‘They’re nutters’: Hardcore runners to take on gruelling Oldham ULTRAmarathon… because 26 miles is too easy

A group of hard-core ‘ultrarunners’ are set to embark on a gruelling 40-mile trek in Oldham, making the upcoming Manchester marathon look like a walk in the park.

There is no doubt it will take a combination of focus, commitment and sheer will to even cross the finish line in the Manchester Marathon, but for some runners, the 26.2 miles journey is merely the warm up.

Ultrarunners, as they are known, compete in races that are hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles long.

And on Sunday March 30, Greater Manchester will see the very first official ultramarathon ever held in the area.

Organised by Team OA, the Oldham Way Ultra, a 40-Mile loop from the Castleshaw Centre, will feature an ascension of over 1600 meters and landscape that varies from moorland to urban canal.

OLDHAM WAY ULTRA: The marathon crosses difficult terrain 

The run is hoping to attract up to 100 runners from all over the world and Team OA are still receiving applications at this late stage.

Team OA member Wane Law told MM: “They’re weird people ultrarunners. You’d expect they’d been training for this race for months and months but some will turn up almost on the day raring to go.”

Ultrarunner Paul Craddock, 41, from Oldham, is taking part in the run 40 mile stroll.

‘They’re nutters’, he said jokingly.

He added: “It takes a special type of person to even think about running these distances across what can be very challenging terrain.

“Some races can last for days on end so you’re running through the night with a head torch to see where you’re putting your feet with no-one else around you for miles and miles.”

When asked how he got into ultrarunning Paul, who works in IT said: “It was a drunken agreement. My friend was running 10K for the Bobby Moore Fund and said I should run it too.

“If hadn’t been drinking I doubt I would’ve agreed. At the time I couldn’t even run one mile.”

After enjoying his first 10K, Paul signed up to a half marathon and then progressed to full marathons.

CROSS COUNTRY: The 40-mile run will push participants to the limit

He ran in the Manchester Marathon in 2012 and has been pushing his limits ever since.

Because of the massive distances covered on these routes, safety is a massive worry for Team OA, as well as for the runners themselves.

“There’s a definite danger when taking part in these races because the runners get so spread out during the race you often won’t see anyone for hours and if anything goes wrong you could find yourself in trouble,” Paul said.

Paul was forced to pull out of his last race at the 20-mile mark, after recognising he was in a position that could potentially put him in danger.

Paul said: “I could feel myself drifting and I didn’t want to end up in an exposed area in any kind of trouble. If you do that you put yourself at risk and potentially other people.

“There are check points and food stations every so often and if a runner fails to turn up then they have to start looking for that runner.

“So you’re not only endangering yourself but also the guys that are out looking for you too.”

One of the most important things to consider when taking on an ultramarathon is nutrition.

The reason Paul’s previous race ended prematurely was down to a failure to take on enough carbohydrates both before and during the run.

MANCHESTER MARATHON: Paul was forced to pull out of the race in 2012

He told MM: “Because you’re running for such a long time it’s vital that you keep your calories up during the race.

“However sometimes you get so exhausted and you’re trying to get your mind onto other things you just forget to eat.

“It was only when I got home after the last race that I realized I still had my full ration of flapjacks in my pack.”

The necessity to take on calories throughout the race has even led some runners to stop at local chip shops and takeaways.

 “The sight of guys on these races with a pie or a bag of chips in their hand is fairly common,” Paul laughed.

Paul, from Oldham, says he is looking forward to the first ultramarathon in his hometown.

THE WALL: Paul after completing the punishing 69-mile race

He said: “I’ve run two ultra’s up to now, my last one being the Wall Run, which was a massive 69-mile course from Carlisle to Newcastle, but this one has a bit of a special feeling to it.

“The route is around my home town and passes about half a mile from my house so hopefully I’ll be able to resist the temptation to stop off and put my feet up.”  

Oldham, perhaps not known for its beauty, surprised Team OA member Wane who initially had reservations about organizing the run.

“When the run was initially suggested to me I wasn’t too sure, I thought to myself who would want to run around Oldham for hours on end,” he said.

“I agreed to recce the route and once I was out on the Oldham way I was amazed at how stunning the area was.”

SHATTERED: Paul takes a well-earnt refreshment

“It’s a beautiful part of the world and it definitely helps if you’re running a scenic route, you’re looking for anything to take your mind of the pain and if you’re presented with a particularly nice view it really does help you focus your attention away from your feet.”   

Wane, along with the rest of Team OA welcome anyone who wants to experience an ultramarathon, either to give their support to Paul and the rest of the runners, or to get involved and help out.

He said: “The run is due to begin at 7.20am and we’re expecting a good crowd at the start. Anyone who wants to come down to the Castleford Centre would be welcome.

“We have 24 marshals who will be manning the food stations on the route but if anyone would like to lend a hand in anyway please just come along.”

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