17th April 2015
Pride Of Britton
18 April 2015
Running for 24 hours is unthinkable. To run 162 miles in 24 hours is mind-boggling. To win a first world championship medal is ‘unbelievable’ according to Britain’s recent world bronze medallist, Robbie Britton.
The 28 year-old from London describes how he only started running in 2009 after being a self-confessed ‘lager lout’ at university. Fast forward six years and Robbie Britton has four medals around his neck; world and European individual bronze and team gold.
On his triumphs in Turin he said: “It’s surreal – I honestly couldn’t have imagined it before the race. I was top 20 last time and this time I wanted top 10 and I thought as a team we could achieve a European bronze, and they were my highest expectations.
“It was only in the last hour that people were letting me know that I could win an individual medal. Even now thinking about it brings a tear to my eye.”
Britton says the team gold medal was a major priority for him before he began to chase down his fellow competitors as he aimed to cover the most distance in 24 hours. He ran 261.140km (162 miles) to take him to 5th on the GB & NI all-time 24 hour rankings.
“I wanted to make sure we had the team gold medal secured before I started chasing a medal. When they said, third place was six minutes ahead; I caught him within a lap and a half, running sub-nine minute laps (2km) for the last six laps. They were my six quickest laps of my entire race!”
“I saw the silver medallist with ninety seconds to go and when the gun went with one minute to go, I was full on sprinting to try and catch him. I still thought I was only competing for European bronze, I thought the world medal was between the Japanese and the Americans. The team manager thought that is what I had won too but someone came across and said, ‘no, you have won the world bronze’. I didn’t believe them at first but when it was confirmed, I may well have burst into tears.”
For Britton, one of the most satisfying parts of the trip was that every athlete returned with a medal, after the women’s team secured European bronze.
“On the day, it meant more to me than winning the individual medal. These are friends of mine as well as teammates. For Paddy (Robbins), Steve (Holyoak) and me, who have been in the team for a few years, we knew we were capable – it meant a lot to get that team gold.
“Richard Brown, the team manager, has been involved with this trip for many years and said this was the best result a British team has ever had. It still hasn’t sunk in at how unbelievable it was.”
Running for 24 hours is not all about physical ability but a strong mentality and Britton stresses the need to concentrate but the inevitability that there will be difficult moments throughout.
“The sport is not about competing against each other; it is about competing against the 24 hour course. The last four hours in my mind is race time. I time every lap to make sure I’m on the right pace and it helps to mentally break it all down. If you look at it just as a 24 hour race, it is just depressing. I still had some low points but I just dealt with one lap at a time, then each hour."
Britton was thankful for the support he received in Turin, particularly crew member Mick who was back at his day job as a plumber after a weekend spent giving food and drinks to Robbie and the team in Italy.
“Every lap you go around, you see your teammates, the team staff and your supporters and they cheer you on and keep you going. I’ve got friends from around the world who were competing here and for the first six hours, I was just catching up with them really.”
Britton has competed around the world and talks about ultra-races in New Zealand and Greece as two of his favourite destinations. His next adventure will see him move to the Mont Blanc region in France where he will continue his coaching consultancy business. It is all part of journey that started six years ago but what first attracted him to run ultra-distances?
“Curiosity I think. A friend of mine did a marathon in May 2009 so I entered as well. Later that year I signed up to the London to Brighton race which was 56 miles and I did alright. Eventually I found my niche at 100 miles plus.
“I wanted to see what I was capable of. I was asking myself, ‘how far could I actually go?’”
So what tips would he have for someone considering running ultra-distances in the future?
“Don’t be afraid – if you had to run 100 miles tomorrow to survive, you’d do it. It might be painful but it’s possible. I only started running six years ago, before that I was a lager lout at university and playing football every so often. Now I’ve just finished third in a world championship.”