I’d heard of the “Endure 24” race before, though I knew absolutely nothing about it other than the obvious – that it was a 24 hour race. In my mind it was like Le Mans – the famous endurance car racing event which is coming up to it’s 100th year.
After I’d already signed up for both Race to the King and Race to the Stones I was asked by Charly to join her team – “Team Half Pints”, as they needed some more runners. I thought it was a bit close to RTTK, but I figured that it could be good training. I then agreed to join the team under the condition that I’d get to at least do a 25 or 30 mile block in addition to whatever other running they needed me to do. This brought the team up to:
- Charly (@_charly_b)
- Steve (@1stevemac)
- Kim (@kimberlyjmil)
- Stephanie (@wentrunning)
- David (@DavidNFLF1)
This would be the first race of 2017 that #TheDavids, which @DavidNFLF1 and myself are collectively known as by #UKRunChat on Twitter, would be doing the same event. After a few months had passed we sadly lost Kim and Stephanie from the team as they suffered with injuries. We were then unable to replace them before the April deadline. This would mean the four of us remaining in the team would need to increase the number of miles in order to make up the difference – an average of an extra two hours running each. This could potentially work okay for me though as if I wasn’t doing this event my goal would have been to do thirteen slow miles on the Saturday, and then thirty miles on the Sunday. There were a still things to sort though – for instance I had no idea where the race was, and hadn’t known there were multiple locations for it. Before the race I did at least learn that it was near Reading in a place called Wasing Park.
I’m not sure if training for Endure 24 is specifically required as realistically when you’re part of a team you’re doing five mile laps and have time to recover in between them. I think the closest training you could probably do for that is to run five miles (or however many laps you’re doing per block) and to then repeat this a little later in the day. My training hadn’t been ideal though, but this is something I’ll go into in more detail when I post about Race to the King and Race to the Stones. I would be going into this race having not completed more than 26.2 miles in a day, but having done 40-70 mile weeks during the build-up.
Training for Endure 24 isn’t something I’d even thought about – my only thoughts had been towards the “bigger” events, though as I got closer to Endure 24 I started to think about easing off on the training a little for the week before the event. I was also starting to really look forward to the day but the weather wasn’t looking good – we were forecast strong winds and lots of rain. Just what you want at the end of spring when you’re camping in a tent.
Kit and Equipment Lists
This was unlike any other race I’ve done – I needed camping gear for the weekend. Now camping is not something I’ve really done much of – I did it once at Silverstone with some friends when we watched the Renault World Series. They brought all the gear however as they already had it – I just needed a sleeping bag, airbed, and a pillow. My first week in Nepal could also be considered camping as well, but again a very different experience and was using equipment that had been ready set up by the Impact Marathons team. For Endure 24 I’d need to at least buy a tent, and would need to expand upon what sleeping gear I had.
My car isn’t particularly big, it’s only an MX-5 which is a fairly small car. Whatever would go with me to the event would need to fit in my boot (if you’re North American – that’s a trunk) along with my bag for work. What I eventually came up with is:
- Kelty Salida 2-person tent with footprint,
- Down 500 Sleeping bag,
- Sea to Summit Silk Liner for sleeping bag,
- Exped Air Pillow (with pillow case),
- BCB self-inflating sleeping mat,
- camping clothes line (for airing used running clothes),
- solar powered lantern,
- camping chair,
- picnic blanket,
- Swiss army knife,
- tissue paper,
- plenty of water.
In addition to camping gear, I obviously needed to take some running kit with me as well. It’s recommended by the organisers to take everything you own with you, though I decided I wouldn’t. What I instead decided was to take enough to last a few blocks under the assumption that I’d be able to do blocks of multiple laps instead of breaking them up too much. It would of course depend upon what the others wanted to do.
- 2 x Saucony Omni 15 trainers,
- Garmin ForeRunner 235,
- 1 x Salomon Agile² 7 Backpack with whistle and 2l reservoir,
- 1 x Technicals waterproof jacket,
- 1 x Peter Storm waterproof trousers,
- 1 x Unilite PS-H8 headtorch with new batteries,
- 3 x technical t-shirts,
- 2 x running shorts,
- 3 x running socks,
- 2 x Flipbelt,
- 1 x buff,
- 1 x running hoodie,
- and a small bag of jelly babies.
I’d of course have my mobile phone on me as well to provide some music whilst running, and so to supplement this I’d also have my USB power pack. The backpack is something I probably wouldn’t need, though I packed it just in case during the 25-30 mile block there was some hot weather – I may find I’d need some water. I also didn’t pack much food for when I wasn’t running either – my assumption was that I could get some reasonable cooked food from the catering services there. I was careful to pack my usual crunchy nut cornflakes for breakfast though – I felt some consistency was important.
Most people travelled to the event on the Friday morning – but I didn’t want the day off work so travelled in the evening. I started the day earlier than usual so I could leave the office at 15:00. The drive from the office to Reading could be anywhere between two to three hours, or maybe even longer if I stopped for food. I didn’t want to arrive too late though as upon arrival I’d still need to get my tent set-up. I’d tried it out the weekend before so I could do it quickly, however I figured it might take longer in the wind or rain.
