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Monday Inspiration: Marvellous Mimi runs the double Grand Union Canal Race

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Posted by Mimi Anderson of Marvellous Mimi under Ultrarunning on 9 June 2013 at 11:00 PM

They don't call her 'Marvellous' Mimi for nothing - this ultra runner has just become the first person to run the double Grand Union Canal Race - 290 miles over 4 days. 

Mimi Anderson running GUCRI first ran the Grand Union Canal Race in 2004 finishing in 39hrs 39 minutes then again in 2010 setting a new female Course Record of 28 hours 12 mins (this has since been broken by 11 minutes).

The GUCR is a 145-mile non-stop race starting in Gas Street Birmingham following the Grand Union Canal and finishing at Little Venice in London starting on Saturday 25th May at 6am.  Runners have 45 hours to complete the race and aren’t allowed to stop for more than 40 minutes at a time or they are deemed to have withdrawn.  For the Double I had to start at Little Venice on Thursday at 9am and run to Birmingham, sleep then turn round and race back with the other 88 competitors.

The idea for the Double was hatched in February 2012 with myself and James Adams - I was delighted when Dick Kearn (the RD) gave us places on the race, time to start training and planning.

I’m extremely lucky with my big events, I have an amazing crew who are extremely professional.  We had a pacing schedule; a plan and everyone knew what they had to do, I just run.

A few people came to see us off at Little Venice and at 9am with a simple “off you go” we set off on our 290-mile journey.  The aim was to run up in 34 hours and back in 36 hours.

I must admit I was a tad nervous but excited at the same time, I love this sort of challenge.  The first meeting point for the crew was 12 miles away at Hamrough Tavern, we got there on time, quick water refill then off to the next meeting point 10 miles further along.  The weather was due to rain from about midday and continue raining until the early hours of Saturday morning, not very pleasant but our skin is waterproof! 

James was struggling with pain in his groin which meant he kept stopping to stretch it out, you can imagine after only 22 miles he was feeling very disappointed and frustrated. 

Mimi Anderson mile 22 double GUCR leg 1

With a few miles to go before the 40.7 mile meeting point at Berkhamsted Bridge James told me he was going to stop.  He groin was causing a lot of pain and because of that his head just wasn’t in the right place; to do this distance you have to have your mental head on.  We walked the last mile chatting.  It was very sad to say goodbye but he had made the right decision. 

Having left James I had to make up over 30 minutes so picked up the pace feeling strong and positive, this is when I tend to be at my best, running alone, I get into a good space and stay there.   By the time I arrived at Peartree Bridge at 64.6 miles I was 1 minute ahead of my 34 hour schedule still feeling good.  FoxyDavy Baley and Veritie Yates joined me for the next 8 miles, great company and much appreciated by me.

Peartree Bridge

Navigation Bridge was a real milestone as this is the main CP during the race.  The night section went really smoothly, my crew ran with me to check I didn’t fall into the canal! By the time I reached Birdingbury Bridge at 109 miles I was 3 hours ahead of my 34-hour schedule.

It was about this time that my bladder began to play up, it felt exactly like cystitis, which is extremely uncomfortable especially when running.  This resulted in me having to power walk the final 25 miles in order not to put extra pressure on my bladder for the return journey. During the night the temperature plummeted and on the Friday we had a strong headwind together with hail and at times torrential rain, very British weather in fact!

Arriving at the finish at Gas Street was very emotional, lots of friends and fellow runners had turned up to cheer me in which was fantastic.  I completed the first leg in 31 hours 50 mins.

Hatton Lock

After a hot bath, massage and something to eat I slept like a baby until 4.50 a.m., nothing would have woken me up!

My legs were feeling remarkably good as Dick sent us on our way to Little Venice at 6am. I stayed near the back to keep out of everyone’s way and give myself the chance to go at my own pace. The sun was shining which lifted my spirits.

The first 40 miles seemed to fly by, I was feeling strong, legs were still working, I enjoyed the banter with fellow runners and saw a huge amount of herons who must have been getting very annoyed with the runners scaring away the fish! The race support was second to none, lots of cheering and clapping through the CPs and passing Navigation Bridge at 70.5 miles added another spring to my step. 

I got to know the bushes on the way down to London rather well as my stomach decided to be rebellious. I caught two of my crew out at Leighton Buzzard, as I was early, I grabbed a coffee and drank as I walked. 

I was back at Hambrough Tavern, only 12 miles to go.  It was faster for me to powerwalk rather than run/walk.  The last 4 miles my lights went out my body was conserving every scrap of energy I had to keep my legs going, I wasn’t even capable of smiling, just kept moving forward. 

Finish line of GUCRThe finish was in sight, but where, I kept peering round each corner to see if I could catch sight of the finishing banner but no, still not there.  Eventually there is was, I mustered up all my strength and ran towards the finish line, I’d done it, completing the race in 36 hours 49 minutes, 5th lady and 23rd overall becoming the first person to ever do Double GUCR something many people thought was impossible.  I gave Dick a huge hug and burst into tears, I’m not sure who was more emotional!

A big thank you goes to my amazing crew without who none of this would have been possible.

Check out more of Mimi's photos and show this awesome lady some appreciation in the comments below!

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