Last year I took part in my very first team running event at Wasing Park in Reading. That event was Endure 24, and it formed part of my training for Race to the King and Race to the Stones. My only goal that weekend had been to ensure I got a block of 30 miles done; any other laps would be a bonus.
For the uninitiated, Endure 24 is a solo or team-based event where you complete as many five mile laps as you can in the twenty-four time period starting midday Saturday, and ending midday Sunday. It's dubbed the “Glastonbury for runners” because to support the effort, there is a campsite next to the race village where you put up your tent for the weekend. You can do this solo, as a duo, a small team, or a large team. I think as a team event it's much more fun as between laps you can sit and talk to other runners. This year, our planned team was:
- Charly Brown (@_charly_b)
- Steve Macdonald (@1stevemac)
- David Mountford (@DavidNFLF1)
- Adam Prav (@AdamPrav)
- Nat Douglas (@NatDouglas1978)
Unfortunately, Adam and Nat had to drop out which meant our group would be the same four as last year. Of course though it meant that we were a team that already knew each other fairly well. This year our team would be “Miss Brown's Boys”.
I can't say I've trained at all for this event; it's not even training leading up to another event. Hopefully having run the Malawi Impact Marathon just a fortnight before would be suitable. This did however mean that there's no pressure - I could do as many or as few miles as the team needed me to do. Ideally though, my thoughts were that I could do forty miles across the weekend just to beat last year. I figured if there's four of us then potentially we can have six hours of running each, so carefully spreading them out would make this possible.
Usually I supplement my running with cycling, but for more than a week leading up to the race I didn't have my bike (and still don't have it at the time of writing) due to some fun trying to get my chain changed at Halfords. They still have it unfortunately. It's a long story but I had thought I'd need to replace it, so it's not all bad. So, no cross training since I got back from Malawi either.
Kit and Equipment Lists
This year my list reflects the 2017 one, but with small refinements to make it even more comfortable.
- 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) x 2,
- BCB self-inflating sleeping mat,
- bungee cord (couldn't find the clothes line I used last year),
- solar powered lantern,
- camping chair,
- picnic blanket,
- Swiss army knife,
- USB power pack,
- tissue paper and hand wipes,
- 4 litres of water,
- various bits of food for lunch and snacks.
As with 2017, any hot food for evening meals would be bought from the on-site facilities so that I wouldn't need to worry about taking a camping stove.
With a busy year for travelling I didn't want to take a day off work for this race, so started my day early at 06:30 so I could be on my way to Wasing Park by 14:30. Leaving early would mean it possible to get into Reading early enough to set-up my tent and get food before dark. Even though it's been a year since I last set-up my tent, and no practise assembly like last year; it only took twenty minutes to put it up, move everything inside, and get my car parked up.
That evening I went to the Monsta Pizza place for a Chorizo pizza. They make the pizza in front of you, and then they cook it in a portable wood burning oven that is shaped like a green monster. Fantastic. The pizza wasn't bad, and just what I wanted the night before the running began - I figured it would be good carb-loading which is something I'd not really thought about in the lead-up. Oops! I also happened to bump into Sophia Carter who I've met at a number of events before.
After food, we sat and caught up as none of us had seen each other since Endure last year. It was a nice evening, and we talked late into the night whilst others partied in the race village long after dark. Some in fact carried on partying long after the music stopped to the dismay of many.
I think perhaps I'd gotten used to sleeping in a sleeping bag whilst I'd been in Morocco; in some ways sleeping in a tent now made me think of those gites. The sunrise made me wake early, but I laid around until a more reasonable time for breakfast, had the cereal I'd brought with me, and wandered over to the race village for a cup of tea. It was a relaxed morning waiting for the midday race start. There was too much time to wait really, even with me doing the first lap this year. Last year I'd only done one lap on the Saturday; but it was warmer and I took more photographs as it was new to me. This year I didn't want to repeat the same photographs as before.
I joined the pen towards the back as I didn't want to be too tempted to run at proper race pace. The slower I could go, the more laps I'd hopefully manage. In the first mile I spotted fellow #visorclub member Alison Davidson, just before the hill of no return. It's amazing how quickly this route felt familiar. As with last year I wanted to run as much as I could of my first lap, though I'd decided I'd walk up heart break hill if I felt I needed to - I wanted to save my legs for a double later.
The church view section felt open and exposed to the sun - I vaguely remembered it feeling like one of the warmer bits last year too. I made sure I got this bit covered quickly so I could get to running in the shade of the trees. It felt good, but I consciously tried to keep my pace slow even though with places like "pace gully" the terrain was encouraging me to run faster. I took it easy up the little hill, but for heart break hill I did walk. I felt I'd been running too quickly as I'd get to the change over too soon - I needed to try and waste time, and walking the hardest of the hills would have the added bonus of saving my legs for later too.
Once again I enjoyed the twisting section through the trees with the uneven surface - it felt like a speeder bike on Endor in Return of the Jedi zipping passed the trees. It's nice to find a way to have fun - that's what we were there for after all. In the last mile though there was quite a bit of congestion which meant I could take some of the dips as quickly as I wanted, but I figured the delay would be useful anyway
I finished my first lap in around 35 minutes which was 5-10 minute ahead of what we'd agreed which meant I needed to hang around the change-over pen for a while for Charly to arrive. I handed over the band, and went to get some lunch. For this meal I'd brought my own sandwiches and a slice of tiffin as I thought it'd be nice to have something familiar. Whilst having lunch Jude had finished, so I met up with her for a while to chat. Although we've followed each other on Twitter for several years and have both done the same events twice before, this was the first time meeting. It's always nice to meet someone off Twitter.
