Scottish runner Erica Clarkson is hoping to set a world record for running around a track. The 48-year-old Orcadian will run 50km on a 400m track – that’s 124.4 laps – for 12 days in a row.
She has called the Guinness World Record bid the Meno Ultras to raise awareness of the menopause and to highlight the benefits of exercise for midlife women.
Erica, 48, is also raising funds for the charity, Wellbeing of Women, which she says “funds clever people to carry out peer-reviewed research into women’s health”.
She said: “I think that if you want people to notice what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’ve got to do something a bit unusual to get their attention.
“I didn’t think running anything other than an ultra-marathon distance every day for 12 days would cut it.”
Why the ‘Meno Ultras’?
Erica, a civil servant with responsibility for the Scottish islands, lives with her husband Adam and their son Woody.
She describes herself as perimenopausal, a menopause transition that begins several years before the menopause.
She said: “It’s the time when a woman’s ovaries gradually begin to make less oestrogen.This can have many side effects and a couple of years ago running even a 10k seemed unimaginable.”
Erica suffered with a variety of perimenopausal symptoms including night sweats, tiredness, brain fog and very changeable moods.She also had sore hips and a recurring niggle in my neck.
But since she has started running, building up her distances, she reports that she has felt so much better. She also has Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
She said: “The pain in my hips and the neck have vanished. I still get the occasional night sweat, but they’re much rarer these day, and my energy levels are soaring.”
“My mood is also better now that I run. I’m calmer and I have a sense of serenity and peace. The cotton wool brain that I was suffering has eased as well.
“Two other happy side-effects are that my waist has come back and my hair is thicker than it was in my 30s.
“I’ve never felt better in myself and I attribute that to running and to HRT. They have transformed my life.”
Mental and physical challenge
Erica believes the world record attempt will be more of a mental than physical challenge. The bid will take place at a 400m track in Kirkwall in October.
She said: “The hardest battle will undoubtedly be the mental side of the Meno Ultras. I’ve done quite a few long training runs on the track and I can confirm it can be monotonous.
“I intend to break down each day into smaller pieces, to cope mentally with the goal.
“I know that I’m going to have to dig pretty deep to keep body and spirit together – especially in the latter stages of the attempt when I’ll have more reasons to stop than to go on.”
Erica, an ambassador for GB Ultras, has a team of supporters, including Scottish ultra running champion and fellow Orcadian William Sichel. William and Erica often train together.
She is coached by James Stewart, a GB 24-hour runner and Scotland 100K internationalist.
Erica said: “James knows a thing or two about running round and round a track for a very long time and he’s taking my running to another level. He genuinely makes me believe that anything is possible if I put the work in.”
A training week is between 50 and 70 miles and a lot of time is spent on the track but with some mixed terrain training as well.
Erica is also sponsored by her local leisure centre, The Pickaquoy Centre in Kirkwall, and completes around four gym and weights sessions each week.
For the mental side, she has been running for hours at a time on a treadmill.
A world record
Guinness World Records has set strict criteria for the “female attempt to run ultra-marathon distance (50km) on the most consecutive days”.
Erica is also hoping to achieve a world record for the number of standard distance track marathons run on consecutive days.
She said: “There are rules for the record and that means I can’t let my mind wander too much.
“I’ll need to stay alert because the horror of completing the attempt only to find that I’ve broken one of their rules is unthinkable.
“It’s going to hurt. There’s a reason why it’s a world record and why it hasn’t been done before, but I’ll just take it one day, one lap, one step at a time.”
This article appeared in the Sunday Mail.