Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Clue Is In The Name: Endure24 Q&A Review

You know when you sign yourself up for something and think to yourself- am I really going to do this? Endure24 was a bit like that.. I got roped into a team by my PT who has taken part before and really, the clue should have been in the name, Endure. 24. For those sensible enough not to know what the race is  all about... allow me to enlighten you with my mini race report.

The start of the Race Village area

So, 24 hours, a single 5 mile loop through the woodland surrounding Wasing Park (near Reading) and a whole bunch of solo runners, and mixed teams attempting to get in as many laps as they can. Yes, some people really do this as individuals (and you thought I was the crazy one....). Part of the park is set out as a camp site, part of it is the event village, and then there's the route itself, They call it 'Glastonbury for Runners' with a sort of festival vibe and every kind of runner you can imagine. It's certainly a sight to behold.

So I ended up being roped into a large, mixed team of 8, I knew only a couple of my team mates a little from other events and I've only ever camped a couple of times with Guides when I was about 11. To say this was outside of my comfort zone might be a bit of an understatement but I duly borrowed Tom's sleeping bag, found a waterproof rucksack in the cupboard and bought a spare pair of running trainers after rain looked like a very real threat.

And then I ran quite a lot. the way my laps fell and the timing meant I got through 3 laps, that's 15 miles worth of running. I'm not a natural trail runner either- however good for you it may be, it's really hard work. But it doesn't end there...

It's not just the 5 mile loops, what do you do for the rest of the day (and night)? Well you wander between base camp and the start/finish area to cheer people on and get a sports massage and eat stuff, which is how in about 28 hours, I travelled 49.47km or if you prefer, 29.5 miles.

So let's talk about sleeping. Even with a max sized team of 8, you're unlikely to get much more than 6.5 hours in between laps, and then it's another half hour to get from base camp to the start line in plenty of time, and catching something to eat, having a quick shower and changing kit... that bleary eyed picture of me at 4am, yeah, I had been trying to sleep for about 3 hours between laps. Whilst it rained.

I have no intention of editing this picture, it is a good thing you cannot see more of my tired, tired little face! 

So, Endure24....

Would I run it again? Yes, but with a team of people I knew and possibly a smaller team, you don't get long in between laps with 8 of you, but it's long enough for fatigue to set in and to not want to get started again. As a result, I started to struggle with knee pain which probably wouldn't have been an issue with less 'stop' time.

Is it just for 'proper' runners? If by 'proper' runners you mean people who enjoy running, then yes. I wouldn't recommend going along to this if you've never run an event before, running 5 miles is one thing, doing it multiple times in a 24 hour period requires a bit of understanding as to what your body is trying to tell you, when to push on through fatigue and what type of food works best for you. I met a hen party, running clubs submitting multiple teams, people who wanted to walk some or all of the laps and the occasional pr*ck who wanted to elbow others out of the way on a tricky bit of the trail for the sake of a few seconds on their lap.

Is this an ultramarathon? Technically, an ultra is anything over the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles, so if you run 6 laps or more, yes. I did not, so for me it is an endurance event and it should be respected as such. We are all capable of incredible things with the right training and encouragement, but just because someone else can throw out a marathon every single week (or whatever it is that floats their boat...) it doesn't necessarily mean you can- we're all on our own journeys with our own motivations and ultras/endurance events take a lot of physical and mental courage, energy and focus.

What about eating, showering and bathrooms?  I have never seen so many portaloos in my life. I never queued behind more than one or two others to use one and although they were a bit grim by 1130 on Sunday morning, until that point, they'd been regularly emptied and cleaned and my experience was perfectly adequate. See also the showers- portable event blocks with individual shower cubicles are provided, I wore my flip flops in them, but they were perfectly passable. As for eating, eat what you like, I went with little and often and chose not to utilise the food tents selling predominantly bread-based carb loading goodies on site because I have a complicated relationship with dough, but there are options, and there's a bar!

But seriously, WHY? One thing sports have taught me is if you never try, you will never know. Taking chances on new things and trying them out is good for the mind and the body. I find doing new things in large groups of people quite stressful, but it has become much less stressful since I made myself do it more often. Then there's the medal.... It's MASSIVE. I'm generally not that fussed by a medal, they get shoved at the back of my wardrobe and I move on, but this one is so ridiculously heavy, it's sort of hard to ignore. And because often, life is what you make it, and that goes for experiences too. There were plenty of people running Endure24 for competition, which is great, go for your life. I went to have some fun whilst trying something new and of all the things to worry about for the entire weekend (where's the bar, when is tactically the best time for a shower, is this tent watertight...) how fast or not my lap was or someone else running faster than me was something I wasn't prepared to get stressed about. I had a pretty good time. I wasn't feeling so good at about 0330 on Sunday morning having not really slept and realising I couldn't find my timing tag, but we're all entitled to a grouchy moment right?

Any hot tips? 
-Multiple pairs of trainers, especially if it's been wet, putting wet trainers back on is not the one
-Take as much kit as you can carry. I was due to run 3 or 4 laps and I took enough kit for 5 complete changes including full length tights and a long sleeve top, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and have to suffer without it.
-Spend money on a decent head torch. I wish I had, it is probably a miracle I didn't break an ankle on my 2230 lap.
-Practise running on trails if you're not an experienced trail runner. I am not, and foolishly thought running on a few country tracks would be enough preparation, it was not preparation for the sneaky tree roots, mammoth dips and never mind running uphill, downhill is the scary bit
-Remember to eat before you first lap. Yeah, I know. Blonde moment much.

So, um... 2018? Probably not next year, I have other plans for putting my marathon demons to rest in 2018... 26.2 I'm coming for you!

And if you enjoy my mini Race Reports/Reviews, standby for the next one coming soon- DeadDrop Fitness & the Prosecco Dash.... prosecco before, during and after a race, what could possible go wrong?


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