Joanna Zakrzewski has become the first ever woman to win Race to the King – a 53.5mile ultra marathon along the South Downs Way. Zakrzewski, a GP from Dumfries, and a member of Team GB, completed the course in 7hrs 57mins on 25 June. Behind her was Michael Robinson, who completed the course in 8hrs 15mins to come first in the men’s race.
Around 1,200 people took on the course through the South Downs National Park, starting in Arundel in West Sussex and finishing on the steps of Winchester Cathedral. Runners were faced with mixed conditions, from glorious sunshine through to thunderstorms, as they tackled over 53 unforgiving miles of gruelling elevations and tricky terrian.
As ever, the field was a mix of amateur and elite runners and walkers too, spanning all ages and abilities. Some runners opted to take on the course in a single day, where others camped overnight to take on the course over a period of two days.
Zakrzewski decided to take up running on a trip to South America, where she was working as an expedition and race doctor. She took part in the Atacama Crossing – and won it. The following year she was given a wild card entry at the World Championships in the 50K and 100K and won the Silver medal. Since then, Zakrzewski has not looked back. Reflecting on her most recent win, she said:
“Race to the King was a brilliant day. It’s a beautiful part of the world, the route was well sign-posted, the terrain was good with a bit of everything, which helps a quick recovery because you’re using different muscles, and all of it was runnable – you didn’t have to scramble anywhere – which was really good.
“I also loved that the people who took part were all different shapes and sizes, enjoying completing the route at a range of different paces. I’m not competitive with other people, but I am with myself. I don’t mind if I’m overtaken, as I’m not trying to race individuals.”
For those interested in a similar event, Race to the Stones takes place on 16 and 17 July 2016 – a 100K route following the Ridgeway from the Chilterns in Oxfordshire to the old stone circle at Avebury. For information, visit: www.racetothestones.com