Val Muskett is Ultra Mum


 

 
 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

In May 1997 at the age of 43 just a month after her mother had died of lung cancer Val Muskett was selected to represent her adopted country, New Zealand, in the World 100 km Challenge that was to be run in Holland that September.  

 

May is etched into Val’s mind for another reason, for May was the month that she underwent the first of her two major lung surgeries. 

 

For several months Val had been suffering with spontaneous pneumotharaces. Once a month as regular as clockwork Val would feel a sharp stabbing pain in her back and would become breathless. She was diagnosed by Richard Bunton, a top thoracic surgeon, as suffering from a partially collapsing right lung. The top 25% of her right lung became detached and the chest cavity filled with air. The reason for this was simple a small part of her lung leaked, the reason it chose to leak was a mystery. Mr. Bunton explained that there was a 1% chance that the surgery wouldn’t be successful. The simplified plan was to open up Val’s tiny back, get at the lung, rough it up, make it bleed, put it back to the chest cavity and reinflate the lung, a bulectomy. This Mr. Bunton did with incredible dexterity for such a large handed man. Unfortunately the operation wasn’t successful – extremely painful but still the lung partially collapsed.  Mr. Bunton got her back into hospital for a quick chemical pleurudesius – again agonisingly painful – but unsuccessful.

 

All this time Val was trying to train for her first ever international competition. Loosing one week out of four to her lung problem.

 

September came and Val went – she managed 60 km of the race then withdrew along with two of the New Zealand men and another New Zealand lady who were all suffering from stomach problems.

 

1998 saw more surgeries, all linked to trying to discover the reoccurring lung problem, D&C Tubal Ligation. And again Val was selected to run in the 100 km world cup. This time in Japan. A team of three women, Val, Lilac Flay, and Margaret Hazelwood were accompanied by Richard Tout and Val’s husband John.

The night before the race a typhoon passed through the area, flattening trees and covering the mountainous course in debris. A small bulldozer was sent ahead of the runners as they toiled in the oppressive heat. The race was a success for the Kiwi’s Lilac Flay finished second, Val 21st and Margaret 29th the team was 5th the best placing ever by a New Zealand team. But still Val had lung problems.

 

A hysterectomy in July kept Val’s hospital frequent flier points ticking over, and the lung continued to leak.

 

Mr Bunton again operated on Val, miraculously reopening the 9 inch scar on her back and stapled the top of her lung. This time the lung would not be able to detach. For 18 days Val was connected to suction point in the wall of Dunedin’s hospital but the lung refused to fully inflate, a blood pleurudesius and still no success. This time the bottom of the lung was detaching, too close to the diaphragm for surgery so what next.

18 months of Asthma treatment proved that Val didn’t suffer with asthma.

 

Hormone masking injections from Mr Nahar the gynaecologist appeared to help slightly.

Val continued to run but gave away her international aspirations until in 2002. As a swan song to her running career she entered the New Zealand 100 k championship around lake Benmore – That Dam Run was well known to Val having won it twice before.  In 2002 there was no change Val won again and was selected to run for New Zealand in Taiwan.

The Taiwan race was probably the hardest race Val has ever run in, the course would have done credit to mountain running, the weather was hot and humid and starting late meant the end of the race was run in darkness- not the best for Va

l who is visually impaired. The team had been selected late and the people of Gore had raised money to help fund the trip – this was the spur Val needed to complete the course – she knew the people of Gore would be willing her on. Finish she did, hot tired and disappointed she knew she had more to offer.2004 The New Zealand 100 km team was off once more to Holland, and Val and John were going, this time determined to compete and complete.  Val finished first New Zealand lady. 

June 2005 Northern Japan was the destination, Japan didn’t disappoint, hot humid and hard 65 km into the race the humid conditions took there toll and Val had a 25 minute recovery under a table to get some shade, before continuing and finishing sunburned tired and again as first New Zealand lady.

in her 50’s Val decided she couldn’t run fast enough to be competitive when taking on the best 100 km runners in the world. She was still the New Zealand over 50 Marathon Champion but although  her speed was going, her stamina and determination remained.

Carolynn Tassie was also running for New Zealand in the 100 km team but her preferred distance was 24 hours and

over October 2005 Val and John travelled to Auckland for Val to take part in the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race. For the first twelve hours all went to plan then an other competitor trod on Val’s heel making her kick her self in the shin; starting an internal bleed that would blacken her lower leg and stiffen her ankle. Val struggled on finishing second to Carolynn and setting a new New Zealand over 50 record of 186.175 Km.
After a month of quality care provided by Otago University Physiotherapy clinic Val was able to return to her training regime.
 

Determined to crack the magical 200 km barrier Val put a years training in to her second attempt at the Sri Chinmoy. Again all the best laid plans can be undone by an upset tummy. Her legs were strong, her lung had settled but her tummy was rebelling. Leaving the track after 16 hours for a rest and a dry both Val and John fell asleep, With only four hours left Val rejoined the race and covered a credible 36 km, not enough to make up for the four hours lost!

To make certain this would never happen again, John contacted Ien Hellemans, at the University of Otago. World renowned Ien made Val think more clearly about what food and drink she needed and could cope with, and over the months of training  was always available to assist and advice.

2007 and New Zealand Athletics selected an inaugural 24 Hours women’s team to run in the World 24 Hour Championships in Canada. They fully funded the team which allowed the runners to concentrate on one thing. Getting it right for Drummondville. The team was all well known to Val, Lilac Flay would move up to the 24 hour challenge and Carolynn Tassie would try and repeat her 212 km from the 2006 world champs.

