I don’t even know how to start this one! It might be the sleep deprivation, but every time I think about the weekend just gone I have so get all overwhelmed!
Endure 24. 24 hours of solo runners, pairs, and teams of 3-8, running 8km laps around the woodland of Wasing Park, Aldermaston.
After hearing about last year’s event, a club mate and I started talking about entering for 2015, and by September we had roped in 6 others from our club and we were registered.
Fast forward 9 months, 3 marathons and countless other events later and I’m at Decathlon the week before frantically “investing” in a tent!
Me and my new investment arrive at the Endure 24 site after work on Friday and promptly (very promptly as it’s a pop-up job and was up and pinned down in next to no time!) set up camp with some other teams of friends. One big happy Endure 24 village! When you’re in a large team you spend most of your time in the camp, so having some amazing people around you really helps with encouragement, motivation and just general fun.
I then take the easy way out and go home for a final night in my own bed, with running water, before getting back to camp the following morning with my cousin, Beth.
Before long everyone from our team and the other teams in our “village” are all arriving, unpacking cake, cake and more cake, and we head off to the race briefing.
Donning the baton band, Sarah, our first runner, starts with the huge pack at the beginning and we all cheer them through and off to complete lap 1. The rest of us head back to camp and wait anxiously for her arrival.
She arrives back in no time absolutely buzzing and telling us all about the course. All I hear is “huge hill just after the aid station”….!!
Koji and Joe were up next, our fastest runners, so I knew my turn would be soon. They fly round the course and we all gave them a huge cheers as they passed the course right by our camp.
Standing in the changeover area the atmosphere was electric. A lot of us were just waiting for our first lap and we’re all craning our necks to see if our runner is that streak appearing round the final corner darting towards us.
And then Joe was there and I was off! The start of the course was through the camp, so the cheering was great. All my teams and friends cheered me passed, and then I was up the first incline and in to the woods. The course is really beautiful. An undulating, firm trail path through the woodland. At 3 miles there’s a great looking aid station, but I don’t stop! Then just afterwards an amazing camper-van with music blaring and very encouraging volunteers. Then, the hill that everyone had been talking about. It was as bad as they said. Pretty long and steep, but I managed to run it, lungs burning once I was at the top. All that cross country training in the rainy winter months was well spent.
Zig zagging through the trees on the decline back down to the camp site was great. No sooner had I emerged from the trees than my team mates and friends were there cheering, a few more back and forths through the tents and I was through the finish gantry and flinging the ‘baton’ band at Ben.
I LOVED IT!!
Back to camp for a stretch, refuel and a sit down.
As people came and went we were all comparing stories and looking forward to our next lap.
Ben, Beth, Kerry & Lisa all enjoyed it just as much as I had.
We cracked open the prosecco, beer and cake (Beth’s birthday, you understand….all in the name of celebration!) as our rota of laps continued.
My second lap came around 7:30pm. It was still relatively light and the course conditions were similar. We were pretty lucky as, although it had been raining the night before, the course was pretty dry and fairly stable. I kept a good pace around the course, not stopping at the aid station again, and managed to run the full hill once again. The solo runners and the pairs are amazing! At this stage they’d been going for 7 and a half hours, and every single one I saw was still in crazily high spirits. Huge respect to these people and their support. Passing friends, I bounded back to the handover once more. A practically identically timed lap, excellent!
More prosecco, more cake and a bit of maths to work out when my next lap would be.
It would be around 2am. So we retreated to the pop-up palace to attempt some sleep. It didn’t happen for me. And despite knowing that Koji would be back to wake me up in time for me to get ready for my lap, I was kitted up, donning my head torch and sitting around in camp way before he returned.
I was worried I wouldn’t spot Joe at the handover but it was pretty easy and I headed off, following the trail of bobbing lights, into the darkness. My head torch was bright but I was still unsure of my footing for the first couple of miles. That, coupled with the sleeplessness, was making me feel slow, but the other runners around me made it easier. Still loads of solo runners out on the course. You can’t complain about anything when you think about what they’re going through!
The course became lit up with glow sticks and the aid station (which I didn’t stop at again) was a welcome beacon on the trail. The blaring music of the camper-van has been replaced with flourescent lights and isotonic ‘shots’ and ‘cocktails’, which I admired but didn’t take…my stomach was already in bits with the interesting version of refuelling that I’d been practicing.
Not ashamed to say I walked the final third of the hill this time and thanked the glowing strips of the volunteers’ jackets. Then the magical zig zag forest was lit up with fairy lights all around the tress, which made this stretch a lot easier to negotiate. Another good lap, an easy change over to Ben and back to the camp for some sleep. It didn’t go well as I was buzzing from the run and keen for my next lap, which would be around 7am.
I must’ve finally drifted off for a couple of hours, but as soon as the sun rose I was back up for coffee, porridge and watching very sleepy heads emerge from the tents! We were all tired but excited.
Off for my final lap. Despite the lack of sleep I felt fab and had a fantastic run. And the solo runners were still out in force, the cheering for them getting louder and louder. As I sprinted through the finish I remembered to soak up the amazing atmosphere of such a great event.
One by one the rest of our team finished their last laps and we all joined Kerry on the last few metres of her final lap to cross the finish line together. What an accomplishment!
I’m so proud of the team, and so proud of everyone out there. All my friends that took part. Parkrun friends, twitter friends. All the solo runners, the volunteers, the event organisers. It was truly an amazing experience.
We all felt sad packing up our village, although the talk of showers, baths and beds was plentiful!
I enjoyed a pub celebration with my medal! And a bit of stat analysis….pretty chuffed with my times!
A huge well done to everyone that took part and everyone involved.
If you’ve not done something like this before I can highly recommend Endure 24. I’m not a camping convert, but the whole atmosphere makes the sleeplessness pretty irrelevant. Being in a big team with even more friends around me too, made it such a fantastic experience.
Top marks for the technical tee and the medal too.
I’ll most certainly be back in 2016.