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


Moravian Ultra Marathon (MUM)
7 marathons in 7 days

This was to be my first trip into long multi-stage racing and a new experience. I have run the Tour of Tameside a couple of times (a double marathon over seven days) and often raced on consecutive days, but not a marathon everyday for a week.

The event was based at Lomnice, a town just north of Brno in the Czech Republic. A school was used as the base and air mattresses and blankets supplied for sleeping on classroom floors. The marathons were all around 43km with different routes every day, they were run over multi-terrain hilly routes and maps were supplied to help with navigation along with orange tape and yellow arrows sprayed on the ground. Every day the finish was in the same place at the school, which made life easy for changing, showering and eating. Seventeen athletes managed to finish all seven marathons, six of these females from five different countries, making this a good international field. Most days there were six checkpoints supplying food and drinks, only one long day there was seven.

Sunday 4th July

The first marathon was to be a circular route around Lomnice, starting at 2pm after an opening ceremony by the Mayor at the local Town Hall. The weather was hot and the first 400m was run together through the town before started the climb out of Lomnice on the road, soon we were in the trails and I had overtaken all the women, but disaster was to strike, in the forest I was following three men and we came to a junction and did not know which way to turn, we guessed at turning right and continued to get further lost.

Eventually we became separated and were running with one man and came out of the forest onto a road. On meeting a cyclist he directed us along the road to the first checkpoint. I arrived at checkpoint one taking 75 minutes to cover the first four miles. I carried on to checkpoint two very demoralised, to get lost on the first day on the first checkpoint, I did not hold a lot of hope of not getting lost for the rest of the week and thought I had no chance of winning the event, I just had to be content that this was to be a new experience and a long hard training week.

By checkpoint three I had still not overtaken anyone and asked how far in front the next athletes were - 15 minutes was the answer. Eventually I did start overtaking athletes and did not go wrong for the rest of the race, which was a big relief and was surprised to eventually finish as third lady, sixteenth overall, some 31 minutes behind the Russian athlete Irina Koval and 14 minutes behind German athlete Anke Molkenthin. My time was 4 hours 41 minutes compared to Irina's 4 hours 9 minutes.

Monday 5th July

The day started with a tour of Lomnice, visiting the Town Hall again, the Church, the Castle and a couple of cemeteries. We were then driven to Kunstat and had a presentation in the Town Hall for the first three men and women (a piece of pottery) for the previous day and everyone got a certificate with their time and position.

The athletes were split in two today, the slower runners starting at 2pm, the faster runners at 3pm. As my time was in the second half of the field I started at 2pm, which I was pleased with as the finishing time was late to get a shower, food and massage before bed. Irina also requested to start at 2pm. After spending the night thinking about the previous day I learnt a few lessons, it was obvious when I had come to the track with no marking that I was already off route and the best thing would have been to retrace my steps rather than to continue and hope to find my way, I was also a little more used to the markings now having completed a day so felt a little more confident that I would not get so lost. The weather was hot again and after a slow start was not feeling too bad. I was second lady and could see Irina in the distance.

Between checkpoints 3 and 4 the route went steeply down hill in the woods and was obvious to me that Irina was not so fast over this terrain and picked her way down the hill, I took advantage of my many days of running in the North York Moors and overtook her, I put some effort in to open a gap and was surprised when I looked back from checkpoint 4 she was not in sight, with renewed confidence I thought if I could pull a few minutes back from my 31 minute deficit by the end of the week there may be a chance of winning.

I finished at Lomnice very strongly and after a shower looked at the results. I had finished in 4 hours 10 minutes; Irina was second in 4 hours 34 minutes and Anke in 4 hours 35 minutes. I had clawed back 24 minutes and was now lying in second place in the overall women's results.

Tuesday 6th July

We had an early start today with breakfast at 6:45am. By 8:15 we were on our way to Nedvedice and it was cold and raining. We had a tour of the castle here, said to be one of the finest in the Czech Republic, it certainly was superb but was very tiring standing a climbing up and down steps for around two hours being guided around the castle. We then went to a fair ground where the presentation of the second stage was held; everyone went on the stage and was given a pen and postcards of the area along with the certificates. By the time the race started I was unsure what to wear, it was still raining but getting milder. I opted for shorts and a long sleeve top over my vest. The start was hard running up hill to the castle and through the grounds of the castle, but the rain was starting to ease.

