Monday, 10 June 2013

Endure 24: Chapter 1 - Believe and It Will Happen!

Nic has been off to the races again, and her view of the Endure 24 is below.  If she keeps having this much fun I'm going to have to make her a page of her own!

I ran my first ultra last September and loved the experience of running long.  If I hadn’t had so many other commitments in the winter of 2013, I probably would have entered another, but I didn’t have enough time to fit in the training.  A few months ago, Kurt started talking about an event called Endure 24, an event where runners would complete as many 5 mile laps of a trail as possible in 24 hours.  He wanted to try and run 100 miles.  At first, I wasn’t particularly interested, until I saw an old friend in March.  He was asking about my running and I made a throwaway comment that kept coming back to me – I said “I’ll never be a fast runner, but if I’m running the right pace I could run for 24 hours.”  This got me thinking… could I really keep going for 24 hours?  Not long after, I had an evening out with my friend Claire Parry, who has MS and is trying to raise funds to get to India for a radical treatment called HSCT.  I’d only had a glass of wine or two so I was fully compus mentus when I suggested that I could help with the fundraising effort by entering Endure 24.  I thought it would be pretty unlikely that anyone would sponsor me to do a marathon, as I’ve done quite a few already.  People would be more likely to give me money for doing something which most of them think is quite bonkers.

So, I set up a fundraising page and upped the ante on my training.  I didn’t really go out and do super-long runs.  The furthest I went was 20 miles.  But I did lots of back-to-back running, where I’d do a long run, followed the next day by another longish run and then try to run again the next day.  I needed to know I could run on tired legs.  I’ve never been brilliant at training – the highest mileage week I managed was 37 miles.  So as the weeks ticked by, I started to feel a little anxious about how I was going to cope with running for 24 hours.  I didn’t set myself a mileage goal, I simply wanted to keep going, keep moving forward, to endure for 24 hours, whether running or walking.  I hoped I would be able to reach in the region of 60 miles.  Not thinking about mileage too much kept it manageable.  I’ve worked enough nightshifts and done enough long-haul travel to know that I can keep going for a very long time.  I would just need to draw on this experience.

Endure 24 takes place at Wasing Park, which is near Aldermaston in Berkshire.  We drove down on Friday, my little car fully loaded with our camping gear and lots of food.  We set up our tent, then sat in it for an hour or so listening to the rain.  I did feel a bit despondent at this stage.  I was in a very bad mood and poor Kurt had to bear the brunt of it as usual!  Where is the fun in camping and running in the rain?  However, soon the rain cleared to bright sunshine and my mood lifted with the clouds.  I was feeling ready!  We walked the five mile loop that afternoon and were quite surprised to find a few hills:  a long drag at the start to 1 km, a short sharp climb between 2 and 3km and another steepish climb at just after 4km.  It was a very pretty course though, mostly through beautiful woodlands, where the rhododendrons were in full bloom.  The final mile was a wiggly loop of the start-finish / camping field that was pretty unpleasant underfoot – very hard and rutted, great for spraining ankles if you’re unlucky.  We tried to relax for the rest of the day, chatting to those around us and doing the most important thing:  eating!  Endure 24 had put on some nice live music, which we enjoyed from the sunny spot in front of our tent while sipping a nice glass of wine.

Small lake with big carp

Rhodies galore

Ankle-breaker Field

I slept pretty well considering.  Race day dawned bright and breezy.  Our friends Glenn and Mitch arrived, Mitch with his wife Charmaine and kids Hannah and Adam.  Glenn was aiming to do his first ultra and Mitch was running to win.  After multiple warm-up trips across the field to the portaloos (ah the glamour) and lots of eating, lubing and organising of food and kit, noon finally arrived and we lined up.  Most of the field was made up of team runners – there were only 73 solo runners and we were competing to get closest to the back of the field!  My aim was simply to run at a comfortable pace for as long as I could and to keep moving forward as long as I could.  I ran a couple of laps with a nice lady called Clara.  We thought we would try and stick together and keep each other going as we seemed to be about the same place.  But after two laps, she was struggling and I wasn’t so I kept going on my own.  I actually revelled in running alone.  It was beautiful in the woods, just hearing the crunch of gravel underfoot and the birds singing, occasionally passing the time of day with other runners.  I continued in this vein for a long time, keeping a nice easy steady pace.  I was regularly passed by the super-speedy relay runners, and also by Mitch and Kurt which was lovely.  Glenn also caught up to me at about 20 miles and we ran a lap together.  Unfortunately, he’d suffered a knee injury early on and was struggling.  He did manage to pull out his first ultra though, doing 35 miles.

Team Cotswold Running - Glenn, Nic, Kurt, & Mitch (Photo Charmaine Mitchell)

I felt great until about 30 miles.  It was a warm sunny day.  Great for spectating, and in the woods the temperature was pleasant.  But the long lap in the open field which felt like a furnace was taking its toll and I was getting tired.  I was eating at the end of each lap, but I started to struggle and feel a bit negative.  I was only a quarter of the way through the 24 hours – I couldn’t imagine ever getting to the end.  I had to really focus on the reason why I was running in the first place – to raise money for my friend – to keep me going.  After 30 miles, I sat down for the first time and had a chat to Glenn and Charmaine.  I’d also just been passed by Mitch, who was also suffering, but who was now in first place!  I had some food and got going again.  A little sit down worked a treat and I felt fine and positive again.  I started Facebooking at 30 miles, which was a great boost as my friends had left so many messages of support on my page and I got a huge response to my status updates.  They really kept me going and made me smile.  The next milestone was 40 miles, as this was my previous furthest run.  I don’t remember much about this part of the run, aside from relief that the heat had gone out of the sun.  I put on some extra layers and donned my headtorch.  I was looking forward to experiencing running in the dark and enjoying the peacefulness of the woods.  I did really love the first lap I did in the darkness.  It was such a different experience and I felt quite intrepid.  The route was marked with glowsticks and looked very pretty.  Other runners continued to speed past me – so impressive that the relay runners maintained such high speeds in the dark.

