By Nick Harris
27 March 2010
Britain’s foremost ultra-distance runner, William Sichel, is this afternoon involved in a head-to-head battle for second place in a rarely-staged 1,000-mile run after the race was won earlier today by a German, Wolfgang Schwerk, in 11 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes and 32 seconds.
As sportingintelligence has previously reported, an international field of 16 runners set off a week ago last Monday in the World Cup 1,000-mile event at the International Ultra-marathon in Loutraki, outside Athens. The race is “live” from start to finish, with stops for food, naps and medical attention.
As of midday today, UK time (2pm in Athens), Schwerk, 54, had just won while eight others remained in the chase for the runners-up spots. Seven more runners had dropped out, exhausted or injured, three of them having covered more than 1,000km (621 miles) before pulling out.
Sichel, 56, was in second place, having covered 865 miles (1,391km) while Italy’s Lucio Bazzana, 55, was in third on 857 miles (1,311km). As well as chasing second place, both men are chasing the 1000-mile world record for men aged 55+. The record is held by a Briton, Dan Coffey, and Sichel needs to finish the race before 10.45am Greek time on Tuesday to beat Coffey’s time of 14 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes.
Ultra-running at these distances is a specialist pastime, and competitors tend to be older and have constitutions that allow them to withstand sleep deprivation and intense demands on their bodies for prolonged periods. Sichel, who recovered from testicular cancer a few years ago, fits that bill.
In an email sent from Athens today, Sichel’s crew manager, Alan Young said: “Great battle for second with Lucio Bazzana. He was on the same lap as William when William returned from a sleep break. But then William pulled away upon returning to the track and extended his advantage by 29km.
“They are like opposites in that the Italian runs out in the heat of the day and struggles at nights. It is getting close to call but William in his last running period in the heat and before a break was perhaps at his best for over six days and may yet surprise the Italian. William is coping with the heat, with all his hot weather training and having competed in the Spartathlon [a 246km race between Athens and Sparta] twice as well as Badwater [an 135-mile race in Death Valley].
“But as we have said before, lots can happen in the last few days, but it appears that both will now achieve very good times as they push each other.”