Scottish runner triumphs in Ultra Great Britain race
Scottish ultra runner Lesley Lynn was the first female to finish the epic Ultra Great Britain this week.
Ultra Great Britain: The Race Across Scotland 2018 saw runners attempt to complete the 214 miles from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath along the Southern Upland Way. There is a total ascent of 7648m and a 100-hour cut off.
Around 50% of the field did not finish the inaugural race.
Lesley, 39, of Dalry in Ayrshire took 83 hours and 30 minutes, with only four power naps. Her race also included a three-hour emergency trip to A&E. She was 21st overall and almost 3.5 hours ahead of the joint second placed ladies.
The first man was Trevor Cichosz from the US in a time of 65:03.
Lesley told me: “It was very tough. I can’t describe finishing and I don’t know if it has sunk in yet. It is definitely the highlight of my running so far.
“The journey from standing at the start feeling underprepared, inexperienced at the distance and unlikely to finish to being first female and picking up my two-tone belt buckle and trophy was one I will never forget.”
Lesley’s journey to the Ultra GB
Lesley started running eight years ago. With three children under school age, she decided to run for fitness because she could no longer justify the cost of a gym membership.
She says: “I began running 10ks and gradually upped the distance until I found my comfort zone in ultra running.
“I love the sport because of its friendliness and the beautiful places it takes me to.”
Lesley has many ultras to her name including three finishes of the West Highland Way. She also ran 122 miles and was first female in the Glenmore 24 in 2017 (and second overall).
She says: “I prefer the longer distances because they seem to suit the way that I run.”
Lesley said she was looking for a big challenge to mark turning 40 next year. She adds: “I picked the Ultra GB across Scotland race because I had never ran that far before and I wanted to push myself a little further.
“I had looked at the race and considered it. Then my partner Alan signed me up as a wonderful surprise.
“My main concerns were around sleep and navigation but I was so excited to take on the challenge.”
Running the Ultra GB
As race day approached, Lesley’s nerves built to a high. She says: “I felt out of my depth and I worried mostly about navigating the course as I hadn’t managed to recce as much of it as I hoped to.
“I was also concerned about nutrition. I have a stomach condition called gastroparesis, which makes it hard to swallow and digest food and racing can sometimes aggravate this.
“Also there was a larger essential kit list than I am used to carrying.”
At the start line, Lesley felt a little more reassured to meet a few familiar faces including Martin Bell, a fellow Scottish ultra runner finished third male.
From early in the race, Lesley was told she was leading the female field, although this surprised her. She said: “As I ran through Castle Kennedy at 14 miles, a race crew member shouted out that I was first female. I replied, shouting: “You must have missed the crowd in front of me!’ Until then, I had no idea of my place in the race nor did I wish to with 200 miles still to go.”
It turned out Lesley held her first place for the entire race.
There were very tough times
Lesley says: “The nights were hard. Running through the night is always difficult and when you run through several nights it is very tough. Like many other runners I’d hoped to be at the finish line by Monday evening but this wasn’t to be. That final night was extremely tough.
“The navigation was difficult as well and a lot of the terrain underfoot was brutal.”
Heading into the second night, Lesley’s foot had swollen so much she could hardly put it on the ground. The race medics had a look and advised she go to Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary for advice.
Lesley says: “This meant a three-hour round trip in the middle of the race. Alan drive me there and I was given antibiotics because my foot had became poisonous and painkillers. The drive also meant I could have a quick sleep.
I returned to the course at 121 miles – with only 93 to go!”
The race highlights
The day after Lesley’s trip to hospital she started to enjoy the trails. She says: “It was much more runnable and less boggy and marshy at this point and I was able to stretch out my legs. It felt like progress – and that was amazing.”
Lesley also enjoyed the company of the other runners. She says: “For the most part, I passed the same people time and time again, occasionally buddying up. I met so many wonderful people with amazing stories along the way.
“When I went into the third night I hit a low but I was able to soldier on with three other runners and that made it more bearable. I had completely underestimated just how brutal and difficult the course was, so going into the third night was very hard as I had thought I would be finished by then.”
At Longformacus, some 30 miles from the finish line, Lesley had another power nap and then pushed on.
She says: “By this time I had paired up with Jonathan Miller, a fellow Scottish runner with Carnegie Harriers. We agreed to stick with each other for the last part. Tiredness was kicking in and it just felt safer and more sensible.
“We were both fortunate enough to have support and our crews were also keeping each other going and enjoying the company. That’s when I knew I could complete this.
“At no point in the race before this did I think for sure I would finish and not until I crossed the finish line did I dream of being first female. With about 10 miles to go I felt a bit emotional that it was nearly done and the other females were far enough behind that I was likely to win.
“But that final stretch seemed to last forever. We saw our support for the last time five miles from the finish and enjoyed a final hug and words of encouragement.
“At the finish in the beautiful village of Cockburnspath many of the locals had came out to congratulate us. It was incredible feeling to have finally finished.”
Praise for race supporters
Lesley states that she could not have finished the race without the support of Alan. She says: “He followed me all the way thought the race in our van, took me to hospital, never slept for worrying I was off the course and put up with all the months of preparation. It was definitely team work in getting to the end.”
Ultra GB results
1st: Trevor Cichosz from the US. Time: 65:03
2nd: Benny Keuppens from Belgium. 66:31
3rd: Martin Bell from Scotland. 69:50
4th: Kristian Dela Cour GB. 69.53
1st: Lesley Lynn (21st overall). 83:31
2nd joint: Becky Wightman and Deborah Allum. 86.56
4th: Louise Tidbury. 87:54
The top three men and top three women finishers earn an outstanding two-tone 214 Mile Ultra Great Britain Buckle. Top 25 finishers earn gold. Finishers 26 to 50 earn silver, while the other runners receive a bronze buckle.