Ultra event an ultra success despite injury

The lonliness of the long distance runner: Jamie and one of his fellow runners press on through the desert heat.'Contributed photograph
The lonliness of the long distance runner: Jamie and one of his fellow runners press on through the desert heat.'Contributed photograph

MONTROSE distance runner Jamie Flanagan has completed his first ultra marathon, crossing 160 miles of the Egyptian Desert in under four days.

Jamie completed the gruelling Ocean Floor Challenge in 73 hours 35 minutes, well within the four-day time limit set by the organisers, despite suffering from a torn Achilles tendon and dehydration. Runners were even held up for five hours after a sandstorm struck early in the race.

Jamie said: “Thankfully they took those five hours off everyone’s time but I lost 12 hours due to injury when my Achilles went. I was forced to give it a rest but I don’t think I would have completed it at all without taking that time to recover.

“It was really down to me being competitive. I was in fifth place and making good time as within 40 hours I’d run 112 miles, although the injury happened at about 105 miles. I was running so slowly that I’d run out of water before reaching the checkpoint and had been without it for an hour. It was going to take me at least another hour to reach the checkpoint as I wasn’t even moving at walking pace, so I had to set off an emergency flare to be picked up.”

After working with a doctor and physiotherapist, and sleeping for 10 hours, Jamie continued his run when he reached the conclusion that it was easier to run than to walk but the one consistent enemy throughout the whole event was the searing desert temperature.

He continued: “When I planted my foot walking it was painful but I worked out it wasn’t as painful if I ran, so it was a choice of either running or standing still. I found, though, that running during the peak sun time was a bad idea after I ran for about 45 to 60 miles with the temperature getting in to the 30s and I started hallucinating.”

Jamie (30) entered the event, which was held earlier this month, to raise awareness of the condition Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare and aggressive form of vasculitis with which he was diagnosed in January 2000. The condition causes the immune system to attack an otherwise healthy body and affects mainly the kidneys, lungs and liver, as well as the ears, nose and eyes.

Once the condition was diagnosed, Jamie was put on an intensive programme of treatment that included chemotherapy and surgery but was left with mild to moderate hearing loss and now uses hearing aids.

He is also running to raise funds for the Lauren Currie Twilight Foundation, established in 2010 in memory of Kilmarnock teenager Lauren Currie who died two days after being diagnosed with the same condition.

Standard hearing aids would have been hampered and damaged by dust and sweat on the run but Jamie received specialist help from electronics and engineering firm Siemens, which created the unique and entirely dust and waterproof Aquaris hearing aid.

Jamie said: “They were great and for the first 60 miles I was running with other people before everyone spread out and that was quite good motivation. It was also great to be able to talk to them and to test out the hearing aids. They didn’t falter once and I can imagine there will be many people who’ll now use them.”

Jamie has so far raised around £1,600 towards a £5,000 for the foundation and he has lined up several more events and one more long distance race, the Grimsthorpe Grimreaper 100-mile Ultramarathon in Derbyshire in August. Further details can be found and donations made at his online sponsorship page at http://www.justgiving.co.uk/jamie-ultra.