Three weeks before the team left Carolynn injured her foot and withdrew. The team of Val and Lilac, supported by Sandy Barwick, John Muskett and Peggy Morrison left for Drummondville Quebec.

Missed flight lost luggage and unseasonable hot humid weather were all taken in their stride.

The race started at 2pm in hot humid conditions. The organisers had reversed the direction of the run and put the World Championship runners on the outside of two lanes. An open event was being run alongside the World Champs.

 

After the first lap the Kiwi girls were close to the back of the pack and looking good in their bras and shorts – just too hot for singlets! They looked good but were slower than was expected. Thirteen-minute laps; this carried on for three hours, same pace same place and the first official positional update showed they were on target. The course was 200 metres longer than was first thought so their timing was perfection. The Kiwi girls were clicking off 10km per hour. Not fast but what was required to break 200 km.

 

The marathon came and went, as did one or two athletes who found the course and weather too demanding. Laps were now taking 14 minutes and the Kiwis were moving through the field.

 

Then the weather tried to ruin things again, this time sending two thunderstorms that soaked the athletes, the crews and spectators. Lilac came in for a toilet stop and a rub down; Val came in in agony, wet shorts dry skin, a well known rash had attacked her most delicate parts but a handful of 3B cream and she continued on her way.

 

Val’s 100km was completed in 10 hours 30 which meant, for her, everything was going to plan, but the weather was getting to Lilac, she was overheating and needed to be cooled. Peggy was working her magic under the watchful eye of manager Sandy Barwick. Temperature under control and Lilac was back on the track and moving again, this gave Val the chance for a 5 minute break to have a cup of noodles and a quick neck shoulder and leg rub.

 

Fifteen hours gone and it was 5am when the sun rose on the athletes, Val was clicking off the laps at 17 minutes with the precision of a metronome.

 

It has been said that a 24-hour race doesn’t start until the 16th  hour, so at 16 hours

 Val came off for her last 3 minute 20 second pit stop; a cup full of noodles, another handful of 3B and instructions she hadn’t to stop again, only 8 hours to go. The equation was simple for Val -- keep the laps to 18 minutes and the goal would be achieved! But there could be no stopping and no change of pace.

 

Eighteen and a half hours and Val had covered 100 mile and the 200km still achievable, but the weather was getting hotter and sunburn was beginning to make it’s mark.

Val was still in 16th place but the athletes just in front of her were getting closer as they slowed and she carried on with her 18 minute laps.

 

Nineteen hours and Coke was added to Val’s diet it was now or never -- five hours and just over 36km needed -- every second became vital. The crew was doing all they could to get sustenance into Val whilst keeping her moving, no bread now neat New Zealand Manuka Honey, her stomach remained calm. It was up to her to continue to run when out of sight if not out of mind. She was now in 12th place and closing in on the ever-tiring Swede.

 

Fluids went in, ice went on, soaking neckerchief, and legionnaires’ cap full of ice, bite of banana, or spoon of honey and on again, her legs kept pumping but the time kept ticking. Up to 11th now and shortening the gap between the 10th placed girl.

 

For Val and crew it was getting tense. Ten minutes to go – 1100 metres in 10 minutes, just possible, and then the bombshell, the Italian manager calling

“Nine minutes to go.”

No time for water or ice just run. Run as fast as the aching sunburned legs could go.

 
 

The start line came in sight, no walking the rise this time, over the mat look up at the clock -- 23 54 00 -- six minutes to go! It was all on now, through town, down on to the bridge and then the siren. Put the marker down and wait for the measurers.

 

She had done it 200.478 and 11th place.

 

All that remained now was to get back to the New Zealand tent and sit down! Easier said than done, a chat on a corner a loss of balance and Val disappeared backwards into a hedge!

 

 Back to the tent and the team congratulated each other and had for the first time in 24 hours time to reflect on what had been achieved.

 

What had been achieved?

 

Both girls were still running and running well at the 24-hour siren.

Last year’s champion was behind the Kiwi pair, no major injuries, and both girls in the top half of a field that included 11 women who had PBs of over 220km.

 

In the total field Val was in the top third. She had beaten all the Brits, Italians and Americans, all but one of the Germans and one of the French. There was only one Commonwealth representative from Canada in front of Val and Lilac, had this been a Commonwealth Championship a silver and bronze would have been coming home to New Zealand.

 

October saw the two Musketts departing for Seoul, South Korea to take part in the World 24 Hour championships.

 

2008 is an Olympic Year and the Olympics, quite understandably, swallowed all Athletics New Zealand’s meagre finances; the trip was to be totally self-funded, even down to the kit Val had to run in.

 

They knew the journey would be tiring and hard, and again true to form, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but when efforts were made to rectify the problems the results were better than could have been hoped for. Cancelled flights meant change of check in which meant baggage booked through to Seoul from Christchurch – no Auckland pick up. Quick check in at Auckland saw Val and John given four seats – plenty of sleep for Val. A 4:40 am arrival at Seoul meant an official came and collected the kiwi pair from the airport and delivered them to the Hotel. All other teams were left stranded and had to organise and pay for their own transport across Seoul.

A check in time of 2 pm was changed to 10:20 as the pair arrived at the desk as there was a change of receptionist – other teams had to wait till 2 pm and the Canadians were given rooms with no beds. 

 
A chance encounter with the English officials meant John and Val were shown a steak house – vital as all food provided by the hotel was Korean and Val needs her fish and chips before a big race.

