(C) Jeremy Hemming, press conference for Flora 1000 Mile Challenge at the Tower, London (November 2002)
(C) Jeremy Hemming, press conference for Flora 1000 Mile Challenge at the Tower, London (November 2002)


Sharon warms to her task
Evening Gazette 23/01/03 By Eric Paylor

Sharon Gayter has supermodel Elle MacPherson to thank for some valuable training Down Under as she prepares for the greatest mental and physical test of her career.

Britain's top 24-hour runner, from Guisborough, is heading off to Australia for warm-weather training to complete her build-up for the gruelling Flora 1,000 Miles Challenge.

Sharon suffers from asthma, so she is grateful for Elle's help in sponsoring her vital trip to the other side of the world.


She said: "I cannot breathe in this cold weather. I had to drop out of a race at Scarborough recently because it was bitterly cold, and that's most unlike me.

"I've been doing a lot of training indoors on a treadmill, but that's unsatisfactory.

"I need hard work and hard training, and I can't get that at home."

Sharon's links with sponsor Elle happened by accident.

Elle and her fiance Arki Busson were filming in the Teesside area before Christmas and sports masseur Sharon was called in on a professional basis.

Sharon said: "They were amazed that I didn't have a sponsor and so they have paid for all my winter kit and shoes, gym fees, races and are financing the trip to Australia."

Sharon wants her training to be tip-top because she knows that she must take the Flora 1,000 seriously.

Under normal circumstances, stamina ace Sharon would take a 1,000-mile race in her stride.

But this event is different. In fact, it's something she has never previously faced in her career.

For Sharon and her five competitors must run no more than one mile every hour, which means that the sleep-deprived race will take place over six grinding weeks.

She has already taken part in a five-day trial, running only one mile every hour, and discovered that the Challenge will be more difficult than she could ever have imagined.

Sharon admitted: "I'm probably more worried about it than I was before.

"The first couple of days were very easy, but then it just got harder and harder and harder and I was unable to run by day four.

"Although I am used to running lots of miles, this was so different.

"There is no time to recover and it is just monotonous.

"There never seemed to be time to just sit down and relax and I was forever clock watching."

She added: "The running was harder than I imagined but the sleep deprivation was not as hard as I thought.

"By day four I had completely changed my strategy and instead of running all the miles, I walked the daytime miles from 10am-9pm and then ran all the night-time miles to maximise my sleep."

Sharon reckons that she will be able to manage on six hours broken sleep a night, though she will be sleeping in a coach in London and does not know what outside influences and noises may make the sleep very broken indeed.

However, her plan now is to walk during the day to save energy, while running at night in order to fit in more sleep.

She said: "By day five of my trial I seemed to be able to cope with the new strategy but was not able to compete in the races in between that I had planned. I was supposed to run the Captain Cook race at Great Ayton but as I was so tired and would have had to walk it and finish last, there was no point.

"The big difference between going out and doing a 20 miles run and running 24 miles spread out over the hours is the recovery time.

"When you do a long run, you have the rest of the day to recover, but when running two miles at a time and never getting more than 90 minutes rest between runs, there is no chance for the body to recover.

"I'm just pleased that I did the trial because it has completely changed my strategy.

"Now I hope this gives me an advantage over the other runners."

The Challenge starts on March 2, and culminates with the six competitors going on to run the Flora London Marathon - though Sharon insists that she will be walking it!

Sharon is hoping to attract a little more sponsorship in order to acquire a new van, which is a crucial back-up for ultra-runners.

She added: "My previous van was sponsored by Reg Vardy and I have just returned it.

"But I will need another one after the London Marathon and hopefully I can attract a sponsor."

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