Galpin fulfils her ambition in 56-mile South Africa race
ALMOST Athletes' Karen Galpin travelled to South Africa to take part in the Comrades Ultra Marathon.
Known as the ultimate human race, the Comrades is an 89K/56-mile race steeped in history.
It was first staged in 1921 as a living memorial to the spirit of the soldiers of the Great War.
The challenging route undulates throughout, with five major hills, and the direction alternates each year between Pietermaritzburg and Durban – the so called up and down runs.
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The 2012 was a down run and Galpin ran with her elder brother Ian Bailey – formerly from Cheltenham but living in Northern Ireland after 25 years spent in South Africa.
During his time there Bailey became a familiar face on the endurance racing circuit, clocking up 11 Comrades races with a personal best time of six hours, 12 minutes on the up run in 1994.
Galpin's ultimate goal on her Comrades debut was to secure a Bill Rowan medal for a sub-nine hour finish, and her six-month training programme included three training pace marathons and two Ultras – the Llanelli 37-Mile and a 40-mile run in Northern Ireland.
The strategy on race day was to run conservatively at a comfortable place for the first half of the race, and then gauge the energy levels thereafter.
Galpin and Bailey climbed Polly Shortts, Umlaas Road – the highest point of the course – and Inchanga, and passed the marathon mark in the race in 3:43.
They continued to climb to the halfway point at Drummond (28 miles) in four hours, two minutes.
The second half of the race, while still containing challenging uphill sections including Botha's Hill, Cowie's and Tollgate, has many long and punishing downhill sections from 65K onwards.
In spite of painful legs, extreme fatigue and the intense midday heat Galpin and her brother completed the second half of the race in 4:06 and finally crossed the finishing line in the Sahara Kingsmead Stadium, Durban in 8:09.25.
As a result Galpin secured not only her Bill Rowan medal but also an additional gold medal for being first lady Vet out of 322 international female runners in her age category. More than 15,000 runners took part overall.