 

The hotel was utilitarian and adequate and only 1.5 km away from the course, which was a good thing as on the day of the race the competitors and crews had to walk to the start and the finish.

 

On the day of the race Seoul’s smog never appeared instead clear blue skies greeted the 162 runners who were representing 26 countries.

They gathered in the middle of the 923-metre course to listen to the officials tell them they outnumbered the athletes who competed in the world half marathon championships, while  wondering how they were all going to fit on the narrow short course.

The race began; the human caterpillar took to the track, winding its way around the tight eight left-hand turns that made up the course. One lap around the concrete running track, out of the gate and around the cobbled perimeter of the sports field to return to the track – time after time after time.

 

Val settled in to her running. The marathon came and went in 4hr 12min. The temperature was now 26C in the shade – if there had been any. 

 

Liquid supplements were being taken on every three laps but the heat was beginning to take its toll.

 

Ice cubes, sponges and wet handkerchiefs were applied to keep Val’s temperature down.

 

Seven hours gone and the first toilet stop. Climb three steps to an Asian style Portaloo and hope there was no one already inside.

 

Stomach problems were becoming a problem; hourly toilet stops became half hourly.

 

The 100km mark achieved in less than 11 hours but the toilet was not only taking time from Val it was also stripping her of energy.

 

The ultra running camaraderie came to the Kiwi’s aid; Dr Andy of Team USA produced two ginger pills.

“Take one now and one again in six hours if no improvement,” was the doctor’s orders.

 

Twelve hours gone, the temperature dropped dramatically, on with a singlet and then a poly prop, no time lost and Val was beginning to look good. Stomach settled and the heat of the day forgotten.

 

Fourteen hours and the far side of the track echoed to the cheers of ex-pat Kiwis who had come to cheer Val on. A quick conversation and the Kiwis were together supporting and feeding Val the potato and gravy she needed.

 

Sixteen hours the track was plunged into darkness the floodlights went out. After 150 laps Val knew the course with her eyes shut so the lack of light was less of a problem for her than it was her crew, however, a cap light meant that laps were logged and food was delivered.

 

Seventeen hours and the lights returned, Val consolidated her lap times and was preparing for her final assault on the 200 km mark.

 

Just before 19 hours the 100 miles was achieved the 200km was possible, but the pace couldn’t slacken. There was no need to worry, the pace increased, seven minute laps became 6:30 as Val (16th) put in a massive effort to catch the four girls who were just in front of her and leave the four chasing girls in her wake.

 

Four hours to go and only time for Coke and ice cubes, Val was now cutting through the field, as the others slowed and walked Val was moving like a well oiled machine; each lap 6:30 or quicker.

 

Twenty-eight minutes to go and could she complete four more laps and reach the coveted 205km?

 Why wonder, with true grit Val powered on, through the flags, past the waving crowds, pushing through the cameras with dogged determination Val crossed the start-finish line with 1:02 minutes to go, another 130 metres to add to the total. The count down to the drum that marked the end, then Val had to stand and wait on the track until the official put the chalk mark behind her feet and it was all over, time for a sit down and a rest.

 

With 222 laps completed and a total of 205.140 km covered. Again Val finished 11th in the world and first in the Commonwealth.

 

What awaited her after this monumental achievement?

 

The 1.5km walk back to the hotel for a shower and a lie down and a very gentle massage of her tired legs.

 

 

 

 

                                                   The Commonwealth Championships Keswick England.

 

A team of three women, Val Muskett , Lisa Tamati and Vivian Cheng and one man, Alex McKenzie was selected by Athletics New Zealand to compete in the Commonwealth Ultra and Mountain running Championships in Keswick 17th – 21st September..

John had organised self catering accommodation for the week before the race, as it was necessary to get to Keswick early enough to get over the jet lag that accompanies 48 hours travelling. The team lived together trained together and got on well. The Kiwi team became a well known sight in the supermarkets and shops of Keswick – carrying their Kiwi’s they were recognisable.

 

The race was held in Fitz Park 300 yards away from the team’s accommodation so they trained on the track which was the boundary path of Fitz Park, the track ran alongside a beautiful river and under full grown spectacular trees.
 The entire team attended the flag parade.
The weather in Keswick continued to be perfect for running and the team were delighted to be able to wear the black singlet.

 

Val and Vivian stuck doggedly to their pace with Val lapping slightly faster than Vivian and Lisa.

 

It was obvious to all that Alex was in pain before the race began, during warm up he had complained of sore shins. John checked this out and was worried that Alex had stress fractures of the shin, these could have been caused by the extreme training he had undertaken with the SAS who were leaving for Afghanistan. Alex said he would try to run off the pain!

 

17 laps in to the race other teams athletes were also worried about Alex and the obvious pain he was in, John pulled him from the track and the medical staff were sent for. The Medics advised Alex to stop running as he had undoubtedly broken his leg (this was to be verified on Alex’s return to the New Zealand Army where his leg was put in to a cast.) Once again the Scots Guards became invaluable, looking after and transporting Alex back to the hostel and caring form him as he prepared for the long flight home.

 

Val and Vivian were running to plan, marathons came and went, Val 4:08 Vivian 4:18 As the 100 k mark was approached it was already dark. The track was to be lit by four huge floodlights that were raised on hydraulic poles. The first problem became obvious when the pole at the end of the feeding station refused to extend and the lights shone directly into the faces of oncoming runners and lit very little of the track as it ran off at right angles. The two lights at the back section of the track rose majestically in to the air, unfortunately they rose above the tree canopy and the track was dappled in shadows.

