Robbie Britton's report on the World 24 Hour Championships in Belfast

The World 24 Hour Running Championships is a form of ultra marathon, in which a competitor runs as far as they can in a maximum of 24 hours. They tend to ‘fuel’ as they go and only take toilet breaks. The top athletes are capable of running six marathons back-to-back.

From being staged every year, the World 24 Hour Championships is now held every two years, alternating with the European Championships which were held in 2016 in Albi, France on 22 and 23 October.

Whatever race you are doing, show it some respect, whether it’s a 5k or a 100 mile race and add some specificity. Get your body and your mind ready for what is ahead”

Robbie Britton – Ultra runner & Profeet ambassador

A wise man (well, 2016 Lakeland 100 winner Mike Jones) once said “You held it so tightly that you crushed it in your hands” and the words rang through after the World 24 Hour Championships in Belfast this year. So much time and effort had gone into reaching the start line, but was I spent when I got there.

Last October the European 24hr Champs were ruined by a knee injury and surgery soon followed. All roads led to the 2017 World 24hr Champs and with a lot of help from my physio Sarah Tunstall, Emma at Profeeton the 3D scanner and my family and friends, all the obstacles had been cleared on the path to Belfast.

So when four hours into the race my heart rate was elevated, my pace was slowing and an attack of the sleeps arose at 4pm, barely after the starting gun in a 24hr race, I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

Specificity is essential
What followed was a lesson in respect, dealt out by the harshest of all ultra races, the 24hr. Training had been brilliant, but lacking in one vital aspect, specificity. When specificity means running around a flat, concrete 1.7km loop and you live in Chamonix, France, can you blame a man for trying something different?

Apart from a weekly long reps session on the curves of Chamonix’s 300m track, everything was done on trail, rolling at best and vertical, also at its best, but for enjoyment, rather than specificity. The aim had been to create all the elements of a 24hr preparation with the right amount of time, effort and recovery on a slightly different terrain. Well, it didn’t work.

Alarming blood tests
The week after the race blood tests were done and a CSK score of 3200, when below 150 is considered normal, was rather alarming. Both Renee McGregor, my sports dietician, and the fine doctor in Chamonix were a little concerned but as we didn’t know the score before Belfast it was unclear whether it was a reason for the performance or just because of it.

An all clear ultrasound and starting to feel normal again has lowered concern, but racing the 16km Eiger Trail was out of the question until a second blood test to show a decreased score. I love to race, but when long term health is in question, there needs to be sensible decisions made.

The toughest format of ultra marathon
Regardless of the reasons, the 24hr hour race was disrespected a little. It is by far the toughest format of ultra marathon, trying to get the best possible performance out of one single day, and something about this 24 hours of misery will always keep me coming back for more, even if I take a break for a few years.

Every race you do is a lesson in some way, but only if you listen.
There were positives to Belfast (one being stuffing my face went very well), but many more negatives to learn fr0m and adapt for the future.

In some ways a bad performance is more valuable than a good one for long term goals and my fire to win the World 24hr Championships still burns strong, but my body and mind need a rest after seven Championship events in four years.

Whatever race you are doing, show it some respect, whether it’s a 5k or a 100 mile race and add some specificity. Get your body and your mind ready for what is ahead and you’ll make race day a whole lot easier.

Unless it turns out it was my liver’s fault, then my mountain training for flat 24hrs races theory still could work, but I don’t think I’ll chance it next time.

Robbie Britton Statistics

  • Handicap 1.1 – a World and European bronze medallist from 2015’s combined championships in Turin
  • Personal best of 239km for the 24-hour race on the two-kilometre circuit in Turin
  • Born and bred in the South East of England
  • Lives and trains in Chamonix, France

For more information on the shoes and custom insoles we fitted for Robbie Britton or to make an appointment, please contact the Profeet Run Lab on 020 7736 0046.

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