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Endure 24 is a relay team race in Wasing Park, Reading. A friend had done it twice before and asked in October if I wanted to do it. I’ve never done one before so jumped at the chance and within hours we had a team of 5 ladies. Signed up a few days later when the race entry opened.
2 weeks before race day we had a team meeting dinner to discuss our plans. 2 of the team had done it before so had some very useful tips. Our meeting was mainly about what to bring, bin bags, sleeping bags, BBQ’s, toilet rolls, tents, lots and lots of comfort food and basically our entire running gear. We didn’t do too much talking about the actual running but felt we were fully prepared anyway.
The relay race started at noon on Saturday. We got there Friday afternoon, set up camp. An hour later the tents were up, fairly lights were up, chairs were up and we had the kettle on. Then we went to the event village to pick up our chips, race numbers and information. The volunteer asked us for our team name and our captain said “Got the runs”, she sort of nodded and went to the box of envelopes. And was surprised when she found us!!
“Got the runs” looking relaxed and ready before the race started
That evening the main talk was about the race and every sentence ended with either “It’s only 5 miles” or “It’s only for 24 hours”. We wrote down a running schedule, giving us 55 minutes on average to do each lap. We did this just to give us an idea of when we would be running during the 24 hours. After each person finished we wrote down the time so we knew roughly what time the next person would finish. We really didn’t want to be waiting to pass on the baton or even worse, doing another lap! The system worked well 🙂
We all got a good night sleep and woke up early to the sound of runners having breakfast and talking. There was a mention of doing Reading parkrun in the morning, but we decided it would be sensible not to do it as we kind of needed all the energy we could get. It was a long morning. We seemed to be waiting around and eating. I was trying to eat sensibly and not over eat. I was going around 2.45pm so I had a long way to go and could eat breakfast and lunch.
My first lap
At last it was time, we all went to the start line and I was amazed how many people were doing it. Teams of 3,4,5,6,7 and 8’s as well as solos and duos. The countdown begun and seconds later they were off..all of them
I still had almost 3 hours to wait. So back to the camp to chill and have a bit of food. I thought this bit would take forever but there was always someone getting ready, recovering, eating or chilling. Claire was next to go so she was getting ready, I decided to walk down to the village with her so I could watch the wristband change over. It seemed straight forward and easy enough but best to check it over first. Lisa came home and the change over was nice and smooth, Claire went off, Lisa came back to camp and then Nat started to get ready. Lisa gave us the low-down on the course, watch out for the roots, “heartbreak” hill is tough but walk it, not muddy etc. When Claire came back that was my queue to get ready. I really didn’t want to be late for Nat so I think I got there 20 minutes early! The wristband change over that looked nice and straight forward whist I was watching wasn’t as straight forward when you are in the crowd. I’m not that tall so couldn’t see over people and there was no need to get to the front as I knew she wouldn’t be coming in for a while. So I ended up deploying a side to side movement to get a good constant view of runners coming in.
There she is!!! I weaved my way to the front “excuse me, excuse me” then shouted Nat’s name – I really didn’t want to be shouting our team name in a crowded area. I got the wristband from over the barrier, weaved my way back through the crowd and headed off onto the course – finally. After getting round the first bend out of the campsite I hit a hill! There is nothing like a nice steep hill to get the heart rate going so early on. It did flatten out a bit, then went up again. After 1.67 miles I was knackered, I was trying to take it easy but when I looked at my watch and saw I hadn’t even done 2 miles I was a bit worried. But I kept saying “It’s only 5 miles” , “It’s only 5 miles”. I soon got into my rhythm and was enjoying the course, especially flying down the long downhills. At mile 4 I came to Heartbreak hill. I decided to run it if I could, there were a lot of people running part then walking. I managed to steadily run the whole thing, then recover on the flat. I knew from here it wasn’t far and there should be a fun downhill part….it was. It was a single track, soft underfoot with some nice large roots showing which you had to take care over – that will be fun on the night run. The final part was running on the grass through the solo camp area and back round to the start/finish line. All I had to do was hand over the wristband. It’s easy for one person to look out for one person when there aren’t many people around – so when I was looking out for Nat I spotted her easily. It’s harder when one person is staring at a crowd of runners, some waving (are they waving at me??) and some shouting. At first I couldn’t see Zoe and had that brief panic that she hadn’t made it in time. We did have a team vote that if someone hadn’t shown up in time then don’t under any circumstances do another lap, wait or start walking back to the camp. My “panic” lasted all of 2 seconds and then I saw Zoe. Handed over the wristband, and off back to camp for change of clothes, food, drink and chats. Lisa was then getting ready to go for her second lap….already!