 

10 hours 40 minutes gone and Val made 100 k and came in for her first real stop, food in waste out an extra 5 minutes taken up but Val was back on the track – this time wearing hat, gloves poly prop and jacket, not only was it dark it was cold, especially by the river. Approaching midnight and Vivian had past the 100 k mark and still looking strong. Lisa was again struggling but determined to do what she could.

 

The darkest coldest part of the night was now upon the athletes and crew and Val’s visual problems meant that running was now becoming difficult and she had to take care on three sides of the track. Her laps times slowed markedly and she fell back down the leader board. Vivian continued to run to plan, not feeling the cold and always cheerful when communicating with her crew.

 

Lisa was again struggling but with her crew working overtime they made sure she kept going.

 

As the dawn arrived the Val’s lap times became more respectable and Lisa was in to her running – she had toughed it out long enough it was now time to show the growing crowd what she could do.

 

Val went through 100 mile in 19 hours 15, Vivian in 19hours 52 her ever increasing support crew made sure she wasn’t satisfied with that! They kept her on track in more ways than one, it became obvious to onlookers that we were going to see the diminutive athlete go farther than she had before, determination, training and support was all coming together.

 

Lisa was now running like the athlete we all knew she was and Val’s lap times were coming down, athletes who had left her in the night were being caught and overtaken. 200 k was a possibility but there could be no stops at all during the last four hours and she would have to cover better than 8 km an hour. This doesn’t sound much but after 20 hours running it was going to be a big ask. Her crew asked and she delivered.

 

The sunlight meant that she could once again see where she was going and was in no mood to wait and see what happened to others. As she passed the 4th placed English girl the crowd cheered and the English girl attempted to respond, but it was to no avail Val ran on and left her well behind. (It appears that the lap counter was premature in showing Val’s laps and she was still a lap behind)

The end of the event came too soon for the Kiwi girls – Lisa had got into her running and Vivian was still moving freely. With time almost up the competitors were joined on the track by a team member who carried a block to place on the exact position where the runner had got to when the hooter sounded. Val managed a full lap and a half in the time she was allowed and almost left her block carrier behind and got cheered twice by the crowd which had been swollen by the large number of New Zealand and Commonwealth Athletes as well as Alex and the Scot’s guards.

 

When the results were finalised it was heart break for the New Zealand Girls, Val was 5th by 200 metres and the team finished fourth only 8.4 km behind the Scottish Ladies.

 

 

Full Team Results

1st England                   640.803

2nd Australia                 602.923

3rd Scotland                  563.262

4th New Zealand            554.851

           

 

 

 

Rank

Performance

Surname

First Name

DOB

Country

1

226.489

Gayter

Sharon

30/10/1963

ENG

2

212.683

Skelton

Vicky

4/11/1967

ENG

3

206.979

Harvey Jamieson

Susannah

14/02/1973

AUS

4

201.631

Doke

Marie

15/10/1974

ENG

5

201.431

Muskett

Valerie

29/06/1954

NZL

6

200.692

Quinlan

Meredith

16/04/1972`

AUS

7

200.183

Walker

Pauline

4/08/1962

SCO

8

195.252

Scholz

Sharon

31/07/1976

AUS

9

191.708

Cheng

Vivian

22/07/1978

NZL

10

190.432

Vasarhelyi

Charlotte

7/02/1976

CAN

11

190.259

Kuz

Lynne

14/07/1961

SCO

12

187.625

Lilley

Allison

30/12/1972`

AUS

13

187.119

Brown

Sandra

1/04/1949

ENG

14

184.013

Nobbs

Deanne

8/05/1968

AUS

15

177.475

Armstrong

Sue

27/07/1960

CAN

16

176.315

Clague

Bethany

4/11/1971

IOM

17

172.820

Rennie

Fiona

4/08/1962

SCO

18

167.228

Boisvert

Sylvie

06/12/1962`

CAN

19

161.712

Tamati

Lisa

24/09/1968

NZL

20

124.267

Jacob

Manon

11/11/1963

CAN

21

121.670

Bremner

Kerrie

2/12/1965

AUS

22

110.609

Thevenet-Smith

Ramona

20/12/1959

ENG

 
 

Brrrrrrrrive

 

A look at the web site made one aware of the terrific amount of preparation undertaken by the organising committee. They were determined to make this the best 24 Hour World Championship ever. And it was.

The race attracted more runners than ever before 151 men and 78 women started outside the Town Hall for the 500 metre run through the cheering crowds to the twisting turning demanding track that wound itself around the park and car park and indoor market place. The 1253 metre lap had rises falls and changes of surface, cobbles to wear the feet, gravel to fill the socks and tarmac for a respite. An off roaders dream and a road runners nightmare.

 

The Kiwis settled down to their days work. Val was going to run at a set pace, taking on Horley’s replace at predetermined points in the race. Matt had decided to run two laps and walk a short distance whilst taking on solid food.

 

The Kiwi’s crew had been strengthened by the inclusion of two of John’s friends who had made the trip over from the UK.  These two were to prove invaluable as the race progressed. New IAAF rules meant the crew could no longer support their runners for 200 metres whilst feeding them; they had 1 metre to hand their athlete whatever was required and a space some 200 metres away had been designated for the athlete to hand back what hadn’t been eaten. There was no way the crew would be able to hand over – run around the outside of the course and get to the hand back area in time, this task was given to Barry and Miriam.

Later in the event Barry and Miriam’s porridge was instrumental in keeping the kiwi and Aussie athletes on the track.

