Christine Barrett – women’s six day races – part 4 – May 1984

British ultrarunner Christine Barrett competing at the Stoke-on-Trent six day race 1984

This is part four of a series of posts about the development of women’s six day races from 1981 onwards. The series documents the women who set the world record for six days. In 1981, Marcy Schwam of the USA became the first woman to compete in a six day race since the revival of the format in 1980. Her “new era” record of 384 miles was broken in 1982 by 23-year-old British runner, Ros Paul, with a distance of 407 miles 741 yards. In 1983, Eleanor Adams extended the record a little when she ran 409 miles 1178 yards. 1984 was the stellar year for women’s six day racing. The record changed hands five times. British ultrarunner Christine Barrett was the first of the four women played a part in driving up the record by 91 miles. 

Summary of the world record progression

Christine Barrett – May 1984 – Stoke on Trent

Christine Barrett ultrarunner competing in a six day race in 1984. She is wearing a maroon vest and shorts with dark tights underneath and pink legwarmers. She wears a dark visor with the words Bud Light and white gloves. She has a number 18 attached to her vest. She has a Walkman attached to a waist belt and headphones in her ears. Bottom right it says "Christine Barrett is wired for sound as she pads around the Trentham Gardens circuit".

Christine Barrett at Trentham Gardens. Photo: Ian Weightman, Marathon & Distance Runner, August 1984

Christine Barrett already had an impressive endurance history as a triathlete when she started ultrarunning in 1983. She had completed two Hawaii Ironman Triathlons, other triathlons and several marathons. She was a member of Gloucester AC, a club with several top class male ultrarunners. Barrett’s first ultra was the Road Runners Club’s 54-mile London to Brighton race on 25th September 1983 where she finished third in 7:25.16. Eight months later, on 14th April 1984, she set a 100 mile world record at a road race at Forthampton in Gloucestershire. Her time of 15:07.45 was 22 minutes faster than the previous road record set by American Donna Hudson in June 1983. 

In a profile in the Road Runners Club newsletter, Barrett admitted to being embarrassed to be asked about her training schedule, saying that she just ran when she felt like it.

I believe that after the first 20-30 miles most of it is mental, and maybe this is my strong point. My philosophy has always been that of a fun runner and always will be. I don’t think I could ever become a 100-130 mile-a-week injury prone robot. There are just [too] many interests in life, my husband, family, working farming etc., etc.

Barrett was habitually described as a housewife but mentions in the article that she was a part-time instructor at a local gym.

The Trentham Gardens Six Day Race

The Italianate Gardens at Trentham Gardens. There are gravel paths and formal borders with grass and plants. A path goes straight ahead to a large round border and then continues down to a lake in the distance. Beyond the lake there are woods.

Trentham Italianate Gardens, photographed in 2015, Alamy Stock Photo (purchased)

The results of the Stoke-on-Trent 6 day race held in May 1984

The Trentham Gardens Six Day Race took place from 20th to 26th May 1984 in the Italianate gardens at Trentham Park, near Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands. The course was a 450 metre tarmac lap. The race was part of a Great Britain Sport and Leisure Festival Exhibition held at the Gardens. International runners included Don Choi, holder of the US record, and Trishul Cherns, holder of the Canadian record. One of the British runners was Mike Newton who had set the world record at the 1981 Charles Rowell Six Day Race in Nottingham. Another was 61-year-old Norman Paul, the father of Ros Paul, the former holder of the women’s record. There were just two women in the race: Barrett, who was 35, and Beverly Nolan of the USA (born 1934) who had competed at Nottingham in 1982 and 1983.

The weather was mixed with rain and cool temperatures for most of the race and this affected most of the runners’ performances. The race attracted a lot of spectators and Central TV filmed the finish. Mike Newton won the men’s race with 516 miles 1284 yards, making him the first man in modern times to have run further than 500 miles three times. Christine Barrett won the women’s race with 421 miles 1320 yards, 12 miles further than the record Eleanor Adams had set at Nottingham in August 1983. Beverly Nolan ran 216 miles 968 yards.

Mike Newton admitted in an interview that he and Don Choi had irritated each other during the race.

The only thing we did agree on was that Christine Barrett is the best woman ultra distance runner we had ever seen.

Christine runs in a very relaxed fashion which lends itself admirably to mega-marathons. And, to me it seemed that she handled the hard surface of the course better than the men. Probably her main attribute is that she has the confidence in her ability to get on the track and keep going at a respectable pace for hours without a break. There is no doubt, in my mind, that from 100 miles upwards there is no woman runner to touch her.

The next ultrarunner in this story is American Mary Hanudel.


Summary of the world record progression

“Christine Re-writes the Record Book”, Maurice Dillon, Marathon and Distance Runner, August 1984

“Another World Record for Christine Barrett”, Ultrarunning magazine, July/August 1984

“Christine Barratt”, Road Runners Club newsletter, January 1985

Donna Hudson, American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame

Christine Barrett’s listing on the Deutsche Ultramarathon Vereinigung (DUV) website.

Gloucester AC’s website has a comprehensive section on the club’s ultrarunning history which includes local newspaper reports.



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