A VET who only took up running five years ago has become the fastest woman this year to complete one of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons.

Emma Stuart, 33, who has the nickname ‘The Running Vet’ pounded through the Alps for an astonishing 82 hours to complete the 350km race.

She took time out from her work at Paragon where she specialises in looking after cattle and sheep to compete in the famous Tor des Geants around the Aosta Valley in Italy.

About 1,300 people set off in the race, with only about 650 of those crossing the finish line.

The race also boasts some of the highest elevations in a race – with runners completing the equivalent of more than three times the height of Everest during the 330km race.

“They say 330km, but I did it and it’s actually 350km,” insists Emma. “It’s super tough: you’re dealing with altitude up to 3,200m, and you can have extremes of weather as well – there was no snow this year, but there has been in previous races.

Cumberland & Westmorland Gazette: TRIUMPH: Emma on the podium in ItalyTRIUMPH: Emma on the podium in Italy (Image: Supplied)

“It’s a non-stop race. Once the gun goes the timing chip doesn’t stop until you cross the finishing line. Your sleep and resting periods have to be strategic.

“Every time you stop, time goes against you. There’s a lot of strategy involved; it’s about being clever and smart as well, not just about fitness.”

Emma has been a vet for nine years, but has worked for Paragon just over a year.

With a string of trophies and awards to her name, you would be forgiven for assuming Emma had been running for decades. However, as she herself admits, she discovered her natural affinity for long-distance running almost by accident.

“I started running in 2018, she explains, “because my partner James Chapman really enjoyed running.

“He then wanted to do an ultra run and so we signed up to it together. That was in 2019 on the Isle of Man, and was my first foray into ultra running – it was 50km. I loved it and caught the bug then."

Cumberland & Westmorland Gazette: The ultra marathon takes places in the beautiful Italian AlpsThe ultra marathon takes places in the beautiful Italian Alps (Image: Supplied)

Just two weeks later Emma took home the first lady prize at an ultra marathon in Keswick, and she knew she was hooked.

Ultra-running can be an expensive hobby, so as Emma’s passion grew, so did the need to promote herself on social media and create a following.

She recalls: “I didn’t really know what name to pick, but I’m very proud of my job, and so I chose The Running Vet.

“I absolutely love my job and love working for Paragon. If I can showcase not just running, but my life as a vet as well, showing other vets who get bogged down and struggle with work-life balance that they can have a fulfilling career and a life outside work, that makes a big difference.

“I want the normal average person to realise you can have an almost full-time job doing something you enjoy, and succeed at a hobby or pastime or sport as well. It’s hard to get the balance right sometimes, but it is possible.

Cumberland & Westmorland Gazette: Emma Stuart, the fastest woman to complete the ultraEmma Stuart, the fastest woman to complete the ultra (Image: Supplied)

“Finding the right job is vital,” Emma continues. “Paragon is it: it’s my dream job and they’ve been so supportive and accommodating. Being willing to consider my interests and allow me to take the time off, that makes a huge difference.

“There’s plenty of other jobs I wouldn’t be able to do the training I need: working four days a week also helps. I can train really hard on my day off. Our on-call rota is really good, which means I have more weekends free to train how I want and don't feel as if I'm always tied to the practice."

Looking ahead, Emma is making a decision on whether to take up her qualifying place in the UTMB at Mont Blanc in August next year -  one of the most competitive events in the ultra race calendar, and the so-called ‘grand finale’ of ultras.