After David and Steve had taken their turns it was then my turn to run two more back-to-back laps. This time I ran all but heartbreak hill for the first lap, and then took it easier on the second lap with plenty of walking. I enjoyed the first lap, but should have used the portaloo before starting the second lap - it'd made the second lap increasingly uncomfortable. Even with plenty of walking I finished these two laps in 84 minutes - so only 6 minutes ahead. We were that far ahead of schedule though that Steve managed to go out for an extra lap before David's planned run at 17:00.
I'd got a good few hours break between laps now, so I took the opportunity for an early dinner of pasta bolognese, and relaxed with some chocolate and a drink. Refuelling between laps certainly seems like a good idea - hopefully I hadn't eaten too much before my fourth lap. Though, whilst Charly was out doing her lap, I decided I'd have a nap in my tent for half an hour. I couldn't really have relaxed much longer as it then started to rain heavy, even if it only lasted several minutes. Charly arrived back quite a bit earlier than anticipated, so I decided I'd head out a little earlier than planned - it'd be my last lap before dark.
Surprisingly my legs didn't feel too bad. I started off walking, but soon began running and found myself running for large sections of the lap. Of course I walked for the worst of the hills, but for the rest I had to remind myself to keep the speed down, and to take walking breaks. It's amazing what a short rest can do for your legs. I noticed everyone was now walking heartbreak hill.
Whilst out on this lap I found the humidity to be higher than before, even though it'd started to cool off. This meant once I started sweating, I was sweating a lot - I almost regretted not having my buff with me to wipe it away. I enjoyed this lap a lot more than the third, and wondered what it'd be like doing a lap of this in the dark. Towards the end there was a section through the trees that was lit with fairly lights - it was a nice effect.
Another 41 minute lap done, and I was back to the camp to hand over the band to Steve who would be the first to do a night lap. As the sun hadn't yet set he hung around until it had. My intention was to go out straight after him so I wouldn't be out too late. David on the other hand was getting an early night so he could be up at 01:00 for a 02:00 lap. Rather him than me - I'm glad we weren't taking it seriously enough to run all through the night. We didn't have enough team members for that - it'd have meant no chance to sleep.
My night lap was after it had gotten properly dark, so was using my Unilite head torch. It's lucky it's a bright one as with the clouds there wasn't even any moonlight to help me see the path. Running through the woods in the dark is a surreal experience - it feels peaceful, yet there are runners in front of you and behind you at all times. I took this fifth lap mostly easy as by now I was beginning to ache - I knew the morning laps would not be pleasant.
I was amazed how lively some of the marshals still were - at the VDUB Bar there were two dressed as Elwood J. and Jake E. Blues. It provided a moment of entertainment, and a distraction from the swarm of insects attracted to the light of my head torch. I'd wished I stopped to take a photograph of the fairy lights on the hill of no return, or through the winding trees - but these were amongst the few places I was actually running so didn't want to stop.
After completing the lap I dropped the band off at camp, and went out for some quick nighttime photography. It was already past 23:00 so I didn't want to be out too long. However, I didn't sleep that well when I got back. I was up again at 06:00 for breakfast, but didn't really want to do any more laps. Maybe just one more would suffice - just to know I've run on both days.
I waited for each of the others to do their runs, and then set off on my own. I checked first if any of them would like to take a lap or two off me. Sensibly nobody wanted any so whatever was left would be mine to do - I'd started us off, and would now be finishing. Maybe I'd stick to the one lap and finish early. I started slowly, and walked up the "Hill of No Return". For this first lap I found myself switching between running and walking fairly evenly, and finished this first lap running most of the last mile. Since I'd done that lap, and had over two hours before the cut-off I decided I'd do another - this time I'd walk most of it. Sure enough I walked a considerable amount of this lap, especially once I started feeling REALLY hungry.
I passed one runner who was leaning against his tree with his head down. I stopped to make sure he was okay, thinking he was feeling ill, but it turned out he'd just got a stone in his shoe. As I didn't need to help I carried on, hoping that I'd be done soon. For a time I ran with and spoke to another runner, I didn't get their name, but they were part of an 8-person team - apparently they were feeling quite fresh still!
Again as I got towards the end, or at least one I got passed Heartbreak Hill, I ran most of what remained and decided I'd do it. I'd do one more lap to take me up to eight - 40 miles for the weekend.
That last lap was hard going, but I got around it mostly through walking. In fact, I got around it a little quicker than expected which meant I'd still got almost twenty minutes until the midday deadline - I could have gone out for another lap. I could have; but I didn't. Instead I wanted food, so as soon as I sprinted across the finish line I dropped off the timing chip to get the medal and headed back to camp.
The others were about packed away, so I quickly packed away my tent, and said goodbye to the others as they left. After dropping my tent off at my car I could finally go in search of food and drink. I decided it'd be a good idea to get a photo of myself with the medal whilst I was at it.
I enjoyed the event, although it was very tiring. I think I spent a lot of the weekend trying to rest when I could between laps, or trying to eat enough to refuel. I don't think I did too well at either, but hopefully the team didn't think me ignorant when I disappeared. Thanks again to Charly and Steve for organising the team and creating a commemorative mug! Also a big thank you to the endlessly optimistic marshals and everyone that worked through the day and night to make sure the runners were safe, and fed.
So there it was - two weeks after completing the Malawi Marathon I managed to complete 40 miles at Endure 24. I was certainly unprepared for it, but I'd done one more lap than last year with a total time running of 6 hours 23 minutes 49 seconds. Next up for me will be a half marathon in July as part of my build-up to Chicago.
Next year, do I do this again? Or do I do Race to the Tower to complete the set?