Brit tackles mountain marathon ‘race of truth’ in Thailand

Lee Grantham won the Doi Inthanon 50km in 2017 but wants to see if he can run faster when he has no competitors around him to race

Four years ago British runner Lee Grantham won the Doi Inthanon Ultra Mountain Marathon over 50km in 3:55:18. Now, on Monday (March 15), he will attempt to beat his time in a solo time trial.

The course goes up the highest mountain in Thailand and the event is so tough that when Grantham won in 2017 there were 250 runners who started and only 150 finishers.

At one point with about 7km to go the gradient steepens to 13-14% for several kilometres. The 38-year-old from Manchester excels on such courses, though. He is a former winner of the Subida Pico Veleta in Granada, Spain, which Grantham says is a very similar course and distance to the Doi Inthanon event.

In the absence of many real races, Grantham has found ways to challenge himself during the pandemic. He splits his year between living in Spain and Thailand and over Christmas recently he used his time quarantining in a Thai hotel by running 3hr 37min for 50km on Boxing Day on a treadmill set at 5% gradient – a festive feat that he streamed to his followers.

On his Doi Inthanon time trial, the 38-year-old says: “I want to find out what the difference is between doing a real race to a virtual solo attempt. Does the competitive element of a real race make you run much faster? This will be the perfect way to find out.”

In the Tour de France a big time trial is often described as the ‘race of truth’ and in Thailand on Monday the Briton will be running his own race of truth.

He adds: “It won’t go into the records books or on Power of 10 or anywhere. But the past year has been all about challenging ourselves.”

Grantham has been supported by Nike and has some friends supplying drinks en route and filming the action for social media. In the never-ending quest for improvement he’s also been receiving sports science advice from international runner Dan Nash.

As for the future, big 2021 ultra events like Comrades in South Africa have already been postponed but Grantham hopes to have a crack at the British 100km record at some stage. He is a former winner of the UK 100km title and currently sits No.6 on a UK all-time list headed by Steven Way, Simon Pride and Don Ritchie but he believes he can go quicker than his 6:42 PB.

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