After 2.5 hours and 100 miles later I arrived at Wasing Park. The entrances were well sign posted and I found the area the rest that half the team had already set-up in pretty quickly. It took ten minutes to get my tent set-up but then a further twenty minutes to figure out how to attach the guy ropes. Once everything was set-up inside my tent as well I then went for a wander around the race village to see what it was like, and to get some food.
The food options in the race village were very basic, more so than even some of the races I’ve done. After having wandered around the area for a while taking photographs I returned to our camp site to relax. An hour later I wandered around once more to see the start of the 1 mile race, and to say “hi” to @FiaCarter who was also running as part of another team.
Eventually the last of our team members arrived, and after @DavidNFLF1 had cooked his dinner everyone was ready for the day ahead.By 22:00 most of the light was gone from the sky, but the music of pre-race partying continued for some time after this. The temperature had also dropped so eventually I decided to call it a night and to see how warm my tent would be. I also took this time to figure out a way to suspend the lantern in my tent.
I awoke at 05:00 around the time that the sun rose. It was peaceful around, so I didn’t get up for a couple more hours. As I could be running I decided to go for my normal breakfast of crunchy nut cornflakes, a cup of tea, and a couple of biscuits. My flask by this time had cooled off which meant I had to buy some tea from the refreshments tent for £1.20. Around this time the others on the team started to awake and have breakfast.
It was a warm and sunny morning, but out of the sun it was windy and cold. This morning was a chance to make sure all our kit was ready for the running ahead of us. We also got a printed copy of our team’s schedule so we’d know roughly when we’d be running. My first planned run wasn’t until tomorrow, but there were gaps where I could potentially get in a run or two.
At 11:50 we all headed over to the start for the briefing and then cheered Charly as she started our team off. An hour later David took over and got around in under forty minutes, before being followed up by Steve who was going to do five back to back laps. As everyone came close to completing their fast lap I was ready with my camera to take photographs of them.
By the time Steve finished his fifth lap we were forty minutes ahead of schedule. David then set off on his second lap – unlike me and Steve he was splitting his thirty miles up across the twenty-four hours to get more of the Endure 24 experience. I decided I’d do the lap after him so headed over to the transition area and waited. Whilst there one of the ones that had just set off collapsed in the transition area, and needed to be helped out. Her teammates seemed more interested in getting another runner back to the pen to take over though. Sometimes competitiveness is too much – especially in an event like this which is about camaraderie – at best the competition should be amongst your teammates.
David finished his lap in around 36 minutes so I took over and started my watch for the first time this weekend. To start with the course goes along a tarmac path before it passed through an inflatable archway over some boarded up cattle-grids. This was the proper start to the race as the tarmac changed to gravel and started with a gentle climb up (referred to as the “Hill of No Return”) to a flat bit passed an old church. This was the first 1K complete.
Passed this it turns into a proper trail race through the trees, though for the next 1K a buggy carrying marshals was trying to overtake me, but even with me running on the grass verge it wouldn’t overtake for sometime. Eventually it did, but then found that running behind it was actually slowing me down. The marshals were looking out the back of it and smiling – perhaps in amusement that the buggy wasn’t going any faster than I was running.
A little after the first mile is complete it goes into a downhill stretch – a fast one they call “Pace Gully”. Apt name. Though this then has a sharp turn up “Little Steep” hill to 3K and into the “Far Away Forest”. At times this was making me think of Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest, and at other times it reminded me of hikes I’ve done in the US. I even wished someone a happy birthday as they had a sign on their back to say it was – what a way to celebrate!
Between miles 3 and 4 there is a VDUB Cocktail Bar – which I think was serving energy drinks, and the Cliff Bar Cafe which was serving water. Around this area there are a number of lakes you can look down on from the trail, and it became a bit of a welcome distraction. I’d chosen to run without music and I found other than the odd comparison of my surroundings to places I’d been before, I was for the most-part concentrating on getting passed slower moving traffic, a lot of which was walking. I was surprised how many people were walking, but then when it’s a 24 hour race I shouldn’t really be that surprised. It was difficult to pass in some places though when people walked side by side with no space for people to overtake unless they ran through the bushes.
After the 5K mark I was just approaching 22 minutes – it appeared that although I wasn’t pushing I was making relatively good time. The one thing I didn’t want to do was walk on this first lap, and I knew what was coming up next was the one part I might need to for – Heartbreak Hill. This was a long inclination that seemed to last for some time, but what made it harder was needing to weave through the masses of people walking up it. I tried my best not to slow, though eventually I decided it didn’t matter if I slowed down, as long as I didn’t walk.
Eventually I reached the top, out of breath, but I kept on going. By the time I was in the area labelled “Deep Dark Swamp” I’d caught my breath and was back to a steady pace that was easy to sustain. What followed required some concentration to avoid roots sticking out of the ground. In some ways it reminded me of Nepal, especially when the pace picked up for the downhill sections. There was then a bit that was windy and included some very sharp, short drops that I decided to jump down to avoid slowing.
