The Great Barrow Challenge: 10 marathons in 10 days

Runners taking part in one of the Great Barrow Challenge events, the Christmas Triple Tipple from 20

Runners taking part in one of the Great Barrow Challenge events, the Christmas Triple Tipple from 2016 - Credit: Archant

Running a one-off marathon is a tough test for most, but running 10 marathons in 10 days? That’s almost unthinkable.

Race director Glen Moulds with this yea'r�s new medal design for the Great Barrow Challenge

Race director Glen Moulds with this yea'r�s new medal design for the Great Barrow Challenge - Credit: Archant

And yet that’s just what’s taking place at Barrow – a vibrant village just seven miles west of Bury St Edmunds – from this Thursday (June 29) through to Saturday, July 8.

The Great Barrow Challenge ‘10 in 10,’ a multi-terrain 10-day festival of marathon running, will once again attract long distance running gurus from all over the world.

There will be competitors from as far afield as India, China, Indonesia and South Africa, plus many venturing from continental Europe, including France, Spain, Russia, Poland and Germany.

This will be the fourth staging of the ‘10 in 10,’ although the Barrow Challenge, in its various forms, has been going for nine years.

Some of the runners from last year's Great Barrow Challenge 10 in 10

Some of the runners from last year's Great Barrow Challenge 10 in 10 - Credit: Archant

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Adam Holland, who holds all the major event records and has won each of the first three ‘10 in 10s,’ will again be toeing the start-line at The Academy, the race HQ, on Church Road, Barrow, close to the 14th century All Saints Church.

Holland, from Newark, does not just deliver quantity, in terms of the number of marathons he has completed. He runs them at an impressive speed as well, having finished 36th at the Paris Marathon in a cracking 2hrs 27mins 55secs in April.

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Other highlights this year include victories at the Yeovil Marathon and Milton Keynes Marathon and, just for good measure, a swift 2:31.56 at the London Marathon.

Brian Mills is another regular visitor to Barrow, having long since passed 1,000 marathons – the first Briton to do so.

Closer to home, marathon stalwarts will be coming from all over East Anglia.

In fact, it will be a special occasion for Malcolm Statham, of Colchester Harriers, who is set to celebrate his 200th marathon this week. Statham is currently on 199.

Fellow Essex runner, Andy Wilmot, of Halstead Road Runners, brought up his 200th marathon many years ago. The 72-year-old veteran – he celebrates his 73rd birthday next month –is well beyond the 700-mark.

Another familiar face at Barrow is Phil Nutley, an Ipswich-based member of Saint Edmund Pacers who has been churning out the miles, and the marathons, over many decades.

The event is the brainchild of Glen Moulds who, ironically, does not even come from a running background. The former Army man, however, did used to take part in the Nijmegan Marches in Germany, a four-day walking challenge.

Moulds explained: “I was looking for a challenge, after celebrating my 50th birthday 10 years ago, and that’s how it all came about. The event started off for walkers, and cyclists, but has since become a running event. We used to have shorter distances, but we’ve since dropped them and are concentrating on the longer marathons and ultras these days.

“It began as the Barrow Walk, then the Great Barrow Walk, then the Barrow Challenge and now the Great Barrow Challenge.

“We have never advertised, and yet we are now a world-wide event. It’s purely down to word-of-mouth that we have grown over the years, helped by some running friends on Portugal who have also spread the word.

“We are the only ‘10 in 10’ in the UK who have single loop courses (as opposed to multi-laps). We now have six different marathon courses, all starting from The Academy, all of them called different names.

“We have introduced an Audi route for this year, which is a back-to-back route to Audi Showroom (in Bury). They are sponsoring that event, while Toyota are our main sponsors,” added Moulds, who is the event founder and race director.

The off-road routes take it many of the villages around Bury, with courses out to Wickhambrook, Thetford and the other side of Newmarket (Kirtling), and one featuring the various parks in-and-around Bury St Edmunds.

Moulds continued: “We are looking to get more interest locally, as well. We have just appointed a check-point manager, Annika Arnold, who is the gym manager at the Academy. She will be organising the distribution of flyers in villages we pass through, looking for more support.”

Others on the Great Barrow Challenge team include Nick Collins (national course director), Julie Moulds (Suffolk event control manager) and Sara Nunn (Suffolk event controller).

Runners will start converging on Barrow tomorrow, in preparation for Thursday’s opening day marathon, which will be the ‘Wickhambrook’ route.

That will be one down, but still nine to go!

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