A record 2,100 men and women competed in the Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones, the UK’s most popular ultra-marathon, last weekend (23-24 July) and Rob Forbes set a new course record of 8hrs 9mins for the 100km route on the Ridgeway through Oxfordshire and Wiltshire to the 5,000 year old Avebury Stone Circle. Hannah Turner won the women’s race in 10hrs 41mins.
Ultra specialist Rob Forbes, a 34-year-old father of three, described his run as a race against time: “It was a cracking race, brilliantly organised and through beautiful countryside, what more could you want? I started the day knowing I had to be done by 5pm in order to get back for a family village jazz picnic in the evening, so knew that I'd need to run a pretty decent time or face the wrath of Mrs Forbes. The pressure was on.”
Hannah Turner, a personal trainer and mother of three, was 13th overall. She was a sprinter at school and took up longer distance running eleven years ago after the birth of her first child. She started racing 10kms and gradually built up to marathons and ultras. She explained her motivation with these words: “I’m very competitive and I like to win. I like longer events – the pain of running isn’t as great but you have to endure for longer. Most of the time I’m running I wonder why I put myself through it but I feel great afterwards.”
One of the more eloquent and graphic descriptions of the pain and the joy of the event came from Michael Baker, 26, who lost five stones and got fit two years ago, finishing the Race to the Stones, his second ultra, in 15hrs 25mins: “Race to the Stones was one of the most intense, fulfilling and exhausting experiences I have been fortunate to be a part of. It was challenging and there was little cover from the relentless heat, which reduced me to tears several times. I was utterly broken at the finish but euphoric with such an overpowering sense of achievement, knowing I had taken my mind and body to new limits.”
The long distance challenge is organised by Threshold Sports, whose motto is ‘More is in You’. Full details, including how to enter next year, are at the Race to the Stones website