Last year the Guinness book of records set a challenge for runners – complete ten marathons in ten days and get in the records book. Lots of runners found the challenge motivational, and a few completed the challenge in 2007, the inaugural year. Many more decided to give it a go this year, and lots of them took the opportunity to raise money for charity while attempting to gain the record, as Michelle Atkins and other Yorkshire runners did in partnership with the Brathay Hall Trust.
Michelle, who trains regularly with the York Knavesmire Harriers, achieved the target of 10 marathons in 10 days, raised well over her original fundraising target of 2,000 pounds, and is the first woman ever to have completed the 10 in 10 challenge:
She told today of her gruelling ordeal, which began each day by getting up at 5.30am to eat some food and prepare for the run.
When she awoke on the second day in great pain, after completing her first marathon the day before, she wondered how she would ever be able to run another one. But after physio and a massage, she managed to set off.
By the time she was due to start her sixth run, she had even greater pain in her left leg because of a muscle problem and she broke down in tears, thinking she would have to give up.
But the physio gave her the OK to carry on and, dosed up with painkillers, she did.
As well as muscle pain, she also got badly sunburned on the back of her neck and legs, and also suffered from some dehydration.
She said she started at 9.30am each day, and had a half-hour massage after finishing before sitting in the lake’s cold water to help the muscles and blood flow.
“It was like Groundhog Day, because I was repeatedly running the same route.”
She said colleagues, family and friends came along to support, shout and keep her going along the route.
“It’s something I will never forget,” she said, adding that after crossing the finishing line for the final time, the male runners poured champagne over her head.
However, some of the lustre has been taken off her triumph:
Michelle Atkins had hoped that her marathon feat would have secured a place in the Guinness Book of Records after covering an astounding 262 miles in just 10 days.
But she has discovered that she could be omitted because a man has already completed the endurance test and claimed the record.
Miss Atkins, 42, from New Earswick on the outskirts of York, said: “It’s very disappointing that I won’t win a place in the record books because of a technicality. The book had set the 10 marathon challenge last year for all runners.
“I knew some men would attempt it but I immediately thought: ‘Why can’t I be the first woman to do it?’. As far as I know, no woman in the world has ever done 10 marathons in 10 days and it was a real incentive to do it.
“But two days before my challenge they sent me a short email simply saying I wouldn’t be included in the book. It was a real blow because I have done a lot of training, but I was still determined to show I could do it.”
The Guinness Records people say that they haven’t definitely ruled out giving Michelle a place in the book, just that they hadn’t made provision for a place for the first woman to achieve the goal.