There was a long climb up the road to checkpoint 2 and took off my shirt as the sun came out. Shortly afterwards we joined the trails and immediately overtook Irina again over the rough terrain. I finished the day the fastest so far in 4 hours 7 minutes; Irina was second in 4 hours 23 minutes. This now meant I was the first lady on aggregate times by 7 minutes, not a confident lead but was pleased I was challenging Irina. I have never
beaten Irina over 24 hours and her best in 24 hours is 225km compared to my 217km.

Wednesday 7th July

Today's trip was to a museum and monastery at Tisnov. The usual presentation of certificates at the town hall of the previous days race. The first three athletes received a t-shirt and pottery cup.

The weather was very hot today and was not really feeling any worse than I had felt on the second day. I took Irina even earlier today between checkpoints 1 and 2, but it was not to be a good day. Soon after entering the woods I found myself off-route again with no familiar orange tags, by the time I retraced my steps and eventually found the right path between two bushes I was back in third place. I increased my pace and was soon back in the lead again but was having to run hard. I struggled in several places today to find the route and felt that the marking was not as good as previous days. Between checkpoints 5 and 6, again I went off-route, the first time on the road where I followed the orange tag, which was on the wrong side of the road, when I retraced my steps I then found the yellow arrow pointing left and into the woods.

While in the woods the same thing happened, the tag was above the path indicating to climb the hill, on reaching a junction again there were no markers, by the time I retraced my steps this time Irina was coming the opposite way towards me at the same time as the first two men from the 3pm start were overtaking her. The was the first time the men had overtaken me and put some effort in to stay in front of Irina. My time was slower today with 4 hours 38 minutes due to losing my way three times, Irina finished in 4 hours 44 minutes.

Thursday 8th July

Another early start to see a castle that was being restored in Veverska Bityska. The presentation was in the Town Hall again and another very hot day. I had a couple of blisters now from having got wet feet, they were painful on starting and hurt more when running down hill. From the start we ran to the castle and through the grounds down to a bridge.

I was in the lead from the start this time but it was to be a very tough day, there were some really steep climbs in the woods and there were seven checkpoints, which should have told me this was harder. I had no problems with navigation but finished in 5 hours 6 minutes, my slowest so far. I was starting to feel tired after having run for the usual four hours and realised this was going to be a long day. Irina finished in 5 hours 23 minutes and one of the German men, Rainer, who was wearing a GPS, said the route was over 47km.

Friday 9th July

Just two more marathons to go now and was confident of finishing and was extending my lead over Irina by a few minutes every day. The weather was really heavy rain and the excursion today was cancelled, as it was too wet for the outdoor trip. This was such a relief; the marathons were hard enough but getting up early every day and sightseeing every morning was just as tiring. We rested in our rooms grateful that it was raining.

We left to go for the start and presentation at Boskovice; the presentation was a candle in a glass with a picture of Boskovice. By the time the race started the sun was out again. The route felt so much easier today when I finished in 4 hours 20 minutes compared to the previous day and finished feeling quite strong and confident for the last day.

Saturday 10th July

The last race had a staggered start between 10 am and midday. My start time was 10:50 with Irina starting at 10:40. It was to start and finish at the school and was to be two laps, the second one slightly shorter than the first. I could not find my way out of Lomnice from the town hall and spent 10 minutes running up and down three different roads trying to find the way out , eventually I got it right and had no more problems on the first lap, I caught Irina before the end of the first lap and so knew I only had to finish without getting lost to win, I did have one more scare after the last checkpoint when we switched to the shorter route and missed the marker across a field, but only lost a couple of minutes this time. I finished in 4 hours 9 minutes. My overall aggregate times was 31 hours 13 minutes, Irina was second with 32 hours 20 minutes and Anke Molkenthin third in 33 hours 22 minutes.

There was a big buffet dinner and presentation that evening and watched the race on the local television. The first man and women won a silver medal. I was elated just to finish and could not believe I had really won this event. I was surprised at how strong I remained throughout the race, I had anticipated getting slower and slower as the week progressed, but my race on the last day was comparable with the other days when I had not got lost, my average time was 4 hours 27 minutes. Overall I had really enjoyed the whole week and would definitely like to run a few more multi-stage races. Overall 17 athletes finished all 7 marathons, 6 of these were women, I finished 8th overall (40 athletes did various stages).

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