Richard completes world's toughest race

A FORMER East Anglian Daily Times journalist has successfully completed a gruelling 56-mile run billed as the toughest road race in the world.

Craig Robinson

A FORMER East Anglian Daily Times journalist has successfully completed a gruelling 56-mile run billed as the toughest road race in the world.

Richard Smith, from Lower Ufford, near Woodbridge, who returned form South Africa last week, finished the event in an energy-sapping 10 hours and 40 minutes.

He readily admits that there were times when he thought about giving up but the support of the crowd, other runners and the prospect of raising more than �3,000 in aid of Help for Heroes pulled him through.

His toughest moment came after 13 miles, when he saw a bus filled with runners who had been forced to stop because of exhaustion.

“By then I was in agony, my calves were shot to pieces on the horrendous hills, and my quadriceps were pulverised by the steep downhills,” he said. “My mind had gone completely AWOL.

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“I wanted to sit, to take the strain off my aching legs and to be driven to the finish at Durban.

“The unthinkable was happening. After 1,000 miles in training and 150 races for Woodbridge Shufflers in 10 years I was reduced to a quitter.

“I sat on the roadside in abject misery, struggling to open a pack of plasters to calm the erupting blisters on my toes. Further ahead I could see physiotherapists. I hobbled over, they strapped up my calves, and I felt a little stronger.”

The South African Comrades 56-mile race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban started at 5.30am and around 13,000 runners took part, including 71 from the UK. Only one in ten finished.

Mr Smith said it was not unusual to see runners being sick at the roadside of spread eagled in agony - there were even two helicopters poised to take competitors to hospital.

“Good luck cards, text messages and mantras were finally getting through to my brain,” he continued. “Bored of water, I tried Coca-Cola. It worked brilliantly. The caffeine kick started my brain and suddenly I was inspired.”

With 30km left Mr Smith said he knew he would finish the race within the 12 hour cut off time - and visualised landmarks from Woodbridge to help tick off the miles.

“Meanwhile, the supporters were becoming increasingly vociferous,” he said. “This was it. The long run-in had started and I finished at the cricket stadium to earn a bronze medal.”

n Anyone who would like to still sponsor Mr Smith can do so at www.justgiving.com/richardsmithofufford or by sending a cheque made payable to Help for Heroes, 3 Lady Cottages, Church Lane, Lower Ufford, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP13 6DS.