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Ultra runner sets new record on 214-mile Scottish trail

Anna Rutherford runs Southern upland way with support runner Richard edge
Anna Rutherford completes the last few miles of the Southern Upland way with support runner Richard Edge (Image credit: Anna Rutherford )

It takes at least two weeks for most people to complete one of Scotland’s longest walking trails. Yet a 38-year-old woman ran it in less than three days – and just nine months after given birth to her youngest child.

Anna Rutherford was forced to eat stock cubes just to keep going and she slept for less than two hours while running the 214-mile Southern Upland Way.

Her Fastest Known Time (FKT) of 62 hours, 34 minutes and 55 seconds is 17 hours quicker than the previous fastest female – and only seven hours shy of the male record held by fellow Scottish runner Jack Scott.

It was Jack’s run that ignited the idea of a Southern Upland Way (SUW) run for Anna, of Eddleston, Scottish Borders.

She says: “My husband Neil helped Jack with his record attempt in December and it put the idea in my head. But having just given birth, I wasn’t sure it was even possible.”

Anna Rutherford runs Southern Upland Way

Anna Rutherford sets FKT on Southern Upland Way (Image credit: Alasdair Meldrum)

Why the Southern Upland Way?

Anna, who has another child, Kit, aged two, had originally planned to take part in a race on the coast-to-coast SUW from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath in 2018. But days before the Ultra Great Britain event she found out she was pregnant with Kit.

With unfinished business playing on her mind, the lawyer chose to make the most of Covid lockdown training and her maternity leave.

She said: “It was my post-baby goal. I wanted to show I was able to run this because I’m a mum and a wife and not in spite of having kids.”

She revealed it was hard to leave her children, Kit and Ella.  She said: “I told Kit before I left, ‘Mummy is just off for a run. She will see you soon’. It is what I always say before going for a run. 

“I was in tears because I knew it would be days before my run finished. It broke my heart to leave them as I’d never had a night away from them.”

Anna Rutherford with current record holder Jack Scott

Anna with current record holder Jack Scott (Image credit: Alasdair Meldrum)

Anna with kids Ella and kit

Anna with her children Ella and Kit (Image credit: Anna Rutherford)

Running the 214-mile Scottish trail

Anna struggled with freezing temperatures, lack of sleep and nausea on the cross-Scotland challenge that started on April 29.

She said: “It would get to the point where I was so desperate to sleep that I would lie down on the ground just for a few minutes at a time. I got less than two hours of sleep during the whole run.”

During the first night of the non-stop run, she started to feel sick. Anna said: “I was nauseous and really struggled to eat anything.

“My sports watch told me I should have consumed 25,000 calories on the run but I barely ate even 2000 calories.

“In the end, a friend, who is an experienced runner, handed me crushed stock cubes to put my fingers into and suck, plus salted riced cakes to nibble. It was exactly what my body needed – the salt that had become depleted while I was running and sweating. It stopped me being sick.”

Anna finished many hours ahead of her schedule. She said: “I was very emotional. It felt very humbling to have run so far and in a fastest time. I felt very lucky to have had the support of great friends and runners, too.

“Of course, I couldn’t wait to get back to my children and Neil.”

The aftermath of the run has been punishing. Anna said: “My body is a mess. I’ve stomach pains, mouth ulcers and an eye infection. I was peeing blood, too.

“But my legs feel okay-ish so I’m simply trying to rest as much as is possible with two young kids.” 

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.