The race got under way, athletes settled to the job in hand and every thing seemed to be going OK. The rain that had poured the day before threatened but never appeared, the marathon came and went, Val around 4:08 Matt around 3:53 .Both athletes happy and workman like. Matts 100 k was a personal best time of 9:35 and Val was close to her predicted 10:30 with 10:35. It was now 8:30 p.m. and though the rain had kept away the cold had come with a vengeance.

 

Val came in to put a jacket hat and gloves on, the crew worked feverishly to pin numbers dress her and get her back out there as quick as possible. Matt had a change of shirt. The one he took off looked more like an old Kiwi rugby league shirt with a white V of dried salt over the shoulders across his chest and down his back. A liberal coating of 3B cream was applied around Matt’s nether regions and he was off again. The cold wasn’t affecting Matt he was enjoying it.

 

Enjoyment wasn’t in Val’s vocabulary when she returned to the table telling anyone who was prepared to listen she was too cold to continue. Fortunately no one was listening, numbers taken off one jacket pinned to another; wearing two jackets two poly propsand a woolly hat she was pushed back out on to the track.

 

Next time Val called by she was rewarded with a sip of hot coffee and a bite of a ginger biscuit. Matt was steadily munching his way through a loaf of bread a hunk of cheese and marmite! He gave Anne, his wife and crew a message that an American girl fancied a marmite sandwich so could she take it to her – perhaps cold was starting to affect his brain? Miriam took the Marmite jar to the USA table and made certain she kept hold of it and returned with it.

 

Val was still struggling but she was clicking off the laps, she was falling back down the field but her crew knew that when the sun came up the cold blooded athlete would warm to the task and chase them down, there was no doubting her strength and fitness just her ability to keep warm. The lighting, unlike Keswick, was fine and though finding an empty toilet was a problem she was going to be able to run through the night.

 

The next brief stop for Val was to rearrange the timing chip that was on neoprene around her ankle. Her leg was bruising and beginning to swell, tuba grip from Barry a mouthful of porridge from Miriam and Val was back out on the track before she realised it.

 

 Val was now in 38th place and not happy, she was however still running for the most part of the lap, the up hill slope on the far side of the course was causing Val mental and physical pain. A crew member went out on to the course and every time the black clad figure appeared Brive was treated to the shouts of

"Come on Mum!"

a call given by Val's three children when they all ran for Gore. And mum did come on, she began to run the slope and kept her pace steady along the cold river bank. As others began to feel the cold and the pain and demanded stops and rests Val stayed out on the course now back in to her steady run. The crew knew she would appear every 10:30 but they needed her to arrive on 10:15 that is how critical the timing was becoming. Every second lost had to be regained during the hours of sunlight when Val would be warm and her body would be revived. The sun was expected at 5 am and so with a 10:00am finish 5 hours of sun was all that was on offer.

 

Anyone involved in 24 hour running will tell you the race starts at 16 hours. And at 16 hours Val had covered 140 K and Matt 160. Matt was going well the 100 mile mark was close by and Val was hanging on, before the race she had hoped to cove r the 100 mile around 18:30 this was now a long way off, but she was still out there and running.

 

When 18 hours came Val had covered another 13 k and Matt only 14. As can happen with a race of this distance athletes have purple patches and dark dark holes of despair. Matt was now in one of the darkest holes he had ever been in and it was up to his crew Anne to keep him on the track and on track and this she did with care attention and love. Val covered her 100 miles in 19 hours she had pulled back to 28th place but stil lthe  200 k looked out of reach, all that was needed was 5 hours of sunshine to warm her up. Her crew knew from past races what a difference sunlight did to Val's running ability. The night had done it's worst now it was up to the morning to make it all better

5. am sunrise, and where was the sun? Shrouded behind a grey damp mist it was as cold now as the darkest part of the night and as if to make this point the Great Britain runner who had chased Val hard at the end of the Commonwealths was wrapped in a blanket with a belt round her middle and was walking round the track like a mobile wigwam.

 

With the crews urging both runners on it became clear that Val was going to fall short of her 200 k and if Matt could continue as he was he would make the 220K. It was vital that neither runner came in for a stop or took too long taking on food. Val was drinking flat coke, taking it in small amounts so she could run and drink.

 

With 90 minutes to go the sun finally broke through and both Kiwi’s were still out on the track, Val stripped to her black singlet and set off after the 200. She ran as hard as she could and was working her way through the field, a top 20 finish was now a possibilty, an aim she had held before the race, but could she again make the 200 k. The warning gun sounded one minute to go and by her crews quick reckoning she would be close but how close?

 

Unbelievably Val appeared to increase her speed she was determined to complete a full lap, flags waving people shouting all lost on the tiny Kiwi as she surged to the end, a horn sounded Val stopped - the crowd screamed for her to continue it wasn't the final gun just an over excited French fan who knew his team had won, again she forced her tired legs on and then a  gun sounded and Val stopped. Had she achieved the 200 k she so desired

 

Matt by this time knew he had achieved one of his goals, he was going to enjoy the moment ; he had  proudly run with the New Zealand flag over his shoulder, he had complete 221.365 a monumental first time effort on a testing course.  

Val's crew did some quick maths and decided she had just and only just completed 200 k. Unfortunately the crew were better at supporting their athlete than calculating distances, when the final results were posted  Val had covered 199.519 just over 400 metres short of the coveted 200k. But never mind that gives her something to aim for next year!

 

 Full results can be found at 
 

Sri Chinmoy October 2010

 

The longer an athletics career continues the more difficult motivation can become. The ability and desire to do the training can wane especially during inclement weather. Achievable goals need to be set and worked towards. Small steps in the direction of the ultimate.

