On 30th June 2012 I took part in the Endure24 ultrarunning event, starting at noon on the Saturday and running round 5 mile loops as many times as possible for 24 hours.
A bunch of people had asked how far I thought I would cover, and I told them 70 to 80 miles, but secretly I harboured aspirations of covering 100 miles. A little ambitious maybe, considering the furthest I’d covered so far was 40 miles at the Compton Download Challenge, but that magical figure of 100 miles in 24 hours was niggling away at the back of my mind.
The training, up to the event, had been okay. I had been running every day (runstreak) mostly averaging 50 mile weeks, with an 80 mile week when I had done a couple of long back to backs. Although, in the 4 weeks leading up to the event I had been doing mostly 4 and 5 milers with a 12 to 16 miler at the weekend – I really should have put a few more longer runs into the schedule.
Anyway, I arrived at the event at 11am, giving myself plenty of time for registration and sorting out my kit in the car (I brought way too much kit, but I was planning for more rain that we got). Registration was quick and efficient – race number, timing chip and a wrist band, then at 11:45 there was a quick race briefing as we all huddled in the event tents to avoid a short sharp shower that had just started (and that thankfully cleared before we started)
We all lined up on the start line, 12:00 arrived and we all set off. 500 metres along a single track road which then headed uphill for a 100 metres or so and then onto a wide track for a bit before heading into a single track path. After half a mile or so this single path opened up to bridleways for the next few miles, then it was up a couple hilly sections (which felt brutal in the later laps) and back down the side of a grassy field back towards the start area. Coming into the camping area there was a taped off zigzag route that had to be followed back and forward for half a mile – I really didn’t like this area, it felt artificial and not in keeping with the rest of the route. I understand why it was done, team events need to let members see that their running is coming in so the next runner can be ready – but fir the solo runners it was pretty soul destroying running up and down a field 3 times.
For aid stations there was water available just before the 3 mile point and there was the start / camping area – no real aid station there, but teams had tents and solo runners had there cars etc. I would have liked to have seen a water station at least for the solo runners as we ran through. Don’t get me wrong there was plenty of facilities there (24 hr food, snack, shop etc) but it meant stopping to get anything.
Anyway, to start with I was running well – maybe a little too fast at sub 9 minute miles and running up the hills rather than walking them, but as is usual I was carried away with the excitement.I did 4 laps talking to a bunch of other people that I had seen at the Compton 40 and from the local area. As I was finishing the fourth lap my brother turned up so I took 10 mins to have a chat while scoffing some pasta and then headed off again. From the second lap onwards I took the initial 100m hill as an opportunity to tweet my progress and review responses / comments – this support really helped me mentally.
I hadn’t planned very well and didn’t really have any gels or snacks on my person, as I thought about this it was clearly a mistake – stopping, heading off to the car, finding what I wanted and getting back onto the course would easily take 5 mins. So, I stopped for a few minutes at the end of 6 laps to stock up a little, sort myself out and make sure I had everything I needed, before heading out for another couple of laps.
At the end of 8 laps I had been going for 40 miles (in a new PB of 7:22) and was still feeling okay. At this point it was still quite light but the rules said everyone had to wear a headtorch from 7:30pm, so I nipped off to grab that and cracked on again.
The next lap was okay, 45 miles done, and I briefly stopped to change into a warmer top as the sun had gone down and it was getting a bit colder. The 10th lap was were it got tough. I had a few hot spots on my feet by now, and they were feeling a bit battered, but I still had energy and was running (pretty slowly) most of the route, just walking the hills. Somewhere on this lap things began to fall apart – I got a really painful blister on my left little toe, the whole thing felt blistered and the soles of my feet just felt completely bruised and painful all over with every step. My progress plummeted to a hobble at best and my head went down…
By the end of this lap I was pretty battered but over the moon mentally – I was thinking about having done 50 miles in 10 hours, leaving me a massive 14 hours to do the other 50 that I had my mind set on. As it turns out this was way over optimistic given my condition.
I set off on lap 11 right away and things had deteriorated into a hobbling shuffle, but the end of this lap I was in a lot of pain, so I nipped off to the car, lay on my sun lounger for 30 minutes with my sleeping bag over me as having stopped I was now shivering uncontrollably. After 30 minutes I changed my shorts for tracksters, sorted out my blisters as best I could, put on some clean socks and at just after 1am headed out on lap 12.
By now I was thinking about trying to power walk at about 1.5 hrs per lap, 11 hrs left so I could hopefully cover 6, maybe 7 more laps.
It was not to be, two more very slow laps of pain and I had to stop at 5am just as it was getting light. 65 miles covered, I was thinking I could rest up for a couple of hours and still have 4 hrs to hopefully cover another 3 laps.
I lay on the lounger, in my sleeping bag, with a picnic blanket draped over me in case it rained and shut my eyes for a couple of hours, then got up, saw to my blisters again, got some clean socks on again and headed of for again – to start with every step was agony, aggravating my blisters, but I got into a kind of limping rhythm and pushed the pain to the back of my mind. By now I couldn’t even hold my head and shoulders up, and everyone that passed me was checking I was okay.
I managed 2 more laps, taking me to 75 miles, which I finished in 23:41:16.
There was also official photographers at the event from Marathon Photos, which was great, and reasonably priced – I got 25 high quality digital images for £24.99.
As for my performance, I did 15 laps (75 miles) in 23:41:16 which, considering it was almost twice the furthest distance I had ever run before, I should have been happy with – but, and I know I’m being unduly hard on myself, I am disappointed I didn’t do the 20 laps I wanted.
I was 14th out of the 31 solo runners.
- Take care of blisters early, as soon as they start.
- Even in a loop event take supplies out with you, to prevent frequent stops.
- More training – particularly time on feet.
- SIS Superhydro Electrolyte powder worked really well for me – no cramps, easy to carry but a little difficult to open with sweats hands.
- I can get by without eating too much on long events – a couple of SIS carb / energy bars and ‘Elevensies’ is enough when supplemented with a few gels
- A change of socks is the best luxury ever
Finally, will I go back next year ? Not sure yet, I have a 100 miler in March next year and that’s my a race, depending on how I do there I may go back and give this one another bash.