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Training was picked up significantly this month with lots of racing and training, often twice a day and the focus was in sight. I was planning on running the 6 day race in Athens late January and with the time consuming things from November behind me it was great to be out for some longer running in daylight hours.
The period between Christmas day and New Years day saw me run 6 events in 8 days. This included parkruns, fell races and a marathon. In terms of parkrun,
I have run all the North East parkruns, over 100 different parkruns and over 400 parkruns in total. Not bad for an ultra runner!
The planned programme still didn’t happen. Nothing to do with fitness but a few others things in life were taking over my time and spent several weekends away in dealing with issues that needed sorting and the running took a bit of a back seat. I still ran most days and did a few races up to marathon distance and fitness was generally okay, but I needed something to focus on for the future to build up again, but that was waiting just around the corner.
I had a nice easy recovery month, only running shorter races to ensure I was ready to tackle a harder programme when I knew what my next race would be. The week after the C2C I ran a parkrun at Carlisle and was more than happy to be capable of this one week post race and even Bill couldn’t catch me.
I reccied the route on my bike over a weekend two weeks previous to the C2C race. A wonderful low key event with 22 starters and 4 females. No female had ever finished the race as the cut-off time was pretty tight at 38 hours and there were some big hills to climb in the middle section. Bill was my support crew and the schedule was written to achieve that goal at 36 hours.
The weather was kind to start with as the miles began to amount and stayed very close to my schedule. On hitting the darkness hours and the longer, sharper climbs I was slowly gaining on my schedule. I completed the first 100 miles in less than 24 hours as dawn began breaking with just 40 miles to go. Although I had had enough, I had a goal to achieve and there really was nothing wrong with me other than feeling tired and continued on my way.
The weather deteriorated as the rain began to fall and the winds picked up. But mile by mile the end was closing in. I had one bad spell near Rowlands Gill with about 20 miles to go, but snapped out again in the last 10 miles. The castle and last little climb were soon done and I became the fastest and only female to ever finish the race, 33 hours 42 mins and 4th place overall.
The more pleasing thing for me was finishing injury free and my troublesome hamstring that had prevented some of my bigger planned races this year had given me no problems at all. This gave me the confidence that I was ready for some bigger races again, but not too soon!
I ran another off-road 50 mile event this month – the “Afoot in 2 dales”. My time was just under 12 hours on a wonderful hot and sunny day while most were watching England play football. I was satisfied with the run, although I did tire somewhat towards the finish and manage a couple of minor navigational errors in the last few miles, but nice to finish before darkness hours.
I continued with racing every weekend at shorter distances and pondered a longer race now that the hamstring was holding up to the 50 mile events. Often some of the longer races have to be entered months in advance so was not an easy task until I found one of Mark Cockbain events along the Coast 2 Coast cycle route.
I ran a 50 mile event at the start of the month, the Calderdale Way ultra, an off-road event in the southern Pennines on a warm but misty day. I achieved 2nd lady with just over 12 hours and over 8,000ft of climbing on a rather technical course and difficult navigation. It was a plod from start to finish and there was no way that with 8 weeks to go I would be confident enough to attempt another world record, so yet again I had to postpone another big planned event.
To break a world record you really need to be 100%. I felt I was 85-90% and needed another couple of months of solid training. How I wish that Livingston half marathon had respected the potential damage the event could cause and cancelled the event. The hamstring had improved much, but it was still affecting my stride length and I was not running completely pain free. I finally had a third PRP injection to try to fix the problem. I still have plans to break the two world records currently postponed, hopefully the next one happening around the end of this year.
Healing was not as predicted and could not run or even walk without pain for the previous 2 months. My options were then to have surgery to have the hamstring tendon stapled in a slight different position to take the strain off or try another PRP injection. The recovery from surgery was long and so opted to try a second injection. A slow, but still painful return to running was achieved, but with time running out fast to gain fitness for another world record attempt planned early August I needed to increase the mileage quickly.
March and April 2018
Despite some easy running the hamstring continued to restrict me and with my second world record attempt closing in fast I needed to see how bad the problem was. After a telephone conversation with Dr Martyn Speight of The Wharfedale Clinic near Leeds, a private sports medicine person, an MRI was arranged the same day with the results coming through that evening. It was not good reading with the main problem being a 3cm tear in the tendon of my hamstring at the attachment bone (ischial tuberosity for those technical people), my next world record attempt would need postponing and treatment started with a PRP injection (platelet rich plasma). Basically blood is withdrawn and the plasma part injected into the area under the guidance of an ultrasound. This injury is rare in ultra runners and more likely in footballers and sprinters, but slipping on ice had done the damage.
