This time last week I was 8 hours into my first 24 hour race, Endure 24, at Wasing Park near Reading. It sure was an experience. Running a 5 mile trail loop through woods, fields, by a lake and with hills that were short, steady inclines initially but felt much longer and steeper as the hours passed and I kept moving forward with the aim of hitting my 80 mile target….
I was so overcome with relief at the finish that I forgot to record a final video clip! I was too busy smiling, having hit the 80 mile target in 23 hours 20 minutes.
Reflections on the race:
This was my 3rd ultra marathon as a runner (5th including 2 as a volunteer supporting the runners) and with every race I feel more and more part of the amazing, supportive, friendly ultra running community. As a relative newbie ultra runner with just 2 x 50 milers under my belt before Endure 24 I am struck by the accessibility of the experienced and top level runners alike. It really is like being part of a family and to share the experience with other runners I have got to know through Twitter and who have since become friends is truly a pleasure. Hat tip to you all, especially Kevin Matthews, Dan Park, Nici Griffin, Ashley Hurd, Janine Lewis, Paul Ali, Paul Katsiva-Cordoroy, Matt Buck, Justin Horrocks, and Gary Kiernan.
Running through the night is not as bad as I thought. Then again, that may be because I had already run the course several times before it got dark and the race was held the weekend after the Longest Day, meaning less than 6 hours of darkness. I imagine the experience may be a little bit different at a race such as the Winter 100…
Maybe being injured, not running for 4 weeks (a few mountain bike rides to keep the fitness from falling off a cliff) and running less than 30 miles (a total of 6 runs in the 2 weeks before the race) is it the end of the world and rest is actually quite good preparation! I went into the race hoping that I would not face a repeat of my last race, where my ITB troubled me for the last 40 miles. I had been working on my ITB since with rest, foam roller fun (also know as #foamrollaaarrrggghhh time) and some ITB rehab exercises using a resistance band. It seemed to work and I was delighted that I managed to do 80 miles, especially as the furthest I had run since the NDW50 was a 10 mile trail run.
My mental strength is good but can be better. I kept going even when my feet were starting to cause me issues and discomfort later in the race. I did not let the mud get me down. I stayed positive. I was worried about my injury flaring up again and as a result I did not push as hard as I could on the last few laps, where I resorted to a hike with purpose to keep moving forward. Looking bank now I think I had more to give and could have continued run/walking for a few more laps.
If I can manage 80 miles through mud like this in 24 hours then I can run 100 miles along the South Downs Way in June 2015. I have maintained a positive attitude to my planned 100 mile debut since I decided this time last year that I would run it in 2015. Now I believe even more.
I need to have a strategy for keeping my feet in good condition. The “put trail socks and trail shoes on and hope” approach I used this time did not work. The hours of running through puddles and thick, sloppy mud meant I had very wet, dirty feet and as I decided not to change socks during the race or prepare my feet with Vaseline, tape or anything else beforehand I paid the price. Blood blisters under both big toenails – they will grow back – and some other blisters is the end result.
Next up is the Royal Parks Foundation Ultra in October. 50km (31 miles) around London. I had better get training again soon. Just the small matter of sorting the toes out first….
I will be back. I am still smiling.
I ran 80 miles. Yes. Me!