I enjoyed the route, I was pleased with my time as I didn’t want to push too hard – I did have another 4 laps to do. For my second lap I decided to go quicker. I wouldn’t be able to push it on the night run and the last 2 laps I would probably be tired so I may as well go for it. The second lap I did 2 minutes quicker and was really pleased with it, I won’t be doing any better than that. I finished that lap at 8:05 pm, change of clothes then had some food. It’s really difficult fuelling because I didn’t really want much after the run but I knew in a few hours I would be hungry – just as I should be going out for the next run. This rest/recovery time was a little different, the sun finally went down our fairly lights started to shine and everyone was feeling sleepy. About 10.00pm I got my sleeping bag out and was lying in it under the stars – it was wonderful and I was tempted to sleep like that after my next run. Nat went out for her run so I started to get ready. This time I had a chest torch. Never run with one before but the girls were saying it works really well. I was doing the “Thriller” run as I was running “close to midnight!” I hoped that nothing evil was lurking in the dark and under the moonlight I hoped I wouldn’t see a sight that would almost stop my heart. So off I went, in the dark. It was quite eerie, in the distance I could see lights from other runners and hear heavy breathing behind me. As I was running I noticed at the edge of my shining torch on the ground was a shadow of my arms as they moved forward and back…..it looked like someone was grabbing me….so I started to play shadow puppets and making strangling hand gestures, clawing hands, I did try a simple dog but couldn’t get it right. Best stop this and concentrate! It is a good game to play and did make the time go quicker – the 3 times I played it! My chest torch was great, nice and bright and I could see where I was going. Even through the fairy forest when there wasn’t anyone in front for me to follow. I didn’t feel like I slowed down much and that turned out to be my second quickest lap. As I was finishing it was drizzling a bit. By the time Zoe had finished it was raining – glad I missed that. I really loved running in the dark, I was on a bit of a high and couldn’t sleep but knew I needed to. I heard the next person come in and go to sleep, the next person go off and still I was awake. I don’t think I got much sleep, I must have dozed but it wasn’t great. Then I was up and getting ready for my 4:48am run. I grabbed some breakfast bar, tried to get myself motivated but it was hard. This was my worse lap. My legs were heavy, I didn’t feel great and because of the rain it was fairly muddy; which didn’t didn’t help my legs. But I managed to get myself round and finish at 5:37am – I don’t think I have ever started running at that time let alone finish. As soon as I got back to camp I grabbed some money and headed back to the village for food, hot food. I was very hungry. After demolishing a sausage sandwich I felt so much better and with the knowledge that I had just one more lap to do – it is only 5 miles; I was feeling great, well good. We started packing what we could away but we were still doing our routine of recovering, getting ready, chilling.
My final lap
Thumbs up, almost done
Our victory lap!
With the night run, the rainy weather, slippery surface our lap times had become longer, but we didn’t mind we weren’t trying to win it. We just wanted to give Lisa as much time to do her final lap in. As long as the last person goes out for their final lap by noon and finishes by 1pm that lap counts. When we first signed up Lisa was determined to do 6 laps, she was running for the charity MIND, so the longer we could give her the less pressure she was under. My final lap came around 9:50am, Nat came in, we hugged and I was handed the wristband for the last time. I didn’t really fly round that lap, I was a few seconds quicker than my first lap but it felt so much better finishing. I sauntered back to camp with an air of success and relief in my step but I was also really pleased with what I had achieved and had thoroughly enjoyed it. As Lisa got ready for her last lap we had all changed into our non running gear, plus our Endure 24 shirt and all went down the finish area to give our chips back and more importantly got our medals. I like a good medal.
All we had to do now was wait for Lisa to come in and we would all run in with her as a celebration. All the teams were doing it and it was brilliant to see. We all knew we had achieved something with our hard work. So everyone was clapping and cheering the teams running home. Our celebration didn’t go quite as I thought it would. Lisa came running in, we got ready, most in flip flops, we staggered to their feet and had already realised we didn’t have our sports bras on so we wouldn’t be running quickly. Round the corner Lisa came, we were waving and cheering and join her to run home, but Lisa didn’t slow down and kept running. We were ready for a very gentle jog, Lisa kept running, she was so determined to finish her 6 laps. We all finally crossed the line and that was it. 24 hours, 5 mile laps, 26 laps in total in 24:43:26 and we finished 13th out of 37 teams, not bad.
Maybe the Cotswold24 next year, after the experience of Endure24 I would definitely do another relay event, but it really helps when you have a good, fun and friendly team with you of course.
Whoop whoop. It’s only 24 hours, it’s only 5 miles!