After achieving my goal for running 10 marathons in 10 days, I was not about to rest up. This was all part of my preparation for an even harder goal on the treadmill later on in the year. Within 10 days of finishing I had already done another 4 short races and all was going well – apart from some extreme winter weather. That weather was to have a big impact on one particular race.
Half way through February I took part in the first Livingston Half Marathon, an intricate route along footpaths starting at the football stadium. After heavy rain the previous night I awoke to snow and ice and a treacherous drive to the stadium with the expectation of the race being cancelled. I had rung the organiser mid-week with the predicted weather and he was quite adamant the forecast he had locally was more accurate and no bad weather was expected so we had travelled up on the Friday night for the Sunday race. There was plenty of ice around at the venue and was surprised the event was to go ahead. I pondered whether to run but again the organiser was sure it was safe to run and I thought the course must be less icy further on as I had no idea of the route.
A very cautious start ensued and slipped several times in the first 400m. After 3 miles there was little improvement and the weather bitterly cold, probably just above freezing and stopped, turned around to retrace my steps. I was faced with a field of runners picking and slipping their way on the course and to return against this tide of runners was futile and continued on my way very slowly. I slipped many times and saw many runners fall and after “tweaking” my hamstring tried again to withdraw around 7-8 miles by asking a marshal for directions to the stadium. She was unable to direct me as had been dropped at that point by a car. I continued on and at around 9 miles went off-route with several others trying to follow arrows. Again I tried to abandon the race asking members of the public for directions to the stadium to no avail. The ice was getting worse, solid sheets of the stuff and slopes and cambers and finished very frustrated in just over 2 hours. To add insult to a race that should never had gone ahead I received a large t-shirt with no small or medium left. I have done many a parkrun in slow and ice, but none matched anywhere near the danger involved in this event and indeed complaints were rife. As a veteran of over 1600 races this really was the worst road race conditions I had ever experienced. I had a couple of easy weeks to finish off the month to give the “tweaked” hamstring time to heal.
Happy New Year! My year will start with the first of three world record attempts planned this year. Starting at 11am on 8th January (finishing on 17th January) in the Olympia Building at Teesside University you are all welcome to come and visit me running 10 consecutive marathons in 10 days on a treadmill. A bit warmer than outside at present, having run several cold and icy parkruns over the festive period. I managed to run Clumber parkrun (Worksop) the Saturday before Christmas, Castles parkrun (Bishops Stortford) on Christmas day, Albert parkrun (Middlesbrough) the Saturday after Christmas, Brighouse parkrun and Huddersfield parkrun on New Year’s day and finally Bramley parkrun (Leeds) for 6th January. I did of course do a rather muddy fell race where I live, the Guisborough woods event on 27th December.
I have been training regularly at Teesside University on the h/p/cosmos machine that will be used for the attempt. All witnesses are in place and I am fully supported by staff and students from the University for the physiology testing that will take place. Sports therapy students (Leah Gibbs and Kevin Gamblin) have kindly offered some sports massage too between their revision and exams. Bill as always on treadmill events, cannot be part of the crew and will be at work!
My first world record attempt of the year has been achieved. Marathon times detailed below with a final time for “Fastest aggregate time to complete 10 marathon distances in 10 days on a treadmill (female)” of 43 hours 51 minutes and 39 seconds. Thanks to a great venue at Teesside University and the team behind me: Trevor McDermot, Alan Guy, Andy Thomas and Doug Harris as the official witnesses. Behind the scenes work and testing done by Dr Nic Berger, Georgia Campbell and Dann Cooley (who also did all the filming, sorted cameras and the wonderful iced foot bath). To sport therapy students who gave their precious time during an exam period to massage me daily and did a perfect job Leah Gibbs (also did some bloods), Kevin Gamblin and Yoke Walker. Izzy Russell who came to the house to cuddle Baxter and make sure I had a hot meal and pudding waiting for me and made many cups of tea. Too all the visitors and supporters that helped make this a success, including Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Croney. Finally to the trustees of New Hope Uganda UK who made frequent visits and were my nominated charity, there is still time to donate until early February, and many thanks to those who donated in buckets and online too.
Marathon 1 4:21:21 Marathon 2 4:21:39 Marathon 3
4:24:38 Marathon 4 4:24:06 Marathon 5 4:23:55 Marathon 6 4:24:22 Marathon 7 4:23:54 Marathon 8 4:23:21 Marathon 9 4:23:25 Marathon 10 4:20:58
I am supporting a great cause for this one after meeting the trustees of New Hope Uganda, so please help make this world record attempt worthwhile by donating (link below). Many thanks.