WHEN Paul Oliver was at primary school, one of his reports said he had the potential to become a good runner.

Last week, the 31-year-old St Neots athlete won the 156-mile Trans Britain ultra marathon - beating his nearest rival by seven hours!

The crew commander from St Neots fire station told The Hunts Post: "It was my headmaster at Winghills, Mr Fuller, who suggested I take up running because I didn't like playing football.

"He sent me out on the cross country course and I have been passionate about running ever since."

Oliver completed the gruelling six-day race in a time 25 hours 54 minutes 31 seconds. That was a new course record and Tom Perry, who was second, crossed the line in a time of 33.00.37. It is a record that is unlikely to be broken any time soon.

"I began running ultra marathons when my brother David, 38, had cancer some years ago. Now David is an ultra marathon runner too - and so is his wife Kirsty," he said.

Kirsty, 43, who was 11th in the Trans Britain and the first female to finish the course ... in a new record time.

Oliver continued: "I won the Trans Britain last year but this year I was determined to smash the record. Earlier this year I won the Adidas Thunder Run and the Pembrokeshire Ultra. Now my focus is to step up my racing and try to compete with the best in Europe."

The Trans Britain race, organised by a company called Go Beyond, is the United Kingdom's premier multi-day 'ultra' event, and is six days of running over some of the country's most famous peaks. During the race, the 15 competitors climbed a staggering 6,500 metres.

Beginning in Gretna in Scotland, stage one was a 36-mile mile run to Caldbeck in Cumbria.

After a night sleeping under the stars in their one-man tents, it was back on with their packs for the next stage, 24 miles from Caldbeck to Mell Fell in the Lake District. After that it was Mell Fell to Rydal (also in the Lake District, 20 miles), Rydal to Dentdale (Lake District, 34 miles), Dentdale to Stainforth (South Yorkshire, 26 miles), and the final 18 miles from Bersham (Wrexham, Wales) to Ruthin Castle in Denbighshire, Wales.

Despite his formidable time, it wasn't all a breeze for Oliver, who said: "The third stage was the toughest - it was over seven peaks. The steepest one was 800 metres. But that was also the most enjoyable day - that why I love doing ultra marathons."

Oliver is a member the St Neots' based Riverside Runners club and won their centenary 10k last month - but he admits he isn't at his best over a normal marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

"Ultra marathon running is 30 percent physical and the rest is mental. It's all about intelligence. A good marathon runner doesn't necessarily make a good ultra marathon runner and vice versa."