climbing! This event had real atmosphere to it and was superbly organised from the magnificent start in Mozart Square to the sound of Mozart’s music to the red carpet that lined the finish route. Bill ran the 24km route and thoroughly enjoyed that too. This event was so good it deserved a rare race report from me – don’t get much time for writing these nowadays, still haven’t managed to write up the Irish journey yet!

Download Mozart 100 report: mozart-100-report.doc (54Kb)

Below: Photos from the 2012 Mozart 100 race




May 2012

I had to reluctantly follow the Balatonfured 6 day race on the internet instead of running, wishing I was there and doing battle, but my decision not to run was the right one. I had planned to break the world record there having taken the British record in Athens last year. I was ranked no 1 in the world with that performance in 2011 and was sad not to make the start line.

Instead I was getting stronger all the time and looking forward to my other challenges planned. I stilI have a heavy workload to start the moth with a trip to the House of Commons, a public lecture at Teesside University, three interviews with BBC Tees and the Olympic torch relay had started its progress. My turn will be at Redcar at 7.31am on Monday, June 18th starting in Redcar. I will start on theCoast Road (A1085) near The Crescent and Walnut Grove: the best place for friends and family to cheer me on is between these points! I feel very honoured to have been nominated and selected in this truly unique event. I thought this would be a bad time so early in the morning, but as it works out many working people can make it and have time to go to work afterwards, so may be its not such a bad time – just another early morning!

We are still without a van (and the funds to buy one), am on the lookout for a VW transporter that hopefully will not rust as quickly as our transit van. Bill is now taking his turn at going to work on the bike now that the better weather is here.

My running is progressing well, but still had a few problems with my asthma this month. My parkrun 5km times are sub 21 minutes again and have run up to marathon distance this month. It was a busy month of marking at Teesside University but now (as I write this at the end of the month) that has finished and I have a wonderful few months with only running planned. Time to catch up with the normal jobs now – like putting up the fence in the garden that fell down weeks ago, digging the garden and putting the vegetables in, cutting the grass and enjoying the sunshine. Life is good!

April 2012

The result in Ireland was 346 miles in 4 days 1 hr 39 minutes and took over 21 hours from the outright world record, currently being ratified by Guinness World Records. There were major problems for me in the week leading up to the event. Two of my crew had to reluctantly withdraw on the Wednesday before Friday’s planned travelling for me. I had a husband and wife team but with Shirley sadly losing her mum there was no option, upsetting for us all. On top of that our famous van went for its annual MOT and although we knew the bodywork was failing the report was terminal for the van that has served us for 10 years. It was bought at an auction, a year old with the proceeds of the Flora 1000 Mile Challenge, it had been all over Europe, did LEJOG with me, had been around the clock and was supposed to be my home from Mizen Head to Malin Head.

Martin Scaife amazingly stepped in at short notice on the Thursday before the event. I am not entirely sure he knew what he was letting himself in for but as a dedicated athlete himself I had confidence he would serve me well – as a sub 30 minute 10km runner he could outrun me any time!

So all the planning and preparation had to change immensely, from having two vans we were reduced to one (a cosy 4 berth hired from Bunk campers in Belfast) and down from an original five crew in January to three crew now – husband Bill, parkrun co-director Alan Guy and Martin Scaife. We all travelled separately, I flew from Newcastle Friday afternoon and was collected and looked after by Paul Jenkins. Bill took the ferry late that night after work to take the bikes and equipment in our van, and Alan and Martin flew to Belfast early Saturday morning. We all met up at Belfast parkrun, transferred the equipment to the hired campervan and the rest of the day was spent driving to Mizen Head.

The early mist at 7am when we started on Sunday 25th March was reminiscent of Land’s End six years ago. It soon cleared and we were to have the first warm and sunny week of the year. With having a reduced crew and one van this gave me much more flexibility but made the crew work much harder as they barely had time to rest. With just 10 hours sleep in the 4 days it took me to run they all had their turns in falling asleep (and falling off bikes). Martin late at night was wobbling all over, Bill was staggering on the grass verges early morning and taking caffeine pills and Alan, well I won’t mention his biking skills, but as determined as he was to stay awake on the last day while parked up, he failed miserably and luckily got a tap on the window as we ran by.

We all celebrated with champagne early on Thursday morning when I finished and a memorable week was had by all. I am deeply indebted to Alan and Martin for their time and commitment and hard work in making this event the great success that it was and am sure it will live with them forever.

