Over the weekend of the 10th & 11th of June I took part in Endure 24 for the second year running (pun intended). In stark contrast to getting a late place in 2016, Lorna, some friends and I signed up as soon as possible because we knew it would be a fun weekend and a great way to get lots of miles in. Initially we were in a team of 7: Me, Lorna, Alex, Robbie, Frosty, Michalis and Jess. Unfortunately in the couple of weeks leading up to the event Michalis and Jess could no longer take part but Jess decided to make the trip to cheer us on and look after us. With the team being reduced to 5 we all knew we’d be banking some big mileage, this was good for me as I have OCC at the end of August. This was not so good for the likes of Robbie who is predominantly a track runner.
Learning from 2016, Lorna and I packed up all our kit on the Thursday night to meet Alex for a lift to Wasing Park early on Friday morning. As Endure is “Glastonbury for runners” it’s a good idea to get there on the Friday to get a convenient area to set up camp. We opted for the same location as last year as it was right next to the handover point, food and retail tents, the registration marquee and showers/toilets.
Once we were let into the race village we pitched up all of our tents and then drove to the nearest Sainsbury’s to do a BIG food shop. Barbeques, snacks, ice, football (all the essentials) were on the shopping list. There wasn’t a list, but we probably should have made one to stick to. We spent quite a lot but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t much split between the group and it definitely worked out cheaper than buying all of our meals on site. When we got back to camp we had lunch before picking up race numbers and timing chips from the registration tent.
We spent the afternoon chilling, playing games and walking the course to show Alex what to expect. To be honest he didn’t really need to see the course as he would get VERY familiar with it over the next couple of days but then again it was good for us to look at the course and think about our pacing especially for the first few laps.
Once back at camp again it was time to fuel up. Alex got the BBQ going; we had burgers, chicken, sausages and halloumi skewers, all the good stuff.
We had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for Jess to arrive; she was cycling from London (bonkers)!
With a big 24 hours ahead of us we all got an early night foregoing the party in the marquee. I slept quite well on the Friday night; I was pretty tired because of the early start and having run decent mileage in the week. Robbie and Frosty were due to arrive at 10:30am so we got some sausages and bacon going on the BBQ. I tend not to eat much before races but with events like this you definitely need to fuel up. Also I knew my first lap wouldn’t be until 12:40ish with the team order sorted: Robbie, Me, Frosty, Lorna, Alex. Dropping down to a team of 5 meant we would get around two and a half hours of rest between laps.
The start of 24 hour events is a little bizarre, everyone is excited but you can tell they are trying to keep calm and remember there’s a long way to go. Well, apart from the one person that always sprints off the start line like a bat out of hell.
Luckily for our team Robbie started a bit further back than he probably would’ve liked and got boxed in. The start is also strange because it’s the only time (apart from the finish) that everyone is together, the race village generally seems quite subdued and quiet the rest of the time and you almost forget how many runners are taking part. As Robbie was handing over to me I headed back to the tent to sort my kit, I was really looking forward to getting out there. Robbie came into the handover area clocking 34 minutes for the lap. With OCC in mind and knowing I would probably be looking at doing 7 or 8 laps over the 24 hours I went out at a steady pace.
The route was just as I remembered it (I did walk it only the day before). The “Hill of No Return” felt relatively easy having completed a couple of hill sessions over the last few weeks but I knew it would just get steeper and steeper as the hours passed by. The few kilometres after the hill are nice, the course is undulating but you can get into a good stride. “Little steep” just before 3k is short and sharp, it was muddy but in my Inov-8 X-Talon 212 I moved through this section well and was back onto a good pace quickly. From 3k to 5k there are long straights which include some small rolling hills; this section is one of my favourites on the course. You go through “Far Away Forest” and pass the “VDUB Cocktail Bar” around halfway (4k). Approaching the 5k point you know you are coming up to the hardest part “Heartbreak Hill”. Luckily the Clif Bar Café is positioned just before so you have the chance to grab a drink etc. For the first few laps I “enjoyed” the climb, I was happy to shorten my stride and shuffle my way up it. The best thing about Heartbreak Hill is once you’re over it you feel quite strong and the following few kilometres are fun as they include some slight downhills and twists and turns through the trees.
