Sunday, 21 April 2019

Couple who love a challenge

Couple who love a challenge

A COUPLE from Henley are celebrating 25 years of taking part in endurance events.

Anna Troup and her partner Richard Staite have completed numerous “iron man” triathlons and ultra-marathons together.

The most recent challenge was the Raidlight Arc of Attrition, a 100-mile, non-stop race along the Cornish coast which took more than 24 hours,

Mrs Troup won the veteran women’s category and was the second woman overall while Mr Staite was the fifth-placed male veteran.

The couple, who both work in finance, took up running in 1994 as they enjoyed exercise and
competition.

They have even inspired Mrs Troup’s daughters, Milly, 15, and Bella, 14, to follow their example by signing up for their first endurance event.

Mrs Troup, 48, and Mr Staite, 49, of Lambridge Wood Road, first met when they rowed for Oxford and Cambridge Universities respectively and she is the current chairwoman of Oxford University Boat Club.

She secured her place in the Cornish challenge last month by completing several qualifying events, including the 106-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc in the Alps.

Mr Staite, a keen mountaineer, hadn’t planned to take part but changed his mind on the drive south and was able to sign up on the day. Mrs Troup said: “I was absolutely delighted as it would have been the first ever race that we didn’t run together.

“When I first suggested it, Richard wasn’t interested because he thought the conditions would be horrendous and, of course, he wasn’t wrong.

“However, we took up running as a shared hobby and enjoy facing the challenges while making happy memories.”

As Mr Staite was competing instead of being his partner’s support crew, as originally planned, it made the challenge even harder.

Mrs Troup explained: “Most people had support crews and were repeatedly changing their shoes to suit the terrain but we just had a pair each and had to put up with wet feet for hours and hours.

“However, as a keen mountaineer, Richard was able to help with the navigation as it was very easy to get lost.

“At one point we accidentally descended to a beach and had to climb back up to the cliff path, which added an extra half-mile.

“It’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one and Richard was very encouraging as it’s easy to start obsessing about the time you’ve wasted instead of getting yourself back on track.

“Fortunately, we’re both good at dealing with the emotional side of things. We can tell the difference between a motivational problem that you have to just push through and a nutritional one, for example.”

The pair were wearing backpacks containing headtorches, water and emergency provisions and weighing about 4kg.

They started at Coverack, about 13 miles south-west of Falmouth, at noon and had 36 hours to follow the South West Coast Path around the tip of the Cornish peninsula to Porthtowan on the northern coast.

The route took them via Land’s End and the Lizard, the most south-westerly point in Britain, the outdoor Minack Theatre, Sennen Cove, Lamorna and St Ives.

Much of it was on cliff-top paths with wet, boggy or icy terrain and sometimes they had to scramble over rocks and the air temperature was constantly freezing and sometimes as low as -6C.

They ran throughout the night, often just yards from the cliff edges, while being pelted by rain and hailstones in winds of up to 50mph.

Mrs Troup said: “There was a fair bit of scrambling as it’s a coastal path and you have to get around whatever’s in the way.

“It was incredibly muddy so the downhills were slippery and a lot of people lost their footing. Navigating in the dark was interesting — people said, ‘Just keep the sea on your left and you’ll be fine’ but it’s not that simple as it’s very exposed and you don’t dare put a foot wrong.

“We were being hit by these fierce gusts but had to soldier on because it’s not like there were inhabited areas. We were miles from anywhere so there was no stopping or we’d have frozen.”

There were stations every 20 miles where the couple stopped for food and drink and a rest of up to 15 minutes.

Mrs Troup said: “The catering was pretty unbelievable. Sometimes all you get at these events is pack of jelly babies but they had all kinds of hot meals because it’s such a brutal challenge.

“I find it difficult to eat after a certain amount of running so I was just grabbing whatever might stay down, like a slice of toast, but Richard was eating things like scrambled eggs, ham and sausages — it was like a moving picnic for him!”

The couple finished in 27 hours and 35 minutes and were jointly placed 11th overall. They each received gold buckles for finishing in under 28 hours.

Mrs Troup said: “It’s one of those races where you need a lot of perseverance and there are times when you think, ‘I really want to stop right now’ but it makes it all the more worthwhile when you’ve finally done it.

“We stayed in Cornwall that night because we weren’t fit to drive back, especially after being awake for so long.

“It’s not easy to sleep after a race because your legs feel like they’re still moving but we got nine hours and it felt amazing.”

They are now helping her daughters train for the 100-mile Javelina Jundred race in Arizona, which takes place in October.

The girls are training by running and walking up to 30 miles each time.

On April 5, the whole family will compete in the 50-mile Shropshire Way Hike, a mixture of running and walking.

Mrs Troup said: “It has been amazing to see the girls get so excited about running and it has really given them a more confident approach to life, which makes me very proud.

“When they get stressed at school they can just think, ‘sod this, I’m going for a run later’.”

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