 

Val knows about small steps, her little legs do many of them during a race.

 

On October the 2nd Sri Chinmoy had organised the 13th running of the 6, 12, 24 hour Track Races on the Sovereign Stadium, Auckland for  athletes who wanted to find out just how much they could achieve.

 

Val  for once had entered a short race; the 12 hour had attracted her. But she had an ulterior motive.

 

Earlier in the year Andy Milroy, British Ultra statistician, had released an updated list of Ultra records that contained the World Age group records. Val being an avid reader checked them out and realised that some where in reach. A good 100k at Taupo on the road strengthened her determination to try to bring the track records to New Zealand from France and the USA.

 

As these were track records Val had to once again become a track athlete. Every Wednesday the 56 year old could be seen running around and around the Cally track in Dunedin whilst much younger athletes went through their sprinting drills and exercises.

 

A 50 km off road race was entered “The Great Naseby Water Race” to try and keep her sharp, and the camaraderie and organisation certainly help with her motivation.

 

Friends offered accommodation in Auckland and athletes offered her a tent at the track. So all that was required was for Val to put in the training and step out on to the track for the 9 am start.

 

Ultra running on the track is different to any other athletic event. They can stop and rest, take in food and drink and go to the toilet or take a massage as they please. Every 4 hours they change direction and lap counters call to them on every lap to make sure a lap isn’t missed.

 

To break a world record stops can’t happen and food and drink is taken on the run, every second counts so less than two hours into the race it was a worry when Val required a toilet stop. She had to leave the track and go to the public toilets, to speed things up her crew got to the toilet first made sure one was free and kept guard until she arrived, just over a minute was added to the 2minute 6 second laps but this could be enough to foil the record attempt. Fortunately the race began in chilly weather and to try and get warm Val ran the first 6 laps quicker than she had intended.

 

A marathon in 3:47:05 meant she was still on track but the first of the records was only 8 km’s away.

 

At the 50 k mark the three stopwatches appeared at the track side and the chief timekeeper called the mark as she crossed the start finish line for the 110th time – all the watches agreed she had broken the World 50 k record for Women aged 55 – 59.

Next up was the 6 hour record.

 

By this time the wind had come and gone and now returned with some taxing gusts. Head down and face set Val continued to circumnavigate the track having to change lanes to avoid the other athletes; some who claimed the inside lane for themselves whether walking eating or jogging slowly. Other athletes moved out to the second lane to let her through. These athletes along with the crowd now realised they were watching something special. There was only one person on the track running quicker than Val and he was New Zealand 100 k rep Greg Hannah.

 

6 Hours and no time keepers appeared, this time a track marshal ran alongside Val until the hooter sounded and there he placed masking tape on the track edge so the track could be measured with a steel tape to get the exact distance covered.

 

Still Val ran on, no stopping but by now lapping at a slower pace, her 2 minute 6 laps had become 2 minute 33, still on target for the next records.

 

The unofficial 50 mile record was the next in her sights, this would give her an indication whether or not the last two would be achievable. The track officials calculated the exact point where 50 miles would have been run if using the inside lane and then added a metre before marking it to be certain everything was acceptable.

 

The four time keepers lined the track alongside the mark and all agreed, another record broken.

 

The 100 k was now in front of the rapidly cooling athlete. No time for extra clothing just run on and cope. On the roads of Taupo Val gad covered the 100 k in 9:24:24 so was hoping to better that, but every ultra athlete goes through black spots and 80 – 100 km was Val’s. Whether the cold got to her or the constant bends but her right leg began to cramp and she was starting to shiver.

 

At the 100 km mark the time keepers all agreed she had smashed the old record but not by as much as she had wanted. Only one record left – the 12 hour mark set by the American super athlete Sue Ellen Trapp in 2001.

 

Time was taken to put poly prop and a jacket on the shivering athlete and spray on her leg and bruised ankle. This seemed to do the trick. Off she went again like a small machine purring round the track every 2 minutes 45. The record was surpassed but how much could be added. Val’s crew unwilling to push too hard but desperate to keep Val on the track used all the knowledge they had to motivate, feed and support her. They were ably assisted by the other athletes crews and the growing number of spectators who realised ultra history was being made.

 

With 11 hours 57 minutes 35 seconds gone Val crossed the start finish line for the 334th time could she do one more lap, spurred on she picked up her ace and went for it carrying her small blue marker block!

 

When the final hooter blew she was 17 metres from crossing the line to complete 122 Km the mark she had set herself so many months before.

 

What had been achieved? Below is a list of what the records were and the new marks set by Val. Whether the IAAF accepts them as World records is up to the bureaucrats but everyone who was present knows the Athlete the organisers and the spectators did all they could to make this a day to remember and be proud of.

 

And what of the future? Perhaps if Val tried to improve the 100 km time and increase the 12 hour distance without trying for the 50 k and 6 hour records more could be achieved, and what of the 100 mile record? There is the motivation

 

50 k was        4:30:46         P Echevarne (Fra) 1996        Val   4:28:30

6 hour was     64.800k        P Echevarne (Fra) 1996         Val   66.041 Km

50 mile was    7:36.44        P Echevarne (Fra) 1996         Val   7:28:03

100 k was      9:41:31         P Echevarne (Fra) 1996         Val   9:31:45

12 hour was   114:00          S E Trapp    (USA) 2001         Val  121:983 Km

 

 

She was overall  first in the 12 hour race by almost 9 km. 

