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The Tunnel Ultra

Mark Cockbain puts on ultra events that he doesn’t expect runners to complete. You can’t enter any of his races, you apply and he decides whether you have the right credentials to be on the start line.

This is Mark’s description of the tunnel ultra: 200 miles, 100 times non-stop through the darkness of the UK’S longest foot tunnel which will be a mind-bending test of extreme endurance and sensory deprivation.

Lena Conlin applied and was accepted onto the start line of this race, which started at 3:30pm on Friday.

The rules stipulate that you have to complete 100 laps of the tunnel within 55 hours. The terrain is described as flat and pitch black between 11pm and 5am, there will be Low level lighting in effect at other times. The surface is tarmac with a slight camber. The facilities are described as very very basic and limited. There is no shelter/rest area. The Checkpoint has water/coke only and snacks (bars, cake, gels etc). There is no parking directly at the start meaning runners have a 3 mile walk carrying their kit (before and after) and there are no toilets at the start (although I believe a mobile loo is provided later on). You are not allowed any external support of any kind. Mark is regularly quoted as saying that ‘if someone so much as passes you a jelly baby you are out!’

39 runners started this race and after 39 hours only 4 remained. Lena was one of these runners and the only lady. Shortly after another runner stopped, leaving Lena and two Male runners. Lena completed 73 laps (over 150 miles) before making the decision to stop. Only two runners completed the race. The winner went on to complete the 100 laps in a time of 50 hours 58 minutes and the second placed runner finished just within the time limit in 54 hours 35 minutes.

I don’t have the right words to know how to give sufficient praise and credit to Lena for what she has achieved this weekend. I am sure Lena will write us a full report of the event when she has had time to recover (that would be some time next year for a normal runner but I suspect Lena will be back at it much sooner).

Let’s be honest nobody else would really even consider entering this event – congratulations to Lena for a truly amazing performance!