going the distance for havens hospices – local runner completes i45 mile ultra-marathon then follows it up with a i35 mile race through death valley


17 July 2017

On Friday 26th May, Michelle Payne from Southend on Sea, a member of Leigh Striders, set off on a run with 107 other runners. This run, however, was not your everyday run – this was the 2017 Grand Union Canal Run; an ultra-marathon from Birmingham to London – 145 miles! 

Michelle started running in February 2013 in order to compete in a charity half marathon in Sierra Leone only 12 weeks later; she went on to complete the full marathon in just over 5 hours. Inspired and encouraged by the people she met there, Michelle stepped up the distance only 6 weeks later to 100km to find out just how hard an ultramarathon was.

A year later she completed two self-supported races only two weeks apart: the first being the 4Deserts race of 250km across Madagascar followed by 270km across the Grand Canyon. Only 7 months later, she then completed the infamous 250km desert race across the Sahara, the “Marathon des Sables”.

Fast forward to 2017 and she had completed another three 100 mile events as well as gained entry into the Grand Union Canal Race.  However, in February she found out she had also got a place in one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the world – Badwater 135 – a 135 mile race through Death Valley to Mount Witney, California, entry of which is by invitation only. Although Badwater was a mere six weeks after GUCR Michelle knew she couldn’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity so decided to not only do both races, but to use them as a way of promoting living life to the fullest and chose to fundraise for Havens Hospices and help them continue ‘Making every day count’ for adults, babies, children, young people and their families across Essex.

Michelle said,

“The Grand Union Canal Race was tough, I had a few accidents along the way – including running head first into one of the lower bridges at mile 27 which floored me and cut my face open and then tripping, over tree roots, doing a “dive and slide” along the ground at mile 39 which damaged both my arm and ankle.  I managed to finish the race. I couldn’t let people down who had supported me, encouraged me and donated to my fundraising for Havens Hospices. That helped to keep me going”

“I love running and the sense of camaraderie that comes with it - we only get one life, so shouldn't we be filling it with as much of the stuff that brings us joy, happiness, friendship and love? And from what I have seen Havens Hospices is doing just that for adults, children, young people and their families every day for free. The hospices do not receive very much government funding and yet they don’t charge a penny for the support, care and memories they give their patients, families and friends, so it just made sense to raise money for living and loving life by achieving one of my dreams.”

Michelle had 45 hours to complete the race; she completed it in an amazing time of 37 hours and 34 minutes placing her 4th in the ladies rankings and 33rd overall.

Michelle said,

“This result was a total team effort, I had an amazing crew – Sandy, Ian and Mark and I couldn’t have done it without them; also my coach – Rich Condon who encourages and inspires me every step of the way.”

On Monday 10th July at 20:00pm (PDT), Michelle set off on the Badwater 135 ultra-marathon alongside ninety-nine other ultra-marathon athletes. Badwater is reported to be one of the toughest races in the world with a route through Death Valley, where the breathing temperature is expected to hit around 130 degrees F (54°C) and where the road temperatures can reach 200 degrees F (93°C) and where trainers are reputed to melt.

Michelle completed the Badwater 135 on July 12th, finishing the race in an incredible 44 hours 17 minutes coming 20th in the ladies rankings and 69th overall.

If you would like to leave a message of support and/or help Michelle’s fundraising efforts, her page can be found at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-payne16.

Emma Hamilton, Events Fundraiser at Havens Hospices, said

“On behalf of everyone here at Havens Hospices I’d like to say a massive thank you to Michelle; we are amazed and bowled over by her achievement and determination to effectively run the width of Great Britain (Ipswich to West Wales) half of that run being done in some of the most extreme conditions you can face. Havens Hospices can only exist because of our amazing supporters like Michelle who go that extra mile – in this case 280 of them – to raise vital funds so we can be there for as long as we are needed.”

If you've been inspired, why not look at our upcoming events and take on a challenge in aid of Havens Hospices?

Contact us today on 01702 220350 or email us