Race Report – 2nd May 2022

The bank holiday weekend was a busy one for Romsey Road Runners. Four intrepid friends from the club headed to the Isle of Portland on Friday to undertake an unusual challenge: the Portland Pig Backyard Ultra. Competitors have to run consecutive 4.17 mile laps within an hour, timing it so they can rest and refuel before the bell rings for the next lap. The winner is the last person standing. The record for a Backyard Ultra is 354.2 miles and 85 hours, and the Portland Pig winner eventually finished on 120 miles. Having started running at midday, Ian Ralph and Hannah Shutt called it a day at midnight, after completing an impressive 12 laps in 12 hours and covering 50 miles, while Matthew Hammerton and Becky Tovey ran through the night to finish an amazing 24 laps in 24 hours covering 100 miles. 

Backyard Ultra 2022 Finishers
Backyard Ultra 2022 Finishers

Hannah said of the experience: “I signed up on the spur of the moment, thinking more about a fun weekend camping with mates rather than running in circles for a long time. Over the following months, it dawned on me what I was about to try and do!! Having never run further than 30 miles before I had no idea what I would be capable of, but I knew I needed to finish and still be able to function as a mum, wife and employee by the end of the bank holiday weekend. Ian, Matt and Becky are phenomenal ultra-runners so I learnt a lot from them about how to plan nutrition and pace myself. The first few laps were a lot of fun as we chatted to each other while the sun shone. About 30 miles in I had a bit of a strop- I was starting to ache and I was questioning my life choices – but the joy of this format is that every hour you’re reunited with your friends who encourage you to get going again and shove you over the start line. I absolutely loved running into the night and through the Portland quarries by torchlight. At midnight, 12 hours and 50 miles in, I happily called it a day with Ian. Watching the others continue through the night was exciting. It’s definitely got me thinking about other ultra-marathons in the future but I think I’ll take a few months off long distance for now!!”

Matt said of the experience: “The BYU was always going to be a challenging event. Not just for distance, sleep deprivation and fuelling, but also the fact that speed really didn’t matter. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. The race had fantastic highs – running with mates, the applause as each lap was completed, the party atmosphere back at base. And it had difficult lows – one in the morning with failing muscles and the thought of doing another 11 hours to hit 24. However, the laps ticked by and with the rising sun and fantastic support, those last few laps (cake and cola fuelled) became manageable. I was hugely ecstatic to cross the line for 100 miles beside my fantastic friend and fellow athlete Becky. ‘Just one more?’ the organiser asked us. A brief second passed before we decided – no let’s leave it on a high – we’re done!”

Saturday saw four RRR runners – Sue Sleath (40:00), James Byrne (42:49) and Alice Lane (50:47) – take on the Hurstborne Tarrant 5-mile trail run. Sue said of the event: “It’s a lovely run with a stiff climb at the start but the reward of some beautiful bluebell woods to run through when you reached the high ground.” 

Sunday was Broadlands Relay Marathon day. Romsey have won the event in the past and were keen to do so again, despite fierce competition from the Winterslow Whippets who put Romsey’s A team under pressure from the start. After a very exciting final leg by Matt Bennet, Romsey snatched victory from the Whippets by 42 seconds to win in a time of 2:29 hours. Out of the 112 teams taking part, Romsey’s B team came 8th in 3:05; the C team came 35th in 3:27 and the D team came 83rd in 3:54.

Bank Holiday Monday saw Susie Parker, Alice Lane and Steve Geary take part in the Big Way Round, a multi-distance event staged in the countryside around Winchester. Susie completed the 14-mile event in 2:10, Alice the marathon in 4:55 and Steve finished the 50k, his first experience of ultra-marathon running, in 5:07. 

Monday was also the Harewood Forest 10k. Liz Slade (1:00), Anna Duigan (1:09) and Sue Sleath (48:48) took part, with Liz saying: “The route through the forest was stunning with the bluebells at their absolute best.”