Member of the Merrell ‘Pack’ of sponsored athletes, Katie Roby only made the leap to running ultra distance races 18 months ago after adding the extra distance to a quiver of racing disciplines that already included adventure racing and fell running. After winning a few different ultra events in and around her south Wales home, Katie pledged to try longer, multi-day races. She recently completed the South Wales Traverse 2013 in 19 hours and 53 minutes, which beat the previous ladies record of 22 hours 40 minutes with a total distance of 75 miles with 5150m ascent.
Here is her story of her trip of a record-breaking run along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Despite picking up a tummy bug half way through, she still managed to run more than 6 marathons in 6 days with an average of 31 miles per day.
I was back at work this week after my summer “holiday”. Colleagues have been asking the usual questions “where did you go?”, “what did you get up to?”. I didn’t really know how to answer without sounding like a running obsessed freak. I tried to normalise it with words like ice-creams, fish+chips and sea swims. I hoped this would make the fact that I spent my precious week of annual leave running the entire length of the very breathtaking Pembrokeshire coast path slightly more acceptable.
I blame Tim. It was his idea. 186miles with 5000m of ascent over 6 days. He too threw in the words “holiday” and “ice-cream” and I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. Aside from the lure of ice-creams and sea swims I found the concept of a multi-day run intriguing. I’m relatively new to this ultra-marathon running business and so far I’ve found single day events challenging enough. To date they have left me hobbling, exhausted and swearing that I am never running again. The concept then, of waking up the next morning, putting the trainers on and going again, and again, and again, was something new for my running brain to come to terms with.
I’m going to jump straight to the bit I most want to forget. That way I get it over and done with. It happened on Day 4. Day 4 has been renamed day 0. Day 0 was sick day. I woke up to a full on bout of “Delhi belly”. I lost my dinner and couldn’t face breakfast. Available fuel to complete a 30 mile day = nil. Running soon became a slow, lethargic walk and after only 2 miles I succumbed to the foetal position. Tim reminded me this was a “holiday” and that ended day 0.
The whole idea of this trip was to explore the Pembrokeshire coast path, to have a go at multi-day running and to enjoy a summer holiday. The path was, as I had heard from many people, fascinating. A journey through such a variety of geological features, from the jagged, gnarly cliffs in the north, the wide sweeping bays further south and the tiny, tucked away coves that were dotted all the way along. We were teased by turquoise blue water that screamed “come for a swim”, but quickly reminded ourselves that salt water might not be so good for chaffage. I spent miles and miles on the lookout for seals and dolphins, and after numerous rejected “spottings” I finally learnt to correctly distinguish the difference between black buoys and the real deal. I enjoyed the urban areas too. The quaint seaside villages with cafes and ice-cream huts, the “traditional” Welsh caravan parks and the monstrous oil refineries that provided an interesting contrast to the relative tranquillity that we had been running through.
Physically it was an interesting journey too. From the fresh but nervous legs on day 1, to the exhausted but “path” conditioned legs on day 6. Energy ebbed and flowed. Mood and enthusiasm peaked and troughed. Aches and pains moved daily from hips to knees, from feet to shoulders. Eventually, I think my body just accepted that it would have to run 30 miles a day, and actually I felt my strongest on the last day. Pretty amazing what bodies can do if they are asked!
Once again Wales has come up trumps. The weather helped, as it would have been a different story in gale force winds and horizontal rain. The path provided a brilliant setting for 6 days of running. It kept me engaged and distracted from what was a physically exhausting trip. Most importantly though, it was a brilliant holiday.
Open Gallery5 Images
Head to Merrell.com/ThePack for more information on Katie and other members of The Pack.