 

 

New Zealand 100 Km Championships  Taupo

 

With  a 3.15am start all the athletes had wrapped up well, but without any need as it turned out to be a balmy night.

As the race started it was surprising to see usual frontrunner Martin Lukes following Penny Kirkwood who was setting a sub-8 hour pace.

 

Behind her Wayne Botha was settling in to his race and Val Muskett was leading the two visiting world-class Australians in Sharon Sholtz, who covered 224km in Brive and ranking sixth in the world, had also added the title of The IAU World Athlete of the year. Alongside her was Meredith Quinland, who ran 217km in Brive and seeded ninth in the world.

 

If Val was going to make the podium she was going to have to run well in this kind of company. The race couldn’t have got off to a worse start as after only 10km Val was suffering with an upset stomach and as the Aussies passed her she was fortunate to be level with a Portaloo. This unscheduled, but highly necessary stop, gave the Aussies a good lead on her. This lead was increased by another toilet stopp 5 km later.

 

The Aussie girls were not content to sit on their lead and they first reeled in Penny and then continued to battle hard against each other with the lead changing often. Each would make a  break only to be overtaken down the road.

 

All this time Val was getting back into her running and slowly replacing the food that had been emptied from her stomach. The Replace honey and marshmallows began to do their work and Val was soon running like a metronome. With her steady pace she began passed Penny and began to catch Meredith, she was taking a inute a ‘K’ off the tiring Aussie and at the 50km mark Val moved into second place as she caught and passed Meredith.

 

 Coming back from the 50km turn Val felt a twinge of cramp in her calf. A wet cloth on her calf and salt from a local restaurant were quickly administered and she set off after Sharon who was now a good 5 minutes ahead of her.

 

The third lap was going to be vital, if Sharon slowed and Val carried on the last lap would be close. Val had to make her move now to give her any chance of winning. By 62km Val had pulled back to within three minutes of  Sharon and was moving well. At 75km the gap was the same but Sharon looked to be tiring and was walking up some of the hills, this was relayed to Val who put in more effort and then felt the twinge of cramp again.

 

 Sharon didn’t become the world athlete of the year through default, she earned it and proved it was well deserved in Taupo. With her husband supporting she may well have power walked up the hills but she descended far faster than Val and started to pull away.

Val had to make a decision, go for gold and race as hard as she could and risk cramp, with Meredith still behind her but running well it was decided to consolidate her second position and make sure she finished well and under 9hr30min.

 

And that is exactly what she did. No disgrace being beaten by Sharon and Val regained her New Zealand 100km title. Not a bad day’s work.

 

1 08:14:04 Martin Lukes M Christchurch 17   NZ CHAMP

2 08:40:33 Wayne Botha M Auckland 6  2nd NZ Champs

3 09:21:57 Sharon Scholz F Australia 16

4 09:27:53 Valerie Muskett F Otago 5  NZ Champ

5 09:44:04 Meredith Quinlan F Sydney 13

6 10:04:36 Oscar Emery M Hamilton 4

 

World Championships Katowice Poland 2012

 

The entire team was in Poland by September 3.

 

With the exception of Wayne who was staying with his family in the Novotel Hotel the team and crews were accommodated at the AWF Hotel at the Academy of Sport. The hotel doubled as a hall of residence and can be best described as utilitarian providing food for carnivores, lunch was the main meal of the day, based around a hot meat dish, the only difference between the cooked meat salad tea and breakfast was a bowl of cornflakes.

Athletes with rooms on the front of the hotel had two choices, sleep with the windows closed and melt or open the windows and have the constant din of traffic reverberating through the room.  

 

The course though picturesque was demanding, a rectangle around a lake in a park,  had two long sides and two short ends, The eastern long side was constructed of brick laid side by side and was a steady climb, a right angle left turn took the runners on to asphalt which continued to rise, right angle left turn swept down to the feeding station where  a large tent covered the crews, through the start finish line and along past the 5 portaloos that had to serve the 260 athletes + crews; to a right angle left turn on to the uneven cobbled section that thankfully was one of the short sides. 1.5 km a lap.

 

The race started at 12 O’clock and the weather was perfect for running being cooler than the previous days,

 

From the start the American men went to the front and the American tactician started shouting which he did for the full 24 hours. The kiwi’s settled in to their running with Bryan lapping the quickest and with the precision of a metronome, he was serious and after a good distance and the only way to achieve that is go for it from the start, it is a gamble, if you start too slow you can’t make up the distance later but if you start too fast you pay the price.

 

As the race unfolded it was obvious the lead American was going for something big, he had lead from lap one and was increasing his lead and looking strong. The 2010 French women’s world Champion called it a day and the Japanese women’s world record holder too sat out, the testing course was starting to take its toll. The world famous Yoanis Kuros was running steadily but not catching the speeding American. Athletes were stopping and dropping with frightening regularity and the kiwi’s were not immune, Vivian who had strapped her right achilles was struggling with a left quad that was tight and sore. Val was lapping steadily but not comfortably, lack of sleep lack of puddings , who would know but she was running but not well. Brendon who had a swollen foot before the event made no mention of his sore foot and none of the crew asked, Amy the new girl on the block was clicking of the laps and savouring every minute, her smile never dimmed even when the rain came.

 

Wayne’s cheery face was making regular stops at the table to take on sustenance and was still running well. Night came and temperature remained perfect for running – Val donned a poly prop and Amy a tee shirt , Wayne took a dry singlet and the race continued.

