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Triathlon star Lucy Gossage set for ‘crazy’ 268-mile Winter Spine Race run

Former top triathlete tells us about the epic running adventure she's about to tackle.

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“An adventure is something you think of that sounds crazy, then you get really excited and then the night before you just think my God, I cannot do this.”

That’s how multiple Ironman champion Lucy Gossage sums up the incredible challenge she’s about to embark on this weekend – the 268-mile Montane Winter Spine Race.

Lucy is well known for her triathlon prowess, much of which was achieved while working as an oncologist, but in recent years she’s made a huge difference by creating a running group to support people living with cancer.

She set up ‘5k Your Way’ in 2018 to help cancer patients and their friends and has been recognised both locally and nationally, including a surprise presentation by Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill on the BBC’s One Show.

But Gossage will be running close to a hundred 5ks if things go to plan from Sunday onwards in what is billed as ‘Britain’s most brutal race’ – and she’s also doing it to raise funds for ‘Move Against Cancer’.

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‘It just takes those metrics away’

It’s far from the first extreme challenge she’s set herself – she’s not only taken part in but has won both Patagonman and Norseman – but it still represents an epic undertaking which all started with an impromptu walk across Wales because she couldn’t get a B&B!

And it could hardly be more different to her triathlon days as she explained when we caught up with her in the build up to the Spine Race: “I think when you’ve been a professional athlete you always know how quickly you used to run and how much power you put down on your bike, so actually doing something completely different just takes any of those metrics away.

“Running in the Spine Race with the pack – if you do four miles an hour, you’re like, my God, this is amazing, which is bonkers. To be honest, as a pro if you’d said what was my favourite session it would always be just go out in the hills on the bike for six seven hours – it was always these long exploring days that I really loved.”

Lucy Gossage running training ahead of Winter Spine Race
[Photo credit: Lucy Gossage]

‘How hard can it be?!’

But how did the Spine Race come onto her radar in the first place? Lucy told us: “It’s been a very gradual seed but it all started when we walked across Wales just because we couldn’t get an Airbnb! My partner saw this thing on the ‘Walking Englishman’ website and I don’t know how he found it but it had this detailed written description about this walk across Wales. So he was like should we do this instead? And I was like yeah, let’s walk across Wales, how hard can it be? You’re walking. And then I realised it’s quite hard to walk a long way!”

But that seed has flourished into an array of adventures since then over all terrains and weathers.

And given her triathlon track record, what are the expectations going into the event? French star Claire Bannwarth is the reigning women’s champion and back to defend the title she won by nearly 24 hours last year. Could Lucy be in contention for a podium place?

“Anyone who thinks I’m going to be near the front – they’re wrong. I won’t be. But we’ve done loads of trips where we’ve done 40 miles a day sometimes, 45, whatever. So I am trying to push myself and experiment I guess with things like how much you sleep.

“But so many things can go wrong, whether that’s not having enough sleep or twisting an ankle, though I think if I twisted an ankle I’d probably just tape it up and carry on – I’ve done that before!

It’s like this big jigsaw puzzle and there are so many different pieces to it – sleep, injury, hypothermia, which we’ve had in training where we just didn’t look after ourselves properly.

“I’ve been thinking of it like that in training – just going around and collecting those jigsaw pieces like the ice, a snowy icy day or whatever. And then around that I’ve just been running to and from work trying to be fairly consistent.”

Lucy Gossage of Great Britain finishes first and wins the Xtri World Tour during the Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon on August, 03, 2019 in Eidfjord, Norway. 250 athletes participate in the Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon 2019 which includes 3.8 kilometers swim leg, 180 kilometers bike leg and the 42.2 kilometers run leg up to Mount Gausta and the Isklar Norseman Xtreme 2019 is part of the Xtri World Tour. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/nxtri.com)
Lucy Gossage winning the Norseman back in 2019 [Photo by Alexander Koerner/nxtri.com]

Having a choice

And while the mental battle is arguably just as tough as the physical one, few can have a better perspective than the one Lucy explained to us.

She said: “I always feel it’s a cliche when I say it but, my mantra is always choosing to suffer is a privilege and I do a lot of work with people with cancer obviously and so many people whether it’s because they’re affected by cancer – or war or whatever – they’re suffering but they don’t have that choice.

“We’re choosing to put ourselves in that hole and I do find that really helpful and also remembering it always ends. The tough patches do always end and then you generally get a high afterwards.”

We wish Lucy all the best in her latest adventure and will be tracking her throughout on our sister site RUN247. And if you’d like to contribute to her fundraising effort then her JustGiving page is here.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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