On the homestretch I high fived Alex (and a few randoms) before crossing the line after 34 minutes and 47 seconds of running, first lap – done. I handed over to Frosty before catching up with Lorna and chatting to some of the AR (Advent Running), Adidas Running & Pro-Direct Running lot. I made sure to grab some food quickly after finishing my lap; I decided this was best because of only having two and a half hours before going out again. Frosty clocked a time of 35:09 before Lorna ran 36:32 and Alex 36:22 (not a competitive brother at all). Robbie put in another solid lap in 34:17 and then I was up and running again. As the first lap had loosened my legs up I decided to go with the flow and put in a slightly quicker lap. On every lap I tried to make the effort to say well done to the Solo runners, it must be such a long 24 hours for them and I thought a shout may pick them up a little. I was on the lookout for my friend Matt Fowler; he was one of the crazy “Solos”. I completed my second lap in 33:44, a minute quicker than my first lap and inside Robbie’s fastest time, not that I was trying to beat it ;).
The team was doing really well, after a couple of laps we were in 3rd place in our category and 21st out of all the teams. The trick to doing well in 24 hour events is having a team that is consistent and for everyone to run times close to each other. It is also key to take it steady over the first few laps and to be able to hold a good pace through the night on the laps using a head torch. I was the first runner in our team to do a double; it was around 10pm so it was still light for most of the first lap. I was kindly given a Silva Trailrunner 2X to test; it was really comfortable, lightweight and most importantly really bright. As I had taken the first few laps steady I could still hold a decent pace, I was planning to finish the double lap in 1:20 but found myself crossing the line nearer to 1:15. I think I could hold a quicker pace because it was nice and cool and the adrenaline was pumping. I was happy to put in more effort over the double lap because I planned to eat lots and get some sleep ready for my next lap in the morning. Everyone ran well over the double lap, on average we were only a couple of minutes slower than a normal lap. I got quite lucky in that I didn’t have to run through the rain, I felt sorry for Lorna and Alex.
After completing his double lap Robbie messaged the team to let us know that he was struggling, his left groin had gone and “that was 1hr42min of absolute agony, hurts on the uphill, hurts on the flat and hurts most of all going downhill on uneven ground so pretty much everywhere on the course”. Being a track runner Robbie did well to bank as many laps as he did (6). We were down to four which meant we’d have to take it steady on the rest of the laps. Everyone was knackered, we were all thinking about sleeping more and not worrying about having someone out on the course. My first lap in the morning was a struggle as my legs had seized up after having a couple of hours sleep. A few kilometres in they loosened up a little but I took it steady to make sure I could get round and I knew I’d still have one or two more laps to complete. I bumped into Matt around 6k; he was only 10 miles or so away from clocking 100 miles.
As we weren’t racing I decided to keep him company for the rest of the lap, he was moving really well and seemed in good spirits. We chatted about his 24 hour strategy, nutrition and future race plans etc. Once through the “finish” line again I handed over to Frosty and Matt went off to grab a coffee. I headed back to the tents to let Lorna know she was up next. Her legs had seized up as well and she wanted a little longer before heading out on another lap, as my legs felt ok and I wanted to get the miles in I took the yellow wristband off Frosty and was on my way again.
The morning laps were really tough but we were ticking the hours off. Frosty, Lorna and Alex did well to complete 7 laps each; we were still in third position in our category. At 11:22 I was heading off on the final lap, I was relieved knowing we’d got through the weekend but also sad that it was almost over. Surprisingly my legs were feeling ok; I decided to pace the lap so I could cross the line with the team just after 12 o’clock. We didn’t want or need to get another 8k in. Over the final few kilometres I found myself running at the same pace as another runner, we chatted about our training, upcoming races and how we’d found the weekend. I enjoyed the twisty turny section for the last time and was then joined by the team for the final few hundred metres.
We crossed the line to the sound of the klaxon. 24 hours, done!
We had a celebratory ice cream, caught up with friends and then packed up our tents. The weekend went by in a blur; it was a lot of fun. If you haven’t done a 24 hour team relay before I definitely recommend it. It’s such a great challenge and it’s an excellent way to get lots of miles in if you have a long distance race coming up.
I hope those of you that took part in Endure 24 enjoyed it as much I did.
See a lot of you soon,