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Ultramarathon runner takes aim at 161km Queensland trail


After becoming the youngest person to run ultramarathons on all seven continents, Brisbane’s Jacqui Bell has set her sights closer to home.

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For many people, becoming the youngest person to run an ultramarathon in all seven continents would be enough to earn a rest.

But Brisbane’s Jacqui Bell is training for her next big challenge — this time at home.

The 25-year-old runner and motivational speaker aims to set a new time record for the 161km Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, Bell plans to do the race “unsupported”, which means there will be no fans supporting her along the way.

Everything Bell needs to complete the mission she will have to carry herself.

“I don’t have any pacers, no one handing me food, water, cheering me along. It’s just me out there for the whole time,” Bell said.

“My original goal was 25 hours but I’ve knocked that down, I think I should complete it in under 20 now.”

The current record for a supported run is 19 hours and two minutes, according to Bell.

The trail follows the old Brisbane Valley railway line, from Wulkuraka in Ipswich to Yarraman, north of Toowoomba.

The endurance runner attempted to complete the full course in August this year, but her body gave up after the 100km mark.

“I went into it run down and I guess through the night, running, my body just shut down on me and I ended up getting acute bronchitis,” she said.

“I was vomiting and spitting out blood so I made the call at 135km to stop.”

But the experience didn’t leave her feeling defeated.

Instead, it motivated the world record holder to make another attempt early next year.

“I just absolutely love the sport and it’s weird — the more I do it, the more I love it and I honestly couldn’t think of anything more I enjoy than being out there on the weekend and running in the trails,” she said.

That’s lucky because she does a lot of it in preparation for each race.

Bell described the mantra behind her training as “building up the kilometres in your legs”.

“An average week is probably 100 kilometres running and then that’s paired with a couple of 100 kilometres on the bike, plus gym, swimming and yoga,” she said.

Her work is clearly paying off.

While Bell has plenty of experience with multi-staged events, which is how she broke her first record, she recently clocked her first Ultra 100 Mile race in 28 hours.

“People thought it would be easy for me after doing all the multi-staged stuff but they’re a totally different kind of ball park,” she said.

“They’re over the space of a week and you’re carrying all your stuff and it’s really spilt up.

“Whereas the 100 miles is just you out there for 160 kilometres in one go. You go as fast as you can … you wake up and you start at 5:00am and you just go until you’re done.”

Bell ran her first ultramarathon at the age of 19 and by last November had completed endurance races on all seven continents.

In 2018, Bell became the youngest woman to complete the 4 Desert ultramarathon series. The multi-stage event requires competitors to run 250 kilometres unsupported through deserts in Namibia, Mongolia, Chile, and Antarctica.

When it comes to Bell’s record-breaking ambitions, nothing surprises her dad Allan anymore.

“During the day she’ll train, then she might go swimming, then she might do cycling, whatever’s been programmed by her coach,” Mr Bell said.

“She can leave home here of a morning at 4:30am, and we won’t see her till 7:45pm at night.”

Mr Bell became emotional as he recalled his daughter’s long list of achievements and the difficult task that lies ahead.

“Whatever your children do, if they’re successful at what they’re trying to achieve, you’re very proud,” he said.

– ABC / Brittney Kleyn

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