An advanced event rider and trainer has finished strongly in a 100km (63-mile) ultramarathon just a year after starting to run modest distances during the first lockdown — and has raised £2,000 for charity.
UKCC level four coach Victoria Gallantree, who usually works long hours teaching,“fell between the slats of the self-employed” last March and found herself “stuck at home”.
“I finished off my masters degree (in professional sports science) and thought ‘what am I going to do?’” she said. “I went for a run and did one mile, then thought I’d increase it to two miles the next week, and then for every week I’d add a mile on. A milestone came on New Year’s Eve when I ran a marathon.”
“I didn’t have to use fuel and I just ran round in my riding clothes with my hat, looking quite ridiculous.” she said. “My clients would provide me with breakfast, lunch and coffee!”
After a while, people began asking Victoria “what she was doing it for”, so she opened a JustGiving page and started raising funds for Macmillan.
“I thought Macmillan was one of the charities that had really suffered. I used to hold coffee mornings for them at the yard, so they were the one I went for,” she said.
Victoria, 48, who also runs a counselling practice, then spotted a 100km race in Northumberland, organised by Run The Wild, while browsing the internet in the early hours of the morning.
“I thought ‘do you know what, I’m going to do something big’,” Victoria said.
As a warm-up, she completed the Three Peaks Challenge in May — which involves climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis within 24hrs — in 8 hrs, while “still wearing my jodhpurs”.
Her other preparations for the event included running 30k twice in one weekend, as well as shaving off her hair for charity, which meant she “didn’t have to carry the weight of a hairbrush” in her rucksack.
“I also decided I should buy some proper equipment at that point, so I took my shorts to run the 100k!” Victoria said. “Someone bought me some decent trainers and I was getting to the point where my little watch’s battery couldn’t keep power for the whole run, so I had to get an upgrade.”
During the run, Victoria had to battle rain and driving wind but completed her first 100k in an impressive time of 14hrs, finishing 40th of the 133 female runners who ran in the non-stop category.
“I was in 19th at one point but I didn’t realise so I stopped for lunch and had a mooch around some stalls,” she said.
A tough point in the arduous challenge came at the 90km mark, when Victoria drew on her equestrian experience to see her through.
“During the last 10k, people were vomiting,” she said. “It made me think how after cross-country day at a three-day-event, horses can be dehydrated and quiet and you have to walk them.
“That’s what 90k felt like, like I needed to look after myself at that point. I went to the medics wrapped in a duvet, gave myself a hot chocolate, talked to myself, told myself ‘I’m fine’ and reminded myself that I was not going to let Macmillan down or my sponsors down,” she said.
“I used to point-to-point, where you can only think forward with only one desire to keep going. I thought of that, and it also reminded me of the scales of training. I was thinking ‘rhythm, balance, push and straightness’ and it helped me focus.
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“I was also reminded of something Lucinda Green taught me, that the last three fences of a cross-country course are the first three fences of the next one — so I thought the same way about my last 3k. In the end the final 10k felt easy.”
Apart from a “very sore left toe”, Victoria said she was doing well after the race and was thinking about taking part in other events in the series next year.
“I’m aware of other ultramarathons, like the Marathon de Sables, but I really like riding horses and I am training for my fellowship, so I think I’ll probably go back to focusing on that instead!” she said.
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