Joanna Zakrzewski was the winner of the inaugural Race to the King Ultra Marathon on the last weekend in June. Race to the King is a double marathon along the stunning South Downs Way from near Arundel to the ancestral burial place of the first Kings of England in Winchester. There were around 1,200 people taking part but none could match the speed and stamina of the 40-year-old GP from Dumfries.
Joanna arrived at the finish at Winchester Cathedral in 7 hours 57 minutes after running 53.5 miles in stunning scenery through a mixture of glorious sunshine and thunderstorms. Michael Robinson, winner of the men’s race, completed the course in 8hr15min.
Joanna started ultra-running when, as an expedition and race doctor on a trip to South America, she thought it might be more fun to run herself. She entered the Atacama Crossing - a 250km desert race in Chile - and won it. In 2011 she was given a wild card entry at the World Championships 100km, won a silver medal for GB and has since run 2:39:15 for the marathon.
“I think I'm quite good at pacing,” she says. “I start slower but I usually end up overtaking many others. 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”.
“The 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”.
The Pink Gorilla, mascot of the 1820 Foundation established to support the Armed Forces community in the UK, ran and walked over two days. “The Race to the King was very well organised,” said the gorilla. “Being part of the ape family, I can be hard to please but I thought the marshalling, pit stops and signposting were exceptional. As a gorilla, I consume 50-plus bananas per marathon and my needs were provided for in abundance. Overall, it was an excellent event, raising the profile of a very worthy cause."
Men, women and gorillas were helping raise funds for Save the Children and the event was organised by Threshold Sports. Full details are on the Race to the King website.