Englishwoman Eleanor Adams (see Exercises 8.22) is considered by many to be the greatest woman ultradistance runner ever; in fact, her competitive abilities over a range of running distances have never been matched by any other male or female. She has set world track and road records at distances from 40 to 1,600 km and holds the women’s course records for the 240-km Sparta-to-Athens Spartathlon, the 1,060-km Sydney-to-Melboume race, and the 234-km Death-Valley-to-Mount-WTiitney race in Death Valley in California, in which race she has recorded the second fastest ever time by any competitor of either gender. This is particulary remarkable for a native of Britain who trains in very moderate environmental conditions. In addition, she won the 86-km London-to-Brighton race in 1986.
Adams first began competitive running at school and represented Yorkshire on the track and in cross-country events at distances from 800 m to 4 km. She was also the county school champion at 800 m.
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After leaving school she went to a university to study physical education and continued to compete in cross-country events. But after graduation, she taught, married, and soon had three active children and insufficient time to do much more than regular jogging. Her competitive instincts were reawakened in 1979, when she finished second in her age group in a 4-km fun run in Hyde Park. The next week she joined a local running club and entered an 8-km race. For the next year she raced regularly in road and cross-country races and in 1980 ran her first standard marathon, finishing second in the women’s division in 3:24.
In 1982 she won the same marathon in 2:54 and in the same year achieved her then-best standard marathon time of 2:49:52. Inspired by the first modern British 6-day race held in Nottingham in 1981, she entered her first 12-hour ultradistance race at Barnet in 1982 and set an unratified world track record at 50 miles (6:41:02). In October 1982 she set new world records at 20 miles (2:13:19) and at 25 miles (2:53:54) in a 100-km track race. In November she entered her first 24-hour race in Nottingham, completing 175 km and winning the mixed race. En route she set world records at 30 miles (3:35:42), 50 km (3:44:08), and 40 miles (4:55:17). The following year at the same site she set the then-world best of 653 km in the 6-day race. In the same year she set the women’s record of 32:20 in the 240-km Spartathlon.
Her record-breaking zeal did not slow down in 1984. In February at Milton Keynes, she set the world 24-hour indoor record of 121-3/4 miles and set seven additional indoor records at 30 miles, 50 km, 40 miles, 50 miles, 100 km, 150 km, and 100 miles. In March in the 48-hour Mountauben race, she set new world records for 300 km (42:28:48), 200 miles (47:24:51), and 48 hours (202 miles And 77 yards). In July in a 6-day race in New York, she completed 734 km and in November in the Colac 6-Day Race she set a new world record with 806 km.
In the 1985 Montauben 48-hour race she set a new world record (207 miles 988 yards), and at the Nottingham 24-hour race in August she set world records at 200 km (20:48:35.3) and at 24 hours (138 miles 111 yards). In October she completed the Chicago 80-km race in 6:04:28, the second fastest ever time by a woman. In 1985 and 1986 she won the 1,060-km Sydney-to-Melboume race, and in February 1986 she set a new 6-day race record of 808 km. In July of that year in Honefoss, Norway, she set track records at 160 km (15:25:46) and at 200 km (20:09:28). In September she won the London-to-Brighton race in 6:42:40.46.
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