British ultra runner Susie Chan broke the previous 12-hour treadmill record by almost two miles this weekend.
40-year-old mum of one Susie Chan set a new world record this weekend for the furthest distance run by a woman on a treadmill over 12 hours.
During the challenge carried out at Kingston University last Saturday, Chan covered 68.5 miles over the 12-hour period, narrowly breaking Swedish runner Kristina Paltén‘s previous unofficial record of 66.79 miles.
So what persuaded Chan to take on such an enormous feat of endurance? ‘I’m an experienced ultra runner and I did 50 miles on a treadmill as part of research for Kingston University, which I found fairly easy!’ Chan told Runner’s World. ‘Then someone pointed out I could potentially break the record. After researching and discovering it was within my grasp, I thought why the hell not?’
‘I’m 40 years old,’ she added. ‘You don’t get opportunities like this very often.’
To receive official verification of the record, the team had to put various measures in place on the day. ‘Anybody can say they’re run the distance on a treadmill. For it to count we had to provide footage of the whole thing to the Guinness World Records,’ explained Chan. ‘We had it live on YouTube but annoyingly it only streams for six hours, so we had to stop and restart and that probably won’t count. Luckily we also had two Go Pros on the go and a video camera.’
On top of the four cameras, they needed two timekeepers and two independent witnesses. ‘The witnesses needed to be changed every four hours, so Kingston University got some students onboard,’ explained Chan. ‘The first lot who started at 7am had to get up at 4am to get there, so I am eternally grateful to those wonderful kids for doing that!’
‘We also needed a treadmill verification certificate to say it’s been calibrated and what make it is, and then a log book so anytime I got off to go to loo, everything is logged,’ she added. ‘Then we needed witness statements, and it also has to be open to the public and advertised so people can come and watch at any given time. There was a huge amount to go through to make it official, which you can understand as otherwise anyone could just say they have run 12 hours on a treadmill.’
Susie and the team are still waiting for official verification. ‘We had to get so much stuff together; there’s nothing we haven’t covered. But hopefully soon I’ll get a certificate to take home and show my mum and dad!’
Chan had hoped to run over 70 miles. ‘The Swiss record was unofficial, there’s an official one by an Irish lady last year which was 60 something miles, so I went for both! I was on for 70 but I got to 68.5, which was annoying, but I still broke both records.’
Although Chan certainly achieved her objective, the day was not without its challenges. ‘The wall was less than two metres away. I find running 70 miles outside much easier because you’re looking around. Try and do anything for 12 hours while staring at a wall, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s hard!’
‘I’ve run for 100 miles non stop, the longest stage of the Marathon des Sables was quite tough, and Ironman wasn’t really my bag because I don’t like cycling, but Saturday was honestly the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,’ she added.
‘I think retrospectively, the pressure got to me. I didn’t expect that many people to be that engaged with it. It was fantastic but I was worried about letting everyone down; especially the university and all the people who had given up their time.’
It was as much a mental as a physical challenge for Chan. ‘I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know I could, but when I realised I wasn’t going to get to 70 miles it started to play with my mind,’ Chan explained. ‘As every runner knows, when you have a race that’s not going your way it can be hard to get out of that headspace. But so many people came in and I had so many messages that were so encouraging, it really did help!’
Receiving a tweet from world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe was a high point. ‘Paula Radcliffe’s message came at just the right moment. It was so exciting to see. She said congratulations when I was in no man’s land trying to push on further. At the time I was so knackered but looking back at all the messages, it was just overwhelming.
‘I’m not a crier and don’t tend to get too emotional about things, but I’ve been feeling so blown away by how lovely everyone has been. It’s essentially a very dull thing to run on a treadmill for 12 hours. It’s not that interesting! But the running community is incredibly supportive. Everyone was really wonderful. Thank you to everyone who came to see me and sent me messages. It really helped.’
Excellent support enabled Chan to achieve her goal. ‘I had people taking it in turns to run next to me on a treadmill which really helped, including my club the Farnham Runners,’ said Chan. ‘I got to a point where I couldn’t speak! But it was great having something else to focus on. Kingston University and Chris Howe were so great, and my husband Shaun; if he wasn’t there it would have been a lot harder.’
So what’s next? ‘I’m going to do the 50-mile grand slams Centurion races, then the Jungle Ultra, which I’m a bit worried about because I don’t like spiders. I would do something crazy again, but next time I’m in the gym I will be giving the treadmill a swerve.’