Edit Berces: three world records in 24 hours


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by Aniko Kapornaki and Aron Hegyi (extrem.hu), the organizers of the event
Edit BercesEdit Berces had never run on a treadmill for an ultramarathon distance. In fact, she does not use the treadmill for training. When we (at extrem.hu) found an article about Karl Graf's 24-hour treadmill record, we asked the elite Hungarian ultrarunners, whether any one of them is interested in breaking the record. Edit Berces, the Female Ultrarunner of the Year 2002, agreed to give it a try, if we organize the event and the only thing she has to do is running.

That is exactly what happened. To make the event more interesting for the media, we asked about two dozen Hungarian sportsmen and celebrities to take part in the so-called Star Relay. The main task of the relay was to divert Edit's attention from the monothony of the treadmill running by just being around, talking to her.

The site of the event was the Fit 4 Fun fitness center in Budapest. One of the rooms was emptied, three brand new Johnson T8000 treadmills were taken into the room, one for Edit, one as an emergency substitute and one for the Star Relay. As the Guinness Treadmill Guidelines orders, standard treadmill exercise fitness machines were used. That meant that we had to restart the machines in every 90 minutes, because even the expert of the Hungarian distributor of the machines could not decode that stop mechanism. It was a huge problem for Edit, because she had to slow down, suspend her deep concentration ("come out of her tunnel").

The restart also meant that we had to pay extra careful attention to the recording of the event. Two cameras were used: one static, which was rolling behind Edit, recording her running and also showing the monitor of the treadmill and one of the official watches. The other camera was recording the tape changes and the 15 restars, each taking about 3 seconds. Only one person was allowed to touch the monitor of the treadmill (besides Edit) and to touch the static camera.

The official start of the run was 6:02 pm on March 8th, 2004. She was able to chat for the first 12 hours. The second half was tougher for her. She said that "I felt like a caged bird, who will be freed only after 24 hours. After eleven hours I did not even see the end of the tunnel. I was not prepared to run for another 13 hours. I switched off the outside world, and concentrated only on running." Throughout the 24 hours, she used four rest breaks "for hygenic reasons", but she not even once stepped off the treadmill.

After the 13th hour, the math class began. Edit's two helpers, Oliver Grof and Gyula Lestyan did the math for her. She told them that she felt strong enough to go for Serge Arbona's 100-mile record. After the 13th hour, (in the 14th) she did 11.1 kms, in the following hour, she did 11.5 kms. (Her total average was an astonishing 10.3 km) After 14 hours 15 minutes and 8 seconds, she became the new world record holder on 100 miles. It was her sheer determination, which led her to the new record. It gave her confidence to go for another two records: she broke the women's 24-hour record, the 181.3 km set by Christine Sextl on March 6-7, 2004 after 16 hours 9 minutes and 51 seconds.

She had another 8 hours to go for the male record. Edit is the world record holder on track in 24 hours with 250.106 km, but she needed a much stronger will power and determination to go for the same distance on a treadmill, a completely new territory for her. After having run 20 hours and feeling strong, Edit said that "ok, enough of jogging, now I will start running".

A main helper for Edit's fantastic run was the weather and Edit's huge experience. Edit paid an extra careful attention to David Deubelbeiss's and Monica Scholz's February 12-13 attempt. David suffered a heat stroke after the 20th hour. Edit did not want to fall into the same trap, so she ordered us to open all the doors in the room. The "Welcome to Alaska. The temperature of the room is 9 degrees Celsius. Please, take on your coat, gloves and hat, unless you are running. Thank you. The organizers." was posted on the entrance for a good reason. While the helpers, the time keepers, the witnesses, the reporters were all dressed up, Edit was running in a short and a T-shirt. She was hardly sweating. It was her decision to run in 9 degrees C, while it was snowing outside, and we respected her decision.

For the last hour, the most famous Hungarian Ironman, Peter Kropko stepped on the Relay treadmill, following Rita Pesuth, the six-times kick-box World Champion. Peter is one of Edit's favorite sportsman, and he was one of the few people, to whom she was willing to talk to. Peter used all his sportterapeutic skills to enter her closed world. Edit reached Serge Arbona's World Record after 23 hours, 27 minutes and 21 seconds. By that time the room was filled with cameramen and reporters, who were pussing and shoving for the best spots in front of the treadmills. She decided to "take it easy" for the last half an hour, not overstreching her limits. She was walking and chatting with Peter and the reporters. The camerashy Edit became a media star. The reporters, most of whom had not even known that ultra running exists, understood what she has achieved and were humbled by her three world records. Answering a question, she told the benumbed reporters that she was only using this event as a preparation for her run around the Lake Balaton, a darling project of hers.


(source: extremelife.hu)
after hour 1: 11.3 km
after hour 2: 23.5 km (12.2 km in the last hour)
after hour 3: 35.4 km (11.9 km in the last hour)
after hour 4: 47.4 km (12.0 km in the last hour)
after hour 5: 58.9 km (11.5 km in the last hour)
after hour 6: 70.8 km (11.9 km in the last hour)
after hour 7: 82.2 km (11.4 km in the last hour)
after hour 8: 93.3 km (11.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 9: 104.4 km (11.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 10: 115.2 km (10.8 km in the last hour)
after hour 11: 125.3 km (10.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 12: 136.1 km (10.8 km in the last hour)
after hour 13: 146.8 km (10.7 km in the last hour)
after hour 14: 157.9 km (11.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 15: 169.4 km (11.5 km in the last hour)
after hour 16: 179.5 km (10.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 17: 188.4 km (8.9 km in the last hour)
after hour 18: 199.4 km (11.0 km in the last hour)
after hour 19: 208.2 km (8.8 km in the last hour)
after hour 20: 215.3 km (7.1 km in the last hour)
after hour 21: 224.7 km (9.4 km in the last hour)
after hour 22: 233.0 km (8.3 km in the last hour)
after hour 23: 241.4 km (8.4 km in the last hour)
after hour 24: 247.2 km (5.8 km in the last hour)

Treadmill World Record List