The angora rabbit man who eats up the miles
Six-day races and a 127-year-old record are just a hop to ultra-runner William Sichel
Tuesday 17 March 2009
In his day job, William Sichel hand dyes knitting yarn from the wool of angora rabbits to produce thermal clothing, including underwear, on the Isle of Sanday in Orkney. His sporting life is not so conventional.
Sichel, who is 55 but looks much younger, is ranked No 2 in the world in the six-day ultra-marathon and will next month aim to prove that "go as you please" distance records are not the preserve of eccentric Victorians.
From 3 April, he will compete in a seven-day race at the International Ultra-marathon Festival in Loutraki, outside Athens. In the first six days he will make his second attempt on Scotland's oldest athletics record, the 567 miles covered in that period by George Cameron in 1882 at an event in New York. Sichel first attempted the record last summer in a race in Hamm, Germany, which he won easily while covering 532.6 miles.
Cameron, who raced under his stage name "Noremac" (Cameron spelt backwards), set his mark on a track, and Sichel's attempt last year was on a track. The Athens event will be on the road, and the British six-day road record of 518 miles is well within Sichel's sights.
He started running "in the Eighties marathon boom", stopped when he moved to Orkney from England in 1982, and then started again in the 1990s, when time and again he clocked two hours, 38 minutes over the normal marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards. "But I realised that I was feeling fresher at the end with each marathon," he says. "And the owner of a running shop suggested I might have the make-up for ultra-running."
He did. In 1994, in his first 100km race (62.2 miles), he won. "I found if I slowed slightly from marathon pace, I could run for hours." By 1996 he was a British international, had reduced his 100km time from eight hours to just over seven hours, and then expanded his repertoire to include 24-hour and six-day races.
Sichel's training regime on Sanday can see him out in gale-force winds that demand three layers of clothing (angora long johns included). "At Force 10, you can't run, you just stand still," he said.
Even a brush with testicular cancer in 1997 did not interrupt his running for too long. "I was diagnosed and had surgery within a week, and have been fine since."
In a six-day race, Sichel will typically take a 20-minute nap every four hours, but otherwise run non-stop. "An ability to withstand sleep loss is the key. As the days go by, your whole perception of time alters. Changing your socks can take 20 minutes instead of a few seconds."
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...