Race against the sun - Women's Running

Race against the sun

Author: Chris Macdonald

Read Time:   |  October 8, 2014

ASICS recently hosted an ‘Outrun the Sun’ challenge, in which they invited a range of world class athletes, including the world’s best trail runners, to form two teams and attempt to circumnavigate Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, starting at sunrise and finishing at sunset. The two relay teams where tasked with a race against nature as they attempted to ‘Outrun the sun’.

Team Ultra Trail featured the world’s best trail runners and Team Enduro featured seven top-level endurance athletes from different countries, including the UK’s own Holly Rush.

Team Ultra Trail finished the challenge in 15 hours, 3 minutes and 37 seconds, beating the sun around Mont-Blanc by 37 minutes.

Team Enduro missed out on making it around Mont Blanc before sunset by a mere 33 seconds. Holly Rush took part on Team Enduro, and had just a week to prepare for the challenge. Despite narrowly missing their target time, the camaraderie was great and Holly loved taking part…

Holly Rush 1

How long did you have to train and prepare for the challenge?  I was actually the replacement for Tim Don, the GB triathlete for Team Enduro, made up of seven endurance athletes from around the world. I was called on the off-chance I could join the team through a recommendation from a friend. Thankfully I was already in training so when I flew to Chamonix I was ready to compete. This opportunity doesn’t come around often so I just had to go. Because I was a substitute, I hadn’t specifically prepared although I was in training for my next ultra so I was already in heavy training – just not mountain technical training!!

How did it vary compared to running marathons?  The race was totally different, although similar in length of time for a marathon. But the terrain was made up of very technical mountain paths and at altitude. My leg of the race went over one of the highest sections. The scenery was amazing but it was very tough!

How did it feel to be part of a relay team rather than running on your own?  I loved being part of a team. We all worked together and it felt like a family. We all shared a chalet over the week and got to know each other even though we were from all over the world and didn’t speak the same language. I think we all truly wanted to see each other do well and beat the sun. I was on stage two and I had to run 20K going over a 2500m pass. To give you an idea of how tough it was, my half marathon PB (21k) is 74 minutes. This stage took me 2hrs 20 minutes!!

What did you learn about yourself from doing the challenge?   I learnt that running over big mountains takes time and you can’t be worried about split times and heart rates, you just have to go with the flow. Walk when you can’t breathe anymore and enjoy the moment. I felt blessed to be running in such a beautiful place. You have to seize every opportunity and sometimes that might be out of your comfort zone but these things only make you stronger.

Would you do something like this again in future?  I would love to do it again. I even went back two weeks later to do the La Montagne 60K which was a super tough mountain ultra which I won in nine hours! I plan to go back next year and do more mountain races.

What’s been your biggest achievement so far?  My biggest achievement to date is winning a team bronze medal at the European Championships in Barcelona, 8th at the Commonwealth Games and 7th at Comrades marathon in South Africa last year.

Check out the ‘Outrun the Sun’ video clip below.

Chris Macdonald

Editor-at-Large, Women's Running

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