Photo: James Pike

Photo: James Pike

 Long distance runner reveals the unusual secret of his success.


The successful formula for the winner of Sunday’s London to Brighton ‘ultra’ race is Coca-cola and Jaffa Cakes.


Stuart Mills, 45, from East Hoathly, finished the 56 mile race in less than eight hours, one hour and 41 minutes ahead of the runner up and first woman to finish, Annabel Stearns.


Mills discovered his winning formula six weeks earlier in another ‘ultra’ race – an ‘ultra’ is any run longer than a marathon – and it certainly did the trick on Sunday.


At the last race he had been using what he describes as “scientifically proven bars and isotonic drinks that cost lots of money,” which a friend delivered to him at each drink station. At one of the stations about halfway round the course there was no sign of his friend, so Mills had to make do with what was there, namely Coca-cola and Jaffa Cakes.


“I just went ‘zing!’” said Mills, and decided, “Stuff the expensive ones.” Apparently he likes the texture and size of the popular ‘cakes’ and says that the carbohydrate and caffeine contained in cola drinks can help the body keep going in endurance events, although he would only recommend it as part of a healthy diet and exercise regime, of course.


Although 207 people registered to take part in the race, thanks to the miserable weather conditions only about 125 showed up, with 81 dogged runners completing the punishing course.


The weather on the day affected all the runners. “It slowed everyone down,” said organiser Denis Rice. “People were up to their knees in mud at places and paths have been turned to rivers.”


He admitted that the rain had affected numbers, but said: “Despite the weather it has been fantastic. These runners are absolutely incredible people.”


Rice pointed out that the course, run across the North and South Downs and the Wield, is significantly harder than the London to Brighton road race that has taken place in previous years.


It is the first time that the race has been run cross-country and the first year that Rice has been in charge of the event, although he has taken part in the old road race as a runner. When asked whether he prefers running or organising, Rice, who got up at 2am on the day of the race, said: “Definitely running. It’s easier and much less stressful.”


Mills certainly took it all in his stride. He described his time for the London to Brighton run as “slower than expected.” Mills is fighting fit and has been running 45 miles a week for the past 20 weeks. He had run this course before, albeit broken up into 3 smaller sections, and had been aiming for under seven and a half hours, but given the conditions said that he was happy with less than eight.


After a recovery massage from Box Genesis, he joked: “I feel like I could do it all again.”