I could then see the farm building and realised that I wasn’t far from the end now, and started to hear the music and crowds as I left the trees and started on the switchback behind one of the camping areas and then around towards the finish. After rounding the corner I decided I might as well use some speed, and built up to a sprint finish through the Mizuno arch. It wasn’t my fastest finish, but I just wanted to give my legs a bit of a stretch before tomorrow. The announcer commented on an incredibly strong finish this far into the race – little did he know it was actually my first lap and I was still quite fresh.
I handed the wristband over to David so he could set off on the last lap before sunset. Although we’d got some time left, we’d decided we’d all have a break before going out again. I went to the refreshments tent and bought pasta bolognese (it wasn’t spaghetti), a cake, and a bottle of Fanta. After this I had some more time to relax whilst I considered whether or not I wanted to go out on a night lap – it’d be a new experience for me. Even though I’ve ran at night with a head-torch a few times I’ve never raced at night. Common sense prevailed though and instead I decided to get some rest.
With some earplugs I was eventually able to sleep though the noise, though was woken up just after midnight by the rain. This carried on until around 04:00 and I heard that the course was now incredibly slippery. An hour later I gave up on trying to sleep and decided to have breakfast and tidy my tent. The advantage to this was that it would give me time to digest my breakfast long before I needed to run.
Just before I headed over to the refreshments tent for a cup of tea Charly had gone to meet Steve who was just finishing his extra three laps, and was with David who was going to take over for another. David had done another two laps over night spread out over several hours so had experienced the dark and the rain.
After emptying most of my tent into my car I found that although the rain had been stopped a few hours the long grass was drenching my running shoes. I hadn’t thought that through, but fortunately I’d still got a spare pair of running shoes and socks I could change into before taking over.
I then set off on the first of what I hoped would be six laps – a total of 30 miles. Or it would have been if the course wasn’t short by about 0.2 miles. I set off at a slower pace than my lap the day before as I knew it was going to be difficult. In fact, I decided to walk each of the three main hills on every lap thinking that would improve my chances of doing the laps I wanted to.
This first lap felt relatively easy, though I could still feel the previous day’s efforts in my legs. The track was far muddier than it had been, and this made “Little Steep” and “Heartbreak Hill” take more effort. In fact, on this first lap I was going around fast enough to slide in the mud as I rounded the corner of that hill. The run through the section with the tree roots was just as fun, and by the time I finished the first lap I was having fun. For the first time I ran straight through the finish and carried on into my second lap.
This lap was slower than the last, and there were a couple more moments when I walked. Fortunately it was still early so hadn’t yet warmed up too much. This second lap of the day was also quieter than the lap I did the day before, even the VDUB bar hadn’t started up yet. During this lap I started to eat one jelly baby per mile – my usual race plan when racing marathons. I was starting to feel some fatigue though, and as I finished my second lap I started to calculate in my head what sort of pace I’d need to manage in order to get another 4 laps done.
The third lap went pretty similar to the second lap, but by now it was starting to get warm. It seemed that the overnight rain hadn’t eliminated the humidity either. The bits of the trail that had been muddy before were now even more churned up as more runners were returning to the course. I found I needed to walk a little more than before on this lap and I started to wonder if I could complete another three. I was almost halfway though and couldn’t give up – this was training for Race to the King; something one of the signs on the course reminded me of. I figured if I couldn’t run this then I couldn’t run that.
My fourth lap was incredibly hard work, but I was still running for reasonable sections of it. When I started my fifth lap I was seriously considering making it my last as I started to walk for about 75% of the course. This would take me up to 25 miles for the day, and 30 for the event. It didn’t seem too bad really. Maybe I didn’t need to finish another. When I finished this fifth lap it was only 11:20 – there was time for another so reluctantly I carried on going though this time I got my phone out of my backpack and decided to walk the entire lap to take photographs along the way.
I tried to run a couple of times but my legs weren’t really that keen on the idea. I was struggling to finish 30 miles; it wasn’t like I was trying to do 53 or even 62. Eventually though the end was in sight and I decided to run, and then decided I’d try to go for a sprint finish.
Finally, I finished another lap. The race was over and I could at least be happy I’d done more laps than originally planned. I think I may have done the fastest lap in our team, and possibly the longest single block of laps as well. Steve managed to clock up the most miles having done around 40 miles over the 24 hours.
When I finished I handed over the chip timer and they placed the medal around my neck. Though all I was really thinking about now was Race to the King. Though this was replaced with thoughts of getting my tent down (thanks Steve and Charly for the hand!) and driving the two hours home.
The other David seemed to be filled with endless energy and seemed to love every minute of the weekend. He was also the only one of us who went for the more traditional approach of doing one lap at a time, yet still managed to get six laps in over the period. I think we all have a big thank you to Charly for putting the team together and making sure we were all organised.