IN years gone by, Joasia Zakrzewski would mark the anniversary of her appearance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games by pulling on her old Scotland kit and going out for “a little jog”. This year she did something a bit more spectacular.

Stuck in Sydney, Australia after the coronavirus pandemic extended a three-week holiday into a four-month stay and counting, the Dumfries GP has passed the time with her two favourite hobbies: baking and running.

Last weekend she combined both, packing a bag full of her home-made banana bread and chocolate chip cookies and entering her first ever 24-hour endurance race in Canberra.

Despite not having trained properly and with a support team of just one friend who had to keep popping away from the track, the 44 year-old survived some “rookie errors” to not only finish the epic challenge but to claim four national records in the process.

Following a day of tough weather conditions – frequent downpours and wintry temperatures – she emerged as the new Scottish record holder over 12 hours, 24 hours, and 100 miles, while also setting a new British mark for 200km. There was no national kit this time but her special anniversary did not pass by without ceremony.

“When I was finishing the race I thought it was very fitting that I was getting the Scottish 24-hour record exactly six years to the day from the Commonwealth Games marathon,” she revealed down the line, her legs up in the air as a result of the painful tendonitis caused by the tracking chips worn on her ankles during the race.

“So on that date every year since 2014 I’ll always put my Scotland kit on and go out to do a little jog to mark the anniversary of that moment. I didn’t have my kit with me this year of course but I realised I’d set the record on that same date. And that made it even more special.”

Running for time rather than distance can be mentally taxing. Zakrzewski admits she did wonder whether she would have the fortitude to keep going for an entire day without stopping but found different distractions to keep her occupied as she counted down the hours.

“I’d vaguely wondered in the past what a 24-hour race would be like,” she added. “I didn’t know if I was strong enough mentally to do it. But, apart from toilet breaks, I didn’t stop until I had got to 200km.

“And once I passed that I had a really strong hankering for a warm Pot Noodle. So that was my reward. I walked while I was eating that for a lap. 

“And then my hamstring cramped up and I could hardly run for the last few hours. But I wanted that Pot Noodle so badly. And it was the best one I’ve ever had in my life!

“I definitely made some rookie errors. I’m normally known as someone who eats a lot in a race but I don’t think I ate enough as I definitely had energy dips. And I didn’t have my usual kit with me as I’d only come for a short holiday in March.

“At the end, although I was freezing cold, I still only had on a T-shirt and a thin waterproof. I could hardly feel my hands. But I’m so glad I stuck with it.

“After about an hour I couldn’t believe I had another 23 to go. I was wondering how people kept going but you just break it down into chunks of time. The big excitement was at four hours when you were allowed to change direction.

“But there were speakers around the track playing local radio all the way through. I’ve never heard so much news in all of my life. I would be passing these guys singing along to the songs and that helped distract me.”

There were other challenges as one of the few elite females in the race. “I was asking people what they do to stop it getting boring and they said in a bigger race there’s normally loads of people to chat to.

“But there weren’t many in this race. And I wasn’t allowed to run alongside any men as that counts as pacing and you would get disqualified. If I caught up with them, I had to overtake them.

“I thought then I might take my phone and listen to podcasts or some music but because the radio was on the whole thing I was just singing along to that.

“I’ve never done a race that long before. I thought my legs would be sore afterwards like after a marathon. But I don’t feel too bad. Not sore, just tired. And happy that I’ve done it.”