Super Karen sails to second in canal race

PUBLISHED: 16:38 07 June 2007 | UPDATED: 21:42 29 May 2010

Karen Rowtree during the race – Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

Karen Rowtree during the race - Pic: Sarah Lucy Brown

Most people took it easy and relaxed last Bank Holiday weekend, but not Karen Rowntree. She pounded the 145 miles of the Grand Union Canal Race, finishing as second placed lady. Karen, from Great Waltham, was running the race that follows the canal on to

Most people took it easy and relaxed last Bank Holiday weekend, but not Karen Rowntree.

She pounded the 145 miles of the Grand Union Canal Race, finishing as second placed lady.

Karen, from Great Waltham, was running the race that follows the canal on towpaths from Birmingham to its finish at Little Venice in London for the charity Coco.

"My older son is a Romanian orphan and I ran to raise money for two orphanages in Romania," said Karen.

"It's a very good charity started by Steve Cram and is a big thing for me. I love running, but this is a big incentive and drives you on."

The Grange Farm and Dunmow runner started the mammoth race on the Saturday at 6am, reaching the 70 mile cut off checkpoint well within the time limit, arriving at 9.30pm on Saturday evening.

"It was very tough and a long way," said Karen. "You can't stop for more than 30 minutes and you can't really stop for long in the later stages or you will seize up.

"The hardest point was the last 10 miles before half way. You've run a long way, but aren't even at the half way stage and still have the night section to come which is very daunting."

However, joined by her husband, the night section proved successful for the runner who covered 1200 miles in training from mid January to mid May.

"It was good for me and I kept running while lots of others walked, so I managed to overtake quite a few.

"I felt perfectly comfortable running in the dark and gained a lot of ground."

As if running the equivalent of six marathons wasn't hard enough, Karen was attacked as she ran through Milton Keynes during the night.

"I was attacked by drunken yobs on the other side of the river throwing sand and water bombs at us and shouting abuse," she said. "Had I been on my own, I would have been very frightened, but fortunately my husband was with me then.

"Everyone else along the way was terribly nice though, offering us drinks and encouraging us."

The weather was atrocious, but Karen reached the 100 mile point just before 6am on Sunday morning. From mile 110, Karen ran faster and looked stronger reaching the finish line at 5.56pm on Sunday.

Her time of 35 hours 56 minutes and 18 seconds, was the third fastest for a female since the race began and put her in second place behind the winner who set a course record.

"I was ecstatic with the time as I would have been happy to finish five minutes within the 45 hour cut off," she said.

"I was helped by the fantastic support I received along the way. Grange Farm and Dunmow Runners Pru Hayhow ran 18 miles with me while Amanda Bulgin ran 15 and I had help from many others during the race."

Karen has asked for sponsorship for several events. The grand Union Canal race, Tring to Town, Jurassic Coastal Challenge, where she came third, and six marathons.

"I asked people to sponsor me for all of them at once and everyone has been really generous," she said.

"I had originally hoped for £2000, but I have raised around £4000 now which is great."

Karen who has run many long distance events including the Comrades marathon, the Austrian Iron Man and six ultra marathons, is already planning her next major challenge.

"I'm going to do the Marathon Des Sables through the Sahara desert next March. It's a really tough race and I will start training in September or October for it."

For more information on the charity COCO visit their website at www.coco.org.uk

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