Inside the head of a world record ultra-runner

For some people the prospect of running down the street to catch the bus can be a daunting prospect. But imagine running from one end of the country to the other…yes running!

Just your own two legs and will power to fight you through the 837 miles, which covers the famous Lands’ End to John O’ Groats route.

Not many people can claim to know what this takes, but luckily enough for me the world record holder for the route was on my doorstep at Teesside University, Sharon Gayter.

Sharon has been running since her early 20’s, but didn’t become serious about it till she was 30. Since then she has

Sharon stands next to the van which followed her along the 840 mile route

Sharon stands next to the van which followed her along the 840 mile route

not looked back, winning gold medals at European and Commonwealth level, as well as breaking numerous world records including her run from Lands’ End to John O’Groats.

Her inspiration to start running came when she watched the London Marathon on television, one day dreaming of running and the completing the famous 26 mile course.

Of course she has long fulfilled this dream, and I was keen to meet up with to see how she conquered her world record attempt and how she gets into the mind-set to run for nearly 13 consecutive days.

“It was daunting even from my point of view, the furthest I’d ever ran before that was 140 miles,” Sharon said.

“You’ve told the world you’re going to run 840 miles, so when I got to the start I wished I wasn’t there! I did have big, big doubts.

“But I had written this down as a goal twelve years previously during my time at university, so I planned it extensively.”

I was amazed to hear how detailed Sharon’s planning was, as she really did have a clear vision of what was to come for her.

“I cycled and drove every mile of the route, I’d written notes like: left at this roundabout, right at the McDonalds, left at the bank.” Sharon said.

“So I had visualised all of the route in my head using these techniques. I wrote on the map where the steep hills were and whether there was a busy shopping centre ahead.

“I wrote every clue down to the point where I didn’t need any help navigating the route, as I knew every bit of the way!

“If I could take you back to some of them points I could tell you exactly where I ran even now, that’s how engrained it was in my head.

“In terms of running it I had mentally prepared myself for all the years building up to the run, especially the last two years where the world record had engulfed my mind.

“In terms of the physical aspect the preparation was easy, because at the end of the day it was just a four hour run. Because I did it in four hour blocks I just kept telling myself I’m only running for four hours then I can rest.

Sharon on her world record attempt

Sharon on her world record attempt

“So all I did was run for four hours, I stopped and had a break, had some food, changed my shoes and socks, then went out for another four hour run.

“Bit by bit you get closer and closer and I just didn’t think of the world record at all. It was actually very easy in real terms.”

I think ‘easy’ would be the last word 99% of the world’s population would describe that sort of run as, but Sharon Gayter belongs in the 1% exception.

Sharon beat the previous record by 17.5 hours in what remains the world record. A truly inspirational character.

from Tside