Ultra runner Sharon Gayter has yet another world record to her name after completing the famous Head to Head route in Ireland.
After ending 2011 in style as the world record holder for distance completed on a treadmill over seven days at Teesside University, Sharon’s 2012 is right on track after beating the previous record by over 21 hours.
Sharon recorded a total time of 4 days, 1 hour 39 minutes and 55 seconds for the gruelling 345 mile distance from Mizen Head, the Southern-most point in Ireland up to Malin Head, the Northern-most point in Northern Ireland, smashing the time previously set by Jennifer Salter in 2011.
“I’m delighted to get this record in the bag. We’ve been working towards this for over a year now and I was always confident I could beat it. I’m much more tired after this one than I was after the seven day treadmill record, but 21 hours off the record keeps me very happy.
“After seeing the sunny forecast for the week, my confidence grew that I could set a good time. We discussed whether I should push to beat 4 days, but given my busy schedule this year, and the fact my shins were feeling a bit tight, I decided it was best coming out in better shape and not worth risking my fitness over.”
Already this year, she has completed a 48 hour treadmill challenge in Evreux, France where she competed against five other elite runners, all of them male.
“I hadn’t really prepared for the competition in France. They sent an email six days before and by the next morning I had already booked my flights. I couldn’t wait to give myself a new challenge.”
Sharon had an eye on the women’s record for 48 hours on a treadmill and, despite only having six days to prepare, felt it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
“At the time I was preparing for the Head to Head in Ireland, so I was always cautious about going 100% in this one, especially so soon before I was due to run. I realised after 24 hours in France I wasn’t going to get the women’s 48 hour record so I went easy so as not to risk Ireland.”
“I didn’t want to let the whole crew down on an event we had put a lot of effort into by getting injured in an event I decided to enter at the last minute. A lot of people think these ultra runs are just about me but I couldn’t even think about competing without my support crew around me, they make it happen.”
Thanks to the expert facilities at Teesside University whilst breaking the Guinness world record back in December, Sharon has been able to find out more about how her body reacts when she puts it through painfully long distances.
“For the first time, I was able to monitor my blood glucose and iron levels at Teesside and was shocked to find how shockingly low they were. Without the correct equipment, you’ll never know exactly what you’re doing to your body so it was really valuable, and has adapted how I prepare for runs now.
“I’ve discovered that low iron levels are common in runners as every time you put your foot down it kills red blood cells. My iron reading was around 13.5, average for a woman; however after the seven day world record my levels had dropped to 9, which is technically anaemic. Thanks to the analysis I’ve had access to at Teesside; I can safely counteract this by taking iron pills and ultimately allow my body to carry around more oxygen when I’m attempting records.”
Sharon’s running exploits for 2012 aren’t over just yet, as she looks ahead to three very different outdoor events: “I’m attempting another world record in an event around Lake Balaton in Hungary over six days in May, in which I’ve already set the UK record. It will be very picturesque, although could be a tough record to break depending on the weather. I’ll have to average about 85 miles a day to beat the record, the same speed I maintained in Ireland, compared to the 75 miles a day average for the seven day treadmill record.
“I’ve also got the annual World 24 Hours to keep up my international status in representing my country and finally a race to really enjoy, the extreme one, a trip to the Grand Canyon for a wonderful 160 miles.”