Short chat over a few drinks - how romantic (Photo Charmaine Mitchell)

The next bad patch came at about 50 miles, or around midnight.  The fatigue was really setting in and I wanted so badly to stop.  I decided to take a short break in the tent.  Glenn and Charmaine had gone to bed, so there was no one to talk to.  I set the clock on my phone for 30 mins in case I fell asleep and closed my eyes.  I don’t think I slept, just rested.  After about 20 mins, I started to get really cold, so roused myself and prepared to move again.  Just then, Kurt and Mitch arrived at the tent.  I was so pleased to see them!  Kurt was doing well, Mitch not so much, having picked up an injury.  We left him sat down, wondering whether to continue.  After standing outside the tent waiting for Kurt to make himself some instant pasta, I had got very cold and was shivering uncontrollably.  Kurt ordered me to run up the first hill, which I did and soon got warmed up.  Hypothermia was a real possibility at this point, but thankfully I was ok.  We walked/jogged together for a little while before he left me alone again.  I just kept going, listening to podcasts, having the odd chat, but mostly I was in my own little world, with only the beam of my headtorch to look at.  I decided to walk the next lap, as I was so sleepy I didn’t feel safe to keep running.  I was worried about tripping and falling and walking seemed a less risky option.  I knew I only had another lap before daylight and hopefully a new lease of life.  A lovely lady team runner from Reading Roadrunners, called Kim, came up behind me and we got chatting.  She was very talkative and asked me lots of questions which was exactly what I needed.  She was walking due to an injury, so we walked the lap together and I was totally lifted out of my fatigue.  Thank you so much Kim!  She handed over the next runner and I started running again.  I hadn’t set myself a mileage goal, but I’d hoped to reach 60 miles in 24 hours.  I had done it!  And I was still going!

Getting plugged in and ready for the night shift (Photo Charmaine Mitchell)

Day had dawned, and I was glad to ditch the headtorch.  I was tired but ok and still able to run.  Glenn was up and about again so I had someone to chat to during my short breaks.  I was gleaning a huge amount of strength from my friends on Facebook.  Sadly, Mitch had had to pull out after 15 laps, with a very healthy lead, due to injury.  Kurt was still going strong.  I knew I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I was in the last phase of the 24 hours and I started to truly believe I could do it.  At just under 70 miles, there was an almost disaster as my Achilles tendon started to object.  I had a huge pain and then another and I thought something had popped.  Shit.  I walked along gingerly and it was sore but I could keep going.  I tried to jog on it and felt ok so I kept going.  When I reached Ankle Breaking Field, I did stop and walk to try and minimise the stress on it.  I sat down in the car at the tent and seriously considered whether to continue.  I’d completed 20 hours, 70 miles, a fantastic achievement but I would have felt a failure.  I had a long discussion with Glenn and Mitch.  The tendon felt tender but I could still move.  While I could still move, I had to keep going.  I took some ibuprofen, had some more food and carried on.  I started at a jog, and before long, my lovely Kurt caught me up.  He was in good spirits and we had a nice chat.  Seeing him gave me another huge boost.  He had one more lap to do to make it to 100 miles – I was bursting with pride for him.  I decided at this point that the best strategy was to walk for the rest of the race.  I could make it to 80 miles, or 16 laps.  I would finish under 24 hours, but not with enough time to justifiably do a 17th lap.  I probably could have run a bit more of lap 15, but I didn’t.  By lap 16, I was exhausted but felt elated knowing it was my last lap.  The cheers from the relay teams and supporters around Ankle-breaker Field in the last mile was amazing and I kept crying.  Writing this now makes me cry.  I saw Kurt ahead of me across the field, about ¼ of a mile ahead of me, waving and blowing me kisses.  It was all I could do not to sob!  With joy, obviously.  I ran over the line having done 80 miles, 16 laps, in 23 hours 27 mins.  Kurt was there waiting for me with a big sweaty hug, and I think we both had a few sobs in between the delirious laughter.  He was a little disappointed as he thought he’d run 20 laps, but in fact he’d lost count and the computer said he’d ‘only’ run 19 laps, or 95 miles.  He chose not to do another lap as he felt quite broken and just needed to finish.  This morning, with the official results online, it turns out he was right and he did run his 100 miles – I’m so thrilled for him!  Thankfully, I did manage to keep count correctly – 80 miles, 6th place lady!

That was fun, right!?

I’m feeling pretty sore today, but not that much worse than after 40 miles.  I am quite astounded by it all.  Probably the most dangerous realisation is that I know now I can run 100 miles – if I want to.  Something tells me it will only be a matter of time….  I have raised more than £1000 for my friend Claire’s cause.  And the support and encouragement I’ve had from my family and friends has been incredible.  One very happy girl today!


  1. Nic & Kurt you are inspirational. That is all. xx

    Lynn Ratty

  2. inspired me to enter in 2014. amazing achievement. rod

    1. That's great, Rod! Get out there and enjoy it!