Grand Union Canal 145-mile Ultra Marathon just the start for Striders’ Taylor

PUBLISHED: 09:10 02 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:08 03 June 2016

Saffron Striders' Baz Taylor at the 50-mile mark of the Grand Union Canal Marathon

Saffron Striders' Baz Taylor at the 50-mile mark of the Grand Union Canal Marathon


Understandably many people who apply to run one marathon see the 26.2 mile slog as a daunting prospect, but how about running the equivalent of five marathons at once?

That was the feat achieved by Saffron Striders’ Baz Taylor over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Taylor was one of 98 competitors at the start line for the 145-mile Grand Union Canal Ultra Marathon from Birmingham to London on Saturday, looking to raise money for Cancer Research UK in memory of his brother-in-law’s sister who died of cancer last year.

Having run for 42 hours straight with only breaks of up to 40 minutes allowed at each checkpoint on the route, Taylor was beaten at the final hurdle, leaving him 12 miles short of the full distance but determined to finish the race next year.

Speaking two days after his incredible feat, Taylor told the Reporter: “I don’t feel too bad now.

“The worst thing I’ve got is blistered feet and a bit of a back ache but everything is fine.

“I can’t really explain why I got into long distance running.

“It mainly came from realising that I wasn’t the fastest so thought if I can’t get any faster I’ll try to go further.

“I did Stort 30 [a 30-mile race along the course of the River Stort] and realised I could run long distances and that opened the door for me.

“The furthest distance I’d run before the weekend was the Saffron Trail 70-mile but the whole experience of the Grand Union race was amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone.

“You need tremendous willpower but I believe anyone can do it. You don’t have to be the fittest person to run long distances.

He added: “When you do something painful you always think I’m never going to do that again but a couple of days after the event, you can’t wait to get involved again and that’s how I felt.

“I can’t wait to do it again next year and hopefully I can finish this time.”

Having run mile 115 to 132 on his own in the fading light after pairing up with a German runner called Tommo for several hours, the Newport runner was in need of any mental stimulation he could find to resurrect his ailing hopes of making the final checkpoint and the last 12 miles.

That came in the form of a conversation with a man on a barge.

He continued: “We had a little discussion about how far the last checkpoint at Bulls Bridge [west London] was and he told me it was six miles when I thought it was four so I had a panic about getting there on time and that spurred me on.

“I got to within a mile of the bridge with 35 minutes to spare but that surge had spent me.

“The final mile took me until 11.58pm and knowing that I had to leave the checkpoint at midnight but needed to eat and tend to my blistered feet, I said I couldn’t continue.”

Taylor, who is close to raising £700 for his chosen charity through the event, prefers not to listen to music or podcasts while he runs as it ‘does his head in’.

He simply takes in the views and zones out in order to survive.

Taylor said: “Once you’re on your own and it’s lonely, it’s only willpower keeping you going.

“You find sometimes that you’re running at similar speeds to other runners so you can tag along with them but you have to be prepared for the times when you’re going to be battling against yourself to continue the distance.”

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad. Coronavirus is one of the greatest challenges our community has ever faced, but if we all play our part we will defeat it. We're here to serve as your advocate and trusted source of local information.

In these testing times, your support is more important than ever. Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Saffron Walden Reporter