 

It was in the dark of the night that things began to go wrong for the Kiwi teams, Vivian was already struggling but stayed out there, Wayne came in to try and loosen his rapidly tightening hamstrings (both legs) and for the first time in the race Bryan stopped to take on extra food, he looked unstable on his legs and when he set off again he took his time to get moving. He had been posting regular lap times and when the expected time came and went and no Bryan crew went for a walk to look for him, at the same time Val reported Bryan was in trouble at the far side of the course. Crew had found him and had provided a blanket, an official was keeping a watchful eye on him but it was obvious his race was over. He had run himself to a stand still, he had gone for a good one and paid the ultimate price. His chip was taken from him and handed in; there was no way the management was going to let him rejoin.

 

It has been said that the race begins in the 16th hour, during this time Wayne’s hamstrings would take no more and he came in for a rest.

 

The crew stations were beginning to look like a field hospital with injured and exhausted athletes being treated by medics, ambulance staff and tiring crew.

 

Senior Staff Sergeant McKenzie was going about his business. The big soldier was now the first Kiwi and wasn’t going to relinquish that position. With steely determination he would travel through the night and morning to register a hard fought 212.135 Km  Amy was now eating for the entire team and still smiling she too continued through the night walking when she had to but finishing strongly to complete  120 laps and 186.208 Km.

 

During the night Val had not stopped never sat down and kept going if sometimes slowly, but with one hour to go the 58 year old was going to leave nothing in the tank, she was in 54th place and determined to get in to the top 50 her last hour netted her more than 10 km s and pushed her up to 47th place beating the Ukraine runner by 24 metres after trailing her by more than 1.5km with an hour to go. Brendon pushed hard for the magical 200 and just fell short, but it wasn’t through lack of determination and effort, his swollen foot must have been agony on the uneven cobbles, but not once did he stop, sit or complain.

Wayne had now re entered the fray and joined Vivian in walking to make sure the New Zealand teams both scored as many kms as they could.

 

From a running point of view the trip could have gone better, but from a team building perspective it couldn’t have gone better. Injured and suffering athletes stayed out there or retuned to support their team mates, registering the best possible result we could became paramount, words of encouragement and help were exchanged by athletes and crew alike. If New Zealand is once again going to become a world power in ultra running these results have got to be used to spur athletes on to achieve and that was the feeling in the kiwi camp after the event – a job had been done, and there is more to come.

 

 

Alex Mckenzie                        212 135,19       54

Brendon Keenan                     198 571,36        73

Wayne Botha                          171 257,70      110

Bryan McKorkindale              134 403,69      133

 

 

Amy Campbell                        186 208,40      45

Val Muskett                            183 969,53      47

Vivian Cheng                          166 623,09      61

 

 

Alex McKenzie, Brendon Keenan, Vivian Cheng, Amy Campbell, Wayne Botha, Bryan McCorkindale, Val Muskett


World 24 Hour Championships Steenbergen May 11/12  2013

After training on the sunny sands of Otago Val Muskett found herself on the cobbled windswept icy streets of Steenbergen for a 24 hour race that demanded all her concentration, commitment and courage to get her to the 24 hour gun.

The weather was to prove the undoing of many of the 270 Athletes who started on the winding 2.3 km asphalt and cobbled course.

The day started bright but cool and deteriorated in to stormy rain that on occasions turned in to hail showers. 

Val lined up carrying the beginnings of a head cold that had struck her husband manager earlier in the week., but she was determined not to let down the other two Kiwi girls who were taking part in their first World Championships. 

By the Marathon Val was already 5 minutes behind her schedule but was running steadily, not trying too hard and making sure she had plenty in reserve for the next 20 hours. A sensible strategy.

As the day progressed the weather closed in, forcing Val to wear more and more layers of clothing. A Dutch spectator who had lived in Taranaki 40 years ago supplied the entire new Zealand camp with woollen hats and handed knitted cowls, Val took a cowl and was now covered from shoulders to ears in a woolly cocoon that was to prove invaluable.

The rain was being driven in cold gusts but still the New Zealand women pressed on, Antonia Johnson the youngest team member was lapping quicker than the other two with Kim Allan just in front of Val. 

When darkness fell so did the temperature and at 2 am – 14 hours in to the race the first hail storm hit, luckily for Val she was just entering the feeding station so her husband John pulled her from the track for an extended break to keep warm take on extra food and drink and prepare her for the next 10 hours.

Determination and training got Val through the next 4 hours until the sun final shone through, as if to welcome the sun another icy rain belt hit the athletes. Undeterred they kept on running. 

With 3 hours left Val stripped down to her singlet and leggings and started to wind up the pace, trying desperately to make up the distance the weather had taken from her. Every lap became a minute faster and gave her the chance of beating the 185 km required to qualify for New Zealand, two hours to go and a 190 km looked a good possibility.   

When the final gun sounded and the athletes stopped Val was measured at 193.003 Km.in 53 place.  Satisfied but not happy with her days work. The Other Kiwi girls finished with

Kim Allan 203, 919             (39th place)
Antonai Johnsion 201, 770 (44th place)
Giving them a team result of 12th in the world
The men
Alex McKenzie 214,841          (51st place)
Wayne Botha     214,576        (52nd Place)
Bryan McCorkindale 210,757 (60th place)
Graeme Butcher 204,310        (73 Place)
Team result 15th in the World.

 Val would like to thank all those who support her before during and after the race, the financial support form Hill city - University Athletics club and the Skeggs Foundation help fund the trip.  Horleys and Pak N Save Dunedin help feed her during the race and the peoples good wishes keep her going in the darkest times.