Joanna wins Great Glen Ultra 2018
Joanna Murphy, from Fife, ran into first position in the final mile of the Great Glen Ultra 2018. It was her first attempt at the 71-mile race and she finished in 12:14:20.
Lynne Allen, a previous winner of the West Highland Way Race, was second in 12:19:07. The men’s race was won by David Shaw 11:08:52.
I asked Joanna to tell me about her win in the Great Glen Ultra.
Joanna, 31, lives in Crossgate and is a member of Carnegie Harriers. She has been a runner since she was at primary school.
She stepped up from marathon distance to her first ultra, the D33, in 2015.
Joanna, a police officer, said: “I found from a young age that I had good lungs and strong legs. Over the years, my love for running has grown and the distance of my races has increased.
“After doing my first marathon in 2012 and claiming it would be my only one, I have now completed something like 10 of them but my sub-three-hour dream lives on, narrowly missing it at London 2017 with a 3.01.
“Now I prefer to run ultras. I have found endurance running to be one of my strengths, often picking up places in the second half when others are slowing down.
“I do not follow a strict training programme and often run to feel but I do try to include a couple of key speed sessions in each week.”
First place in Great Glen Ultra
The Great Glen Ultra is a 71-mile run from Fort William to Inverness along the Great Glen Way.
It was Joanna’s first GGU, although she has run around 10 other Scottish ultras.
She put in a last-minute entry last month. She said: “I had been ramping up my training mileage and I felt that I was ready for another race.
“Having not raced since November 2017, I didn’t know what to expect from myself but I was confident that I had put in the miles and elevation. I just needed to get my mind into racing mode again.”
Joanna had no expectations of how she would fare. She said: “I had no pressure, having been off the scene for eight months, and I think this was key for me in doing well in the race.
“I heard good things about the route and I was looking forward to running in new territory, having never stepped foot on the route.
“I was aware that there were three significant long climbs from 30 miles onwards so I tried to be prepare for those.”
Joanna described being on high for the entire race. She said: “I was concerned that I had set out slightly faster than planned at the start but it was comfortable so I went with it.
“My legs were feeling good and I found I was able to run a lot of the hills, adopting a run/walk strategy on the steeper climbs. This is something I would recommend, like running to a lamppost, walking to the next and so on. Before you know it, you’re at the top!
“I ate well, kept my music in one ear and enjoyed running solo while having the odd brief chat with fellow runners.
“The sunrise was absolutely stunning and I found myself taking a lot of pictures along the route.
“I found the miles went by quickly and while a part of me was always waiting for a low point it didn’t happen.”
The only time Joanna felt “a bit yucky” was at about 40 miles. She took a couple of cocodamol and a tin of coke “to put the low to bed”.
She revealed she was moving up the field throughout the race and was never overtaken.
She continued: “I was aware that the female in first place – the awesome Lynne Allen – was ahead. I hadn’t seen her since about mile four when she pulled away.
“It wasn’t until I got into checkpoint six, about 10 miles from the race finish that I was informed she was 22 minutes ahead of me.
“I knew that was a massive gap to close in that distance so I set my personal goal to try to finish under 12 hours 30 minutes. This was the first time during in the race that I really thought about my target time.
“I was pushing on and I felt I was getting quicker. This is something that I seem to do well later in a race.
“I think it is important to have a goal to make you want to get to that finish line.
“But I was absolutely shocked to see Lynne about a mile from the finish. We congratulated each other and I pushed on reaching the finish with a ridiculously fast mile and I was thrilled to be first.”
Joanna’s tips for Great Glen Ultra
- Do not go off too fast as there is a lot of climbing in the latter stages.
- Look around and enjoy the views because they really are beautiful.
- Be prepared for a ver varied route of road and trail. (“BAM organisers know how to put on an event!”).
Joanna’s ultra highlights
Joanna’s first ultra was the D33 in March 2015. It was her first step up from the marathon and a tester for ultras. She said: “I absolutely loved it and I managed to finish first lady. I remember passing the lady that was in first place and I didn’t know if it was etiquette to pass her or not. I finished that race strong and ran a faster second half.”
The Glen Ogle 33 race in 2016 was a “more conservative” race after “blowing up” the year before. She said: “I managed to move through the field and pick off runners, finishing like I was doing a 10k and moving from being in about ninth female place to third female and only two seconds behind second place.”
Joanna was third female in the The West Highland Way 2017 race in 19hrs 57 minutes. She said: “I managed to take almost four hours off my 2016 time. Again, I had a strong finish and was second fastest in the race over the last seven miles.”
She concludes: “While my race times and positions have been great achievements, they are simply a bonus to what have been great, well-paced runs. I have been fortunate enough to make amazing friends in this sport and continually push myself beyond my limits. What’s not to love?”
Feeling inspired? See list of Scottish ultra races.