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Canadian Viktoria Brown crowned women’s 48-hour world champion

"This race was absolutely brutal for me," says Brown

Viktoria Brown GOMU 2022 Photo by: Courtesy of Viktoria Brown

Whitby, Ont.’s Viktoria Brown has finished on top yet again. The accomplished endurance athlete took the women’s win (and second overall) in 197 loops, or 314.28 kilometres, at the inaugural 2022 Global Organization of Multi-Day Ultrarunners (GOMU)’s 48-hour world championship event, held in Hainesport, New Jersey. The race is completed on a certified 0.9913-mile (1.59 km) flat, paved path and was held alongside the Hainesport 100-mile, 24-hour and 12-hour events, through Sept. 3-5.

Viktoria Brown wins 48 hour world championships 2022
Photo: Instagram/viktoriabrown

Brown was already an accomplished world-ranked triathlete when she ran her first ultra in 2020 at London, Ont.’s That Dam Hill. She decided to jump into the race only after all her other races that season were cancelled, and not only won outright, but set the course record and a new women’s Canadian soil record (210 km at that time). Both of those records have now been taken by fellow Ontarian Amanda Nelson, but Brown has accrued numerous other multi-day records, including the women’s Canadian 48-hour and the world 72-hour records, at 353.86 km and 467 km respectively.

Viktoria Brown GOMU 2022
Photo courtesy of Viktoria Brown

We caught up with Brown post-event. The weather at the race was unusually hot and humid, causing challenges for some of the athletes; for Brown, however, it was a breathing issue that prevented her from hitting her goal.

“I was the favourite going into this race, but 48 hours is very long, so anything can happen, and it ended up being far from a smooth sail,” explained Brown. “I had a mild cold going into the event, and I think that caused all my problems. The cold combined with my chronic asthma caused my airways to close up at hour 20. From that point on I was unable to run at all; I power-walked the last 28 hours of the race.”

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A post shared by Viktoria Brown (@viktoriabrownathlete)

28 hours is a lot of power walking! Was that a skill you had worked on?

Running was impossible, but a power walk was good enough to get me there! Ironically, a week before the event, I talked to my US race walker friend, Yolanda Holder, and asked her to recommend a book to help with my famously slow walk. I read The Complete Guide to Competitive Walking, by Dave McGovern. Just five days before this race,  I tried the power-walking technique that was recommended in the book–I did 10 minutes just to see how it felt. If I hadn’t read that book, I wouldn’t be a world champion today.

Viktoria Brown 48 hour GOMU
Photo courtesy of Viktoria Brown

As far as multi-day races go, what length of race is your favourite? 

This is a hard one. I think the 72-hour event is my favourite, for two main reasons. I will never be able to hold a 48-hour world record, because I’m simply not fast enough. But in 72-hour events, top speed and V02 max is almost unimportant–this seems to be the shortest race where that is the case.

The second reason is that you can’t go for 72 hours without sleep, so you have to have some sort of sleep strategy, even if it is just micro-naps. For a 48-hour race, you can make it through with no sleep. At the same time, 72 hours is not as insanely long as a 6-day race, so it’s somehow mentally still easier to comprehend.

Trishul Churns and Viktoria Brown
Trishul Cherns (president of GOMU) and Brown. Photo courtesy of Viktoria Brown

How do you recover from a race like this?

This recovery will be a bit different than my usual multi-day recovery. My calves are completely destroyed because of all the walking. I will have to roll them a lot, use some muscle recovery products and eat lots of protein. The biggest obstacle to returning to training will be my lungs. Those will take the longest to recover and there is not a lot I can do other than take cough medicine, use my inhalers and give it time.

The last important thing I’ll do is take in electrolytes, huge amounts of them. This prevents swelling in the feet and anywhere else in the body. I like to come back to very light movement, cycling and swimming as soon as I’m able to. Cycling will come first, because I won’t be able to breathe well enough to swim for a while.

Mongolia's Budjargal Byambaa
Mongolia’s Budjargal Byambaa, men’s winner, and Viktoria Brown. Photo courtesy of Viktoria Brown

You’ve had an incredible season! What is up next?

Next up is the Kona Ironman World Championship in October, I’m very excited about that! Then I will have another Ironman and the Desert Solstice 24-hour race to finish off the year. My big goals for next year are to keep chasing that 6-day performance, to run the 48-hour and 6-day GOMU World Championships, the 24-hour IAU World Championships, to run Badwater 135 and to return to Kona.

Budjargal Byambaa of Mongolia was the men’s world champion and first place overall with 209 loops, or 333.43 km, and American Lisa DeVona finished as second woman with 312.69 km. You can learn more about the event here.

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