Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 133, September 2020 | Page 13

What ’ s a runner to do when you ’ ve been training for months for the Two Oceans and Comrades ultra-marathons , and then suddenly the world goes into lockdown because of a global pandemic and all running events gets cancelled ? Well , you go looking for a different challenge . That ’ s what SA-based British athlete and 2018 Comrades Marathon gold medallist Carla Molinaro did , and in the process wrote her name into the Guinness Book of Records .

Impressive . That ’ s just one of the words that

springs to mind when one takes a look through the list of long-distance running achievements that Carla Molinaro ( 36 ) has racked up over the last few years . In 2018 she was part of a group that attempted The Long Road to Comrades , running from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg , covering the 90km Comrades distance each day for 19 days and then running the actual race on the 20th day . In the end Carla managed some 900km of the originally planned 1700 , but went on to enjoy a spectacularly successful Comrades race – more about that later .
She has also run the 270km Great Ocean Run on the South Coast of Australia , has completed the gruelling 180km GR20 traverse of the Mediterranean island of Corsica , has tackled the170km Tour Mont Blanc that circles runs through France , Italy and Switzerland as it circles the highest mountain in Europe , and took on the 180km Haute Route ( High Route ) from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland , with its 15,000m of climbing ! She has also run from London to Paris in four days ! So it really should come as no surprise that in July this year she decided to run from one end of Great Britain to the other , chasing the fastest known time ( FKT ) for a woman .
End to End Action
Tourists just love a famous signpost , and they will travel many miles to visit one , photograph it , or better yet , pose for pics with it , something to show friends and family that they ’ ve been somewhere noteworthy ... And when it comes to Great Britain , two of the most famous signposts are to be found at Land ’ s End , in Cornwall , the most south-western point of the island , and at John o ’ Groats in Scotland , the extreme northwestern point .
While not the most southern or northern points of the island , as many mistakenly believe , they are the furthest apart points of the main island . As such , these iconic signposts stand 970km from each other , as the proverbial crow flies in a straight line , but that includes stretches of the Irish Sea . The shortest route by road is around 1400km – it depends on the exact roads selected – and this has long been one of the most popular point-to-point routes for hikers , sightseers , touring drivers as well as athletes of every description . It has also become a much sought-after entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the FKT on foot , bike , horse , scooter , wheelchair , driveable lawnmower and everything else people can think of !
The trip from south to north is known as the LEJOG ( Land ’ s End to John o ’ Groats ), and is jokingly referred to as the uphill option , while the opposite direction is known as the JOGLE . While hiking the route at a leisurely pace can take two to three months , the overall FKT for running currently stands at 9 days 2 hours 26 minutes , posted by Britain ’ s Andrew Rivett in
2002 , running on average 18 hours a day . Incredibly , he covered 157.8km on his longest day , and never ran less than 144.8km , except for the final day . However , that record is disputed by some in the ultra-running community , who instead recognise Dan Lawson ’ s 2020 time of 9 days 21 hours 14 minutes as the true record , since it has supporting evidence .
Records Are Made to Fall
Interestingly , two of the women ’ s most recent three record-holders have strong ties to South Africa , in spite of both being British . In July 2008 , Marina ‘ Mimi ’ Anderson clocked 12 days 15 hours 46 minutes , which stood as the official FKT until 2019 . Besides multiple ultra and expedition race wins all over the world , and a host of running records on road , trail and treadmill , Mimi is best known in South Africa as the first woman to complete a ‘ Double Comrades ,’ running the races back-to-back for a 180km distance . She achieved this feat in 2011 , clocking sub-11:00 times in both directions .
Mimi ’ s FKT for the British traverse was bettered in August 2019 by Sharon Gayter , who took the FKT down by nearly five hours to 12 days 11 hours 6 minutes , but that record was not destined to stand for long , because in July 2020 up stepped Carla Molinaro to give the FKT a try , and the record now stands at 12 days 30 minutes 14 seconds . “ It was the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life , but such an amazing experience at the same time , and one that I will treasure of for a very long time !” says Carla .
It all began when a hard lockdown was announced in South Africa in March , due to the COVID-19 pandemic , leading to the cancellation of all running events , including the Two Oceans and Comrades ultra-marathons that Carla had been training for . “ My training had gone so well , and I had never felt fitter , but with all my running and work commitments in South Africa on hold , I decided to head over to the UK , because my parents needed help , and as restrictions lifted that side , I decided I wanted to test myself , using my fitness for a new challenge in the UK ,” she says .
“ I started by looking at maps , and it didn ’ t take long for me to decide to attempt LEJOG . I know it is a huge thing in the UK – so many people do it , whether running , hiking , cycling , on scooters , in wheelchairs , and more – and the challenge just jumped out at me . It had been on my bucket list for a long time , and I thought that it would be an incredible record to go for . I knew it would be really hard , but a fantastic journey and incredible challenge . I found out that you need to apply for a Guinness Record attempt at least 12 weeks prior to the attempt , and I had 13 weeks . It was close , but I received approval five days before I started .”
Support and Logistics
Carla ’ s planned route would run from the bottom of England , include about 40km through Wales ,