OUR globe-trotting ultra-runner, Jo Zakrzewski, set five new British and Scottish records on her 24-hour race debut at the weekend in Australia, covering a massive 236.561km and finishing second overall.
Her 24-hour achievement at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra was equivalent to running six back-to-back marathons and puts her second on the UK all-time list. In doing so, she beat the Scottish record of 233km, held by Fionna Ross.
Crowned the Female Champion 2020, Jo also broke the British 200km record with a time of 18 hours 53.22, which had stood for 30 years.
For good measure, she lowered the Scottish 12-hour, 24-hour, 100-mile and 200-mile records.
A 10-time medalist at the 100km, 50km and Trail World Championships, this was Jo’s first attempt in a 24-hour race - and she was unaware of the records before starting.
She says: “That was my debut 24-hour race, the furthest I'd raced on a track before was 5000m, so I had absolutely no expectations."
She came into the event 'under the radar', having decided on impulse to have a go at the elite invitational event, off the back of racing a 5,000m masters and a 5k+ trail event earlier in the week.
The wet Canberra conditions made the event hugely challenging. She says: “We had a bit of everything in the race - frost and sub-zero temperatures at the start, heat during the middle of the day, and then torrential rain overnight for the last 11 hours.
“That was tough as I got very cold, wet and probably hypothermic. I struggled to run after a hamstring seized up in the cold and it has developed into tendonitis behind my knee. Plus, my hands were too cold to grab food/nutrition so my energy faded somewhat.
“I wasn't wearing enough clothing, which was partly due to not having my usual running gear here, and partly due to rookie errors, and by not having an experienced race support crew.
“I was very worried about how to get through it mentally...and indeed, after the first hour, I wondered how on earth I would manage another 23 of them. But the local radio was playing constantly through the track speakers, which was amazing as I distracted myself by singing along to it.”
Jo, a doctor from Dumfries in Scotland, has been in Australia for most of the year, since becoming stranded in Sydney, when lockdown was enforced.
“I have used running to de-stress whilst stuck out here, though anyone familiar with the running routes on trail/paths near Sydney will know they involve lots of walking and steps, so not exactly good prep for a flat track race.
“When the race came up, it seemed a good opportunity to see where I was fitness-wise, as I’ve also used my bike a bit for getting around locally due to having no car - and try something new with no pressure as no-one knew me here.
“I'm over the moon about the records, as some of them have been around for a long time prior to this weekend. Hindsight is a great thing, as if I'd have been aware of the GB records beforehand, maybe I could've gone for more of them.”
Jo has used CurraNZ since 2014, and swears by the product.
She says: “I took two capsules of CurraNZ daily for the week leading up to the 24hr race and whilst doing the other events, and was going to take another one every eight hours during the event, but unfortunately didn't manage to get any, so I just took two on the morning of the run. But still, it worked."