RUN24 – Run, eat, sleep, camp, run

RUN24 – Run, eat, sleep, camp, run.

I can’t really remember where I saw the advert for the first RUN24 in Wasing Park, but thought it looked interesting, so I emailed what I hoped would be a few willing friends. Five accepted, were available, intrigued and slightly mad so we entered a female team of 6.

We really had no idea of what to expect, whilst we had all done a
marathon, 3 of us only did our first within the last year, none of us had entered an endurance
event, camped in a race, ran during the dark or even been in a running
relay – total novices.

Race instructions arrived – the usual stuff on directions, timings,
registration, safety, route. Plