Ultra runner Anna Troup overcame “awful” weather, injury and sickness to set a new female record time on the iconic 268-mile Pennine Way.
She reached Kirk Yetholm, in Scotland, after running north from Edale, in England, on the long-distance trail at around 12.45pm on Tuesday August 17. It took her 72 hours and 46 minutes, which is more than 1.5 hours faster than the previous female fastest time set by Sabrina Verjee last September.
Anna, 51, of Henley-on-Thames, said: “I am absolutely thrilled.”
Last-minute decision to run the Pennine Way
It is only weeks since Anna triumphed as the fastest female in the Montane Lakeland 100 and less than two months since she won and set a new women’s course record for the Montane Summer Spine Race 2021 in 80 hours and 28 minutes.
The decision to attempt a Pennine Way FKT was done with haste. Anna, who has two teenage children, said: “Deciding to do the Pennine Way FKT was all a bit rushed. There was a window of opportunity around holidays and other commitments and we only had about two weeks to plan.
“I guess I was probably not properly recovered from the races but I just decided to do it anyway.”
A tough run on the Pennine Way
The weather made Anna’s run a tough outing. She said: “It was wet, windy and claggy and there was only about two hours of sunshine. We even ended up in a blizzard at higher level.
“I found it hard because I prefer sunshine and it really did get cold at times, down to zero degrees..
“The wet meant it was also boggy underfoot. The weather could have been a lot better.”
Anna also suffered a major bout of nausea. She said: “I started the run slowly and my support runners were really looking after me by making sure I kept eating. However, I think I must have eaten too much in the earlier stages because I ended up with an upset stomach and feeling very nauseous.
“Around 30 miles in I stopped for a quick sleep and I stopped eating for a bit and that helped.
“I felt okay again after that and then I just trusted myself to eat when I was hungry.”
Anna’s go to for hydration is hot water and lemon, while she reports that it was marmalade sandwiches and cheese and tortilla wraps that kept her going.
She said: “I didn’t really have a nutrition plan and I just relied on feeling hungry and eating what I fancied. Having a support van with a choice of food made a big difference to the run.”
In total, Anna, who started ultra running in her 40s, took only 40 minutes of sleep broken into short naps.
She said: “It wasn’t so much sleeping, but more like lying down and closing my eyes. Somehow I can keep going with these sorts of long-distance runs.”
Then with 60 miles to reach the finish, Anna’s quad suddenly started to hurt. She said: “My quad caused my knee to swell and it was very sore. The worst pain came when I tried to descend. I ended up having to go down hills sideways. This slowed me down.
“I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I thought I would be okay to keep going anyway.”
Highlights off Anna’s Pennine Way FKT
The highlights for Anna, who does most of her training and racing with her partner Richard Staite, were the people who gave their time to support her.
She said: “We decided to keep the attempt quite low key and I didn’t have a large team of runners. In fact, I had two small teams who ran with me like a relay.
“They did about 15 miles, then had a rest for 30 miles, then did 15 miles more and so on. Each runner did about 40 to 50 miles in total with me. Richard totalled around 70 miles in the end.
“It was great to see how happy people were to be running with me and to be part of my FKT. I loved listening to their chat, too, and it turned out to be a very up-lifting challenge.”
Anna was also amazed by the kindness of strangers. She said: “People popped up all along the run to support me and it was amazing of them to do this. It really was a highlight to have so many kind people supporting me.”
Spine Race versus a supported FKT
Anna was already familiar with the Pennine Way after her Spine Race but she says a solo supported run is different. She describes the differences.
She said: “In a race you are competing against other people but when it’s solo, even supported, you are racing a clock. I think that makes it harder.
“You carry a larger pack when doing the race because with an FKT there is the advantage of a support crew and a van. I saw the support van 34 times. So this means you don’t have as much to carry.
“You also have a lot more choice of what to eat and drink for fuelling – and far more frequent opportunities to take food and water.
“I am not sure this is such as big an advantage as I thought it might be. I am used to carrying a heavier pack but I did appreciate being able to have lots of hot water and lemon.
“Then there is the navigation. In a supported run there are other people about to help with the nav, while in the race you’re on your own. However, I did a lot of my own nav in the FKT anyway.
“Both have pros and cons and it’s just a different experience. I do think it’s easier to go faster in an FKT though and my times show that.”
Secret of success on a long-distance run
Anna combines hiking and running in her training schedule. She said:”I do more hiking than running because these sorts endurance runs require a lot of walking.
“If I can’t get outside, I’ll use the turbo for cycling or run on a treadmill. I also do plenty of strength and conditioning and weights training.”
But she believes she is simply good at “maintaining consistency”. She said: “I can go for a very long time at a set pace. It think it comes down to my personal physiology.
“I don’t actually think I am a good runner, but I do seem to be able to keep going.”
Men’s Pennine Way rcord
John Kelly holds the overall record for running the Pennine Way. In May, he completed the route in 58 hours, 4 mins and 53 seconds, which was 3 hours 30 minutes faster than Damian Hall’s time in 2020.
Can a woman run faster?
Anna believes it’s possible for a faster female time. She suggested the route is unfinished business for her.
She said: “I think it is definitely possible to run a faster time for the Pennine Way but, to be honest, during a long-distance run like this anything can happen or go wrong – and so who knows what is possible?
“I think I might want to do this route again sometime, but who knows what might happen then, too?”
Who is Anna Troup?
Anna started running ultras in her mid-40s. She and Richard began training for the notoriously tough UTMB Mont Blanc in 2014.
As well as this year’s race successes, she won the Lakeland 100 two years ago. She has been first female in the Arc of Attrition 100, the Wendover Woods 100, the Exodus 100 and podiumed in other ultras.