Photo below: My world record breaking crew – Martin, Bill and Alan



Photo below: Just finished at Malin Head



Photo below: Bill on bike and Sharon running, third day of Mizen Head to Malin Head

After returning we let our van go and had to choose the wettest April in years to cycle to work. We had just replaced our 11 year old Suzuki car before Ireland and could not afford to replace the van as well so were down to one vehicle. I was left very tired after Ireland and had some tight shins that had developed on the last two days of the run and ended up taking three weeks off. That meant the next challenge in Hungary, just six week after Ireland had to be postponed for this year.

I was both mentally and physically drained. Since the treadmill run in December my workload had been immense, trying to hold down my work at Teesside University, many public commitments and

interviews, keeping my running program together and planning the Irish world record. I needed a break. By the end of the month I started short distance running again and was feeling fresh, recovered and I would say happy to be out in the fresh air again, but cycling to work in the rain most days had given me plenty of that!

March 2012

It is only the start of March as I write this. The big one for this month is Mizen Head to Malin Head, the end to end in Ireland. I will be starting at 7am on 25th March 2012. The current record according to Guinness World Record stands at 4 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes. Richard Brown has run this "unofficially" in 4 ˝ days (he has many ultra records to his name). The plan is to try to break four days. Ambitious? Of course it is! But then I always am - aim high! I have to live up to my motto. The route has been prepared and hopefully you can connect to it. I have done this in two sections as 250 miles was the longest it would accept! Mizen Head to Tang (200 miles) http://connect.garmin.com/course/708629#.T04Y3gehqsk.email and then Tang to Malin Head (145 miles) http://connect.garmin.com/course/713118#.T09qwh2zGTA.email. I have a great crew for this one that have once again dedicated that much precious commodity of time to my cause - Alan Guy, Shirley and Will Gibson and the ever faithful, ever enduring, husband Bill (our 20th wedding anniversary this month!).

There will be updates on this website for you to follow thanks to Ella Towers. Please be aware that signals in Ireland were not great on our trips, but will keep you up to date as best we can. The charities for this one are the same as before – Charlotte Wren’s Forget –Me-Not Fund (Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and Zoes Place.

February 2012

This was supposed to be a month of solid training, preparing for Ireland and may be a short ultra. The only ultra that really fitted was the Donadea 50km in Ireland. This fitted well with one last recce of the route in the van (we cycled the route late September last year), to mark the finer details on the maps (directions, shops, parking areas etc). The ferry was booked for Friday 17th February for the race the next day and then the plans very suddenly changed. On arriving home from work on Thursday evening I found a great email waiting - someone had dropped out of the 48 hour treadmill challenge in France did I want to run? I had known about this event for some time and was a really unique event - 6 people running on treadmill side by side with the aim to break the world record. This was just 8 weeks after my week of treadmill running. I hadn't quite said "never again" as in some ways it had been an unexpected pleasant experience. All I wanted was to do one long run this month and did I replace 50km in Ireland with 48 hours on a treadmill? The opportunity was too good to miss, nothing to organise and prepare, simply fly in, do the run, fly home! The men's record was a tough 405km set by Irish athlete Tony Mangan (currently running around the world). I knew that was beyond me, but the female record of 309.8km felt as if it was waiting to be taken and wasn't too much further than I had run by the end of the second day of my 7 day run, so that became my goal.


My preparation wasn’t ideal. By the time I went to bed that night the flight was booked and everything else organised. I was at work all day Friday and after Bill arrived home we only just caught the 23:30 ferry to Belfast – a 4 ½ hour drive in our slugglish van. We parked up in Belfast at 2:30am and were out running the Belfast parkrun later in the morning (a friendly event that even had free coffee and biscuits at the finish!). No time to spare it was a 7 hour drive (350 miles) to Mizen Head. With little daylight remaining we started the recce parking up at 10pm. Driving again before the sun got up and arrived at Malin Head at 6pm on the Sunday. The job done it was back to Belfast for the ferry, checked in with plenty of time to spare this time and arrived in Scotland at 1:30am. Arrived home for 6am on Monday for Bill to shower and go to work again for 7am and I went to bed for 3 hours. Up again to unpack, do the washing and repack for France – I was leaving home at 9am the next day to fly from Newcastle to Paris!

The next day was race day! I had a schedule which I stuck to for 24 hours. The event was in a sports complex with weights machines and a dance floor close by. The peace and quiet was shattered by the noise of the treadmills and nearby music and was often hard to communicate. I had no Bill by my side and did my best but began to tire after around 28 hours. It was hard to make a decision. Ireland was now four weeks away and very important, and here I was taking an opportunity to try and break another record. It wasn’t to be, the desire wasn’t great enough, the preparation flawed; I faltered and took a break and the record was beyond me. There was no time for sleeping in this race. I rested and then walked to finish the event. I only ran 228km. I have run 226km outdoors in a day and ran much further than this by the second day of my 7 day challenge. A poor performance but I live to fight another day! Ireland is closing in and I still have a great year to look forward to. Gerard and Michael did a great job in organising this event; a world’s first and felt privileged to be part of it. The event gained much publicity as it was so unique, www.ultrathletic.fr details some of the coverage and there are links on facebook too.

