Wow, what an exciting weekend I’ve just had at Endure24- a fantastic event held in Wasing Park near Newbury. This was my third time here, but my first as a solo runner. The concept is pretty simple: the race runs from 12:00 Saturday until 12:00 Sunday and you run as many 5 mile laps as possible. I’ve competed before as a team of 8 (running 4 laps over the course of the race) and in 2015 I ran 60 miles as part of a mixed pair- we ended up finishing 4th with 120 miles between us. So the plan this year was to see what it would be like to run on my own as a solo. Fortunately I knew quite a few others competing in the event and so there were lots of friendly faces en route to keep me sane. My target was 80 miles, which was 15 further than I’ve ever been before and so I was a bit concerned about how this would go. I find it difficult to cover huge mileage in training as many ultra-running plans would recommend as I suffer with back problems and particularly my SI joint can become quite inflamed. This means that I have to supplement a lot of my running for cross training of various types, mainly swimming, cycling and British Military Fitness classes. My back had actually flared up a little in the week prior to Endure 24 after a longish run in the Lake District and a tough fell race, and so I went into the race a little nervous about how things would be as I hadn’t run at all for 8 days and was hoping that some intensive physio treatment would work its magic! Happily, I didn’t suffer too much, although I’m feeling very stiff now and definitely in need of a week off and some massages!
The conditions for the race were pretty unpleasant- sticky and humid… I’m quite a sweaty person anyway and so this sort of weather is my least favourite for running and I definitely felt like dehydration was a distinct possibility, despite the precautions taken. Initially I was planning to just carry a small hand bottle to reduce weight, but I opted to take my full camelbak instead as I knew that I would need to drink plenty to stop myself getting dehydrated. This meant that I only needed to stop and fill up my water (plus Tailwind sachets containing calories and electrolytes) every twenty miles.
The route is an undulating trail through the woods, which at least means that it doesn’t become too repetitive. The worst part is probably the aptly named ‘Heartbreak Hill’ at around the 5km mark, which is a little soul destroying, especially in the middle of the night.
However, the brilliant V-Dub Lucozade bar, with its pumping music, does help to spur runners up! The marshals are all fantastic and really do help, as do all the other runners, encouraging each other on. My first 60 miles felt pretty good, I opted for running at an easy pace and walking the hills and also managed to pair up with some friends for a couple of laps which was a real boost. I survived mainly on Tailwind, but a good old PB & J sandwich and a couple of satsumas gave me an extra surge of energy at around 40 miles. I found that splitting the 24 hours down a useful tactic, so I worked in 2 lap increments and promised myself some sort of reward at the end of each pair of laps. After 60 miles my reward was a 30 minute break where I grabbed a quick shower and a full kit change. This seemed to help and I was hopeful that I could get my 80 miles done and dusted by the early hours of the morning where I could then finish, get my medal and go to bed.
However, the wheels started to come off on lap 15… I was finding it difficult to run, or even walk, without wobbling all over the place. I felt dizzy and sick and could not contemplate ‘just one more lap’. At this stage I realised that I probably should have eaten something more substantial than a couple of sandwiches and that the tiredness (and the dark) was really getting to me. I decided to get in my tent and have a sleep. I figured that I only had one more lap to complete to get to 80 and, as long as I set off before 12:00, that was achievable. After about an hour’s sleep and a talking to from my friend’s dad who was crewing for us, I felt much more positive and set out on lap 16. I then realised that I had time to fit a couple more in, and the sleep and a banana had energised me. In the end I managed 18 laps- so 90 miles in total!
This was enough to put me in 8th place out of 71 finishers in the ladies’ competition, which I was over the moon with!! I had exceeded my original target by 10 miles. The last half a km was probably one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had running, the crowd were so encouraging that it was difficult to stop myself from crying! Even worse, as I crossed the finish line the MASSIVE blister on my foot burst, which definitely produced a few tears!
So what is next? Well, in two weeks I have the Race to the King Ultramarathon- 53ish miles on the South Downs from Arundel to Winchester. At this moment in time I could happily never run again, so its going to be a case of resting up, getting my hip and back into working order and getting some swimming and Pilates sessions in to help with mobility! Happy running folks 🙂