Ultra runner Robbie Britton: 'I plan to run 600K across Lake Baikal in Russia!'

We chat to Team GB 24-hour ultra runner Robbie Britton about recovery, unique challenges, running kit and setting his sights on racing across frozen lakes in Russia.

Ultra runner Robbie Britton: 'I plan to run 600K across Lake Baikal in Russia!'

Currently recovery from knee surgery in The Alps, ultra runner Robbie Britton is reflective about his injury. ‘I’ve been easing back into running but the environment is not allowing much running. It’s -10 here; there’s a shed-load of snow and it’s ski season. As I live in France it’s been good to have enforced rest because if I was in the UK, I’d be smashing it.’

Despite recent setbacks, Britton has high hopes for the future. ‘I’ve got the world 24-hour Championships in July so I have six months to get back to fitness,’ he says. ‘I’m not going to rush it, if I have to watch and be a cheerleader then that’s what I’ll do, but the main goal is the 24-hour championships.’

Injury has had a positive impact on Britton’s mindset. ‘It would be boring if you were at the top of your game all the time,’ he explains. ‘There’s so much more to learn; so much more growth to be had. When my knee was bad and when I had the surgery, it made me appreciate how much I want certain goals. I want to win the World Championships.

‘It made me think about the times you’re making sacrifices and you’re working hard and in reality, you could be working harder and could be making more sacrifices,’ he adds. ‘The value it brings to my life was reinforced by having it potentially taken away.’

Strength training

Enforced rest has also forced Britton to reevaluate his fitness. ‘Having worked my nuts off on the core-strength and stability working muscles in the last month, I’ve realised that’s something that everyone neglects.’

Britton believes all runners would benefit from strength work. ‘You’ve only got to do 20 minutes, twice a week and that’s something that can improve your running,’ he argues. ‘Say that to the average runner, and they’ll say, “I haven’t got 20 minutes”. You spend at least two hours a week on Facebook, and that’s being conservative. You could spend 20 minutes of that doing core exercises and you will be a better runner!’

Recovery has also given Britton time to plot his next adventure. ‘Even though I still love racing, due to reading lots of mountaineering books, now I want more of an element of risk,’ he says. ‘A lot of what we do now days is really, really safe, even 100-mile mountain races.

'If you fall over and graze your knee, they will bring a chopper in. It takes a little bit away from the adventure, when you’re only a phone call away from safety and you’re never really outside of your comfort zone. So I’ve been looking for a couple of adventures, where you really push it.’

Time for a challenge

Britton has his sights set on a considerably riskier adventure. ‘I have been researching Lake Baikal in Russia,’ he enthuses. ‘It’s the biggest lake in the world. It has a third of the world’s fresh water in this one lake and in the winter months, it completely freezes over.

‘A chap called Ray Zahab and his mate set the record. They ran across it in 13 and a half days, their aim was to do it in 10. So I hope to run it in February 2018.’

Britton plans to use his TomTom GPS watch to map his route across the lake. ‘We’re not going to be away from the technology side of things. We wouldn’t be completely reckless and go out there with nothing. I want just a slight risk of seeing a bear! I’m ready for a big adventure.’

With up to two weeks on the ice, running across Lake Baikal would certainly be an adventure. ‘You sleep on the ice in a tent, temperatures drop to -40, with freezing winds, ice cracks, all this kind of thing!’ adds Britton.

‘You carry all your food and sleeping kit, so it’s going to be the next level. But I know that physically I could probably run 600K over 10 days, it’s flat so it’s doable. But there are so many elements that will be out of my control, including dealing with a temperature drop, but this adds to the extra unknown.’

Get the gadgets 

Britton uses a TomTom Adventurer for his long distance escapades. ‘It has a 24-hour battery life so it lasts for an ultra and a whole day in the mountains. For ultra runners, it’s all about what watch lasts the longest and the TomTom responded to that by making this top-end watch that lasts the distance.

‘I’m really enjoying my TomTom watch, it’s great for my lifestyle,’ he says. ‘When taking it on big adventures like the world 24-hour championships, I can use it alongside my heart rate monitor to check I’m not going too hard in the earlier stages. But also I use it for navigation and keeping it on throughout the run so we can make uploads each day and stuff like that.'

He also makes use of the music functionality. ‘I hadn’t used Bluetooth headphones before, but I got some for Christmas and they’re just so easy. Every time you go out the house – it’s easy to edit during your session you know, it’s all wireless.’

The TomTom Adventurer shares many of its features with the TomTom Runner 3, including breadcrumbs. ‘If you’re away for business and you decide you want to go for a little run in a new city – you can at any point press a button and the breadcrumb feature can get you back to where you started so you’re not going to get lost,’ explains Britton.

‘So, if you’re new to running and you’re a bit nervous about getting out and maybe getting lost, you can use that feature to get out – explore a new area – because we’re all about adventure! You don’t have to be in the Alps to have an adventure.’ 

For more info about the TomTom Runner 3 GPS watch, visit tomtom.com

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