January 2012

Well what can I say about 2011? It was just about everything I dreamed about. I wanted it to be my comeback year after major issues in 2010 that included an operation and stem cell treatment. So what were the highlights? The first small ultra was a freezing cold local ultra that lived up to its name of Frostbite 50 - first lady, third overall and the record still stands this year. The first real big one was running for 6 days of the Athens Ultrafest 7 day's race, if my body held up to this one I was fit for anything - the result was 750km, an outright win and a new National record. Barely two weeks on and it was another ultra, one to enjoy anti-clockwise and clockwise around the island of Texel, a very elite race in Holland (qualification is tough), a glorious race, picturesque, very elite, very hot and lots of sea and sand and another win and UK best for this race. Next up was a local one for training, the Hardmoors 110, yet another course record. Then an undulating, sunny training week in Spain running the Al Alandalus Ultra Trail, I was more than satisfied with my second ladies place as it was only two weeks later that I was in the Himalayas for The High. This was a monstrous 222km with two big climbs up to nearly 18,000ft, left over from 2010 this was a real challenge in every sense and great to be the first athlete to cross the line and reduce the overall course record by 11 hours - even if my breathing is only just recovering now! As if that wasn't enough I had one last challenge for the year, a very different one, the treadmill run, who can ask more than to finish with an outright world record. One great year! I think I can say I am back!

So onto what happened for this month. Everyone was asking - how are you recovering from the treadmill run? In reality that didn't take long at all, the truth was I went into this event injury free but with my lungs still recovering from The High and my body recovering from two viruses in previous three weeks leading up to the event and underweight even by my standards. I started on the treadmill at 48.5kg and soon after was 45.5kg, my usual racing weight is nearer to 50kg and even got up to 52kg before LEJOG a few years back. I had much media interest after the treadmill run, this took up much of my time as did preparing the paperwork, detailing the photographs and waiting for the film to edit.

I only had one goal for this month - to get away from everything and all the attention for a week and get back to the peace and solitude and "loneliness of the long distance runner" that I love. I entered one big event, called The Spine, a 268 mile winter challenge along the Pennine Way with little support and carrying everything on your back. This was one to enjoy and experience. I last walked the Pennine Way many years ago on my own and it intrigued me to go back. It wasn't to be though, I always knew the weather would dictate this race and thought the freezing conditions would harden many of the boggy sections, but in reality the lying water was frozen and slipped and fell many times on the first day, a couple were very hard falls with carrying a pack. The last thing I wanted to do was end up with broken bones and force a rescue team to find me and so I reluctantly withdrew in the darkness hours. The event had superb organisation and backup, far more than I had anticipated and was looked after very well. Part of me says I want to run this for training in the summer months and may be have another go (and do some specific training with the pack which was my lack to time to prepare), the other part of me says the weather will dictate what happens - so who knows, I will not say I won't do this again, but have every respect to those that battled on and to those three tough finishers.

After this event I sat down and studied the year and planned my events for the year. I had one great dilemma - to run for GB or not? The rules on this from UK athletics and from the IAU seem to be continually changing, a few for the better, but a few much worse and these are not the enjoyable environments they used to be. Partners can be left out in the cold (that are extremely important in such races) and stricter rules limit communication during races. I am getting on a bit and know there are not that many years left in me where I am capable of representing my country and feel I have served my country well since 1994. As these are my last few years I decided it best to take them so I will have no regrets when I do retire from putting on my GB vest. Poland in September was announced for the World 24 Hour Champs and so was the first race to put in the calendar (unfortunately this clashed with the only race that I had already entered because of closing dates - The Dragons Back). I will probably have to make another qualifying mark so planned the Energia 24 hour race in Belfast for this (July). The only other date in my diary already was Mizen Head to Malin Head in Ireland, 345 miles in March. My next priority was a 6 day race to have a crack at the world record having set the UK record. A 6 day race in Hungary in May stood out as a very well organised event that would serve this purpose. Then a big race to enjoy! Some of those high on my list all clashed with the more important planned races and was struggling to find one until I got a great email - The Grand Canyon (www.g2gultra.com) this sounds extreme enough and was promptly in my diary! The updated calendar on this site has website links to the races planned.

   
   
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