Great Britton… an ultra committed athlete

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Newly crowned 2013 UK Ultra Runner of the Year Robbie Britton thrives on pushing his body to the limit. In his first blog, the new Team inov-8 recruit reflects on a phenomenal past 12 months and looks ahead to a 2014 calendar stacked with some of the world’s toughest ultra distance races.

UK Ultra Runner of the Year? Wow, what a superb award to get. Ultra running in the UK is on a massive up, and in 2013 there was a huge number of cracking individual performances at a variety of races.

My highlight was winning the South Downs Way 100 miler, which includes 3,870m of ascent. I ran strong throughout, so much so that I even avoided having to run in the dark… I don’t think the head torch company sponsoring the event – Petzl – was too happy about me running that fast!

It was one of those days when almost everything went to plan. I set a new course record of 15hrs 43mins, lowering the previous best time by 80 minutes.

At the World 24hr Running Championships in the Netherlands my aim was to rack up 240km (149 miles). My end result was 239.009km (148.8 miles) and 19th place overall.

The 24 hours didn’t quite go as smoothly as planned. There was vomiting, staggering and a whole lot of rain and hail. Despite all that, I felt I did the GB vest proud on what was my first outing for the team.

My target for the high-profile Spartathlon (a gruelling 152-mile race in Greece) was ambitious to say the least.

Runners are given 36 hours to complete the course. I challenged myself to do it in under 24 hours!

Forgetting the fact the race would be run in hot conditions, that there is a huge mountain to climb at the 100-mile point and that only a third of starters actually finish, I decided to go for it and really push myself, both physically and mentally. I went through the halfway mark in 12 hours but my stomach was disagreeing, violently. From then on it was a case survival and making it to the finish line, which I did. I will return another year soon. I will be fitter, wiser and, as always, ambitious!

A great year was topped off when I was recruited to Team inov-8 for 2014. My inov-8 X-Talon 212 shoes have carried me across the South Downs and over Box Hill time and time again in training, now I can’t wait to race as an official member of such a committed global team of athletes.

inov-8 X-Talon 212
inov-8 X-Talon 212

So what’s next? Tattoo UKUROY2013 across my forehead and relax with my award? Nah, that’s not my style, plus the tatoo would look awful!

My 2014 season is underway and I’ve already snared two victories, at the Canterbury 10-miler and the two-day Pilgrims Challenge 66-miler on the North Downs Way.

Four years ago the Pilgrims Challenge took me a total of 15 hours to complete, and the on the second day alone I was running for nine hours. This year I broke the course record, clocking a total time of 8 hrs 8 mins for the two days combined.

Robbie gets some food down during the Pilgrims Challenge ultra race
Robbie gets some food down during the Pilgrims Challenge ultra race

Next up is Transvulcania, on the island of La Palma, one of the Canary Islands. This is the first race in the 2014 Skyrunning calendar and all the world’s best ultra-distance mountain runners will be there.

I have been to La Palma once before, taking in a few epic days in the mountains before setting off to sail the Atlantic in a boat built by a crazy old man advertising for crew on Gumtree!

At 51 miles, Transvulcania is a little bit short for me but it has more ascent -there’s 2,000m in the first 11 miles -than the 24-hour stuff. I will go there, chuck myself in the mix and see what happens. I am always up for challenging myself.

After that I have the World 24hr Running Championships. The target this year is a top-10 finish. I’m already feeling good about my chances as I feel fitter and stronger than I was last year.

And what year would be complete without a trip to the Alps? The 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) was shortened due to awful weather conditions the last time I ventured to Chamonix in 2012, but the atmosphere of the race got into my blood and this year I will return. I can’t wait.

There will be other races too, including my first fell race. This will be at Middle Fell on March 15 when, as part of inov-8’s UK and European athlete retreat, myself and the other athletes will battle it out. At six miles, it may be one of the shortest races I’ve done. Maybe we should run it on repeat, say 20 times?!

PR and communications coordinator for inov-8. Based in the Lake District, England. Sky, mountain, fell and trail runner, obstacle racer, cyclist. Need to do more functional fitness WODs to build strength!