Athletics: The ultra inspiring champion

Lizzy Hawker may not be mentioned at tonight's BBC Sports Personality show - but she should be

Lizzy Hawker has just spent the past two months at sea and most of the day unloading cargo from the RRS James Clark Ross. Still, she has a long-cherished treat ahead of her: running on land that is dry, on a surface that is not subject to the swelling of the Southern Ocean.

"Yes, you do have to avoid the minefields," Hawker says, her voice crackling some 7,000 miles down the line from the telephone on board the royal research ship, which has docked in Port Stanley. "There are a lot of big areas marked off, especially around the beach, but I'm really looking forward to being able to go for a run in the hills around Stanley."

With good reason, too. Since mid-October, when she embarked on a research cruise of the Southern Ocean with her colleagues from the British Antarctic Survey, Dr Hawker, an oceanographer, has been obliged to do her running on a treadmill on board ship. "On previous trips I've done a lot of skipping," she says. "For this voyage, a colleague and I went halves on the cheapest treadmill from Argos. I didn't get on very well. I felt like I was running in slow motion."

The rocking motion of the sea can hardly have helped. Then there has been the shifts to contend with - on watch from 2am to 2pm every day, collecting data about the temperature, salinity and currents of the icy waters through which the RRS James Clark Ross was passing, as part of the British Antarctic Survey's Discovery-2010 programme investigating the response of the ocean ecosystem to climate change.

It is not quite the regime followed by Britain's other reigning world champion runner. Then again, the self-effacing Hawker - winner of the world ultra-marathon championship race in Misari, South Korea, in October, just 10 days before she departed for Antarctica - cringes at the mere mention of being bracketed with Paula Radcliffe, winner of the world champion-ship marathon race in Helsinki in August 2005. "I wouldn't presume to compare my achievement with Paula's in any way," she insists. "I don't feel I've done anything remarkable at all. It is important to keep perspective."

It is important too, however, that 2006 should not pass without due recognition being made of Britain's thus-far unheralded world champion. Nobody from the BBC has been on the line to the RRS James Clark Ross requesting Dr Hawker's presence at the Sports Personality of the Year show in Birmingham tonight. That is a shame, because the story of how the 30-year-old scientist has become a world champion at running, which she confesses to having thus far only done "on the side" of her true passions, mountaineering and ski mountaineering, is a remarkable one.

The physical feat that earned Hawker her world title was a remarkable one too. Her winning time for the 100km race was 7hr 29min 12 sec. She maintained a staggering pace of 7min 14sec per mile for 62 consecutive miles - the equivalent of running two conventional 26.2-mile marathons each in 3hr 9min, plus an additional 10 miles in 72min. Oh, and she also had to summon a sprint finish to prevail, beating Monica Carlin of Italy by a margin of four seconds after just short of seven-and-a-half hours of toil.

Hawker's achievement is all the more exceptional when you consider that she has never been a member of a running club, has never followed a structured training schedule, and has yet to break three hours for the conventional marathon distance, the standard club runner's distance-running benchmark. She only turned to ultra-marathon running by chance. Steve Ovett was once described as "the ultimate fun runner", but that was before Lizzy Hawker came along.

"When you put it like that, it does strike me just how strange it is to find myself in this position," the accidental world champion reflects. "Until now, I have just entered races that attracted my interest, turned up and managed to surprise myself. So far, running has only ever been on the side. My real love is the mountains; I have so many mountaineering and ski mountaineering dreams and aspirations. It intrigues me now to see how well I could do with my running if I started to specifically train and target a few races."

Having become friends with Sarah Rowell, the former British marathon record holder who became a fell running and mountain running champion, Hawker has the ideal guide to help her explore her potential at the conventional marathon distance. "I'm so grateful for the help and support Sarah is giving me."

The 2007 London Marathon is a provisional target. As she prepares to return home to Cambridge, though, the intrepid Dr Hawker has other peaks on her horizon. In August last year she won the gruelling 96-mile Ultra-trail Tour du Mont Blanc race. One of her major mountain running goals is to beat the record time for the 188 miles between base camp on Everest and Kathmandu, which stands at three days, seven hours, 10 minutes.

"It's something I'd love to try one day," she says. "I'd like to pursue the mountain running and the ultra road running, and I'd like to achieve a good marathon time. In some ways, it is inevitable that I will have to change some aspects of my approach to running, but the most important thing is to run how I feel, and simply for the love of it - running with heart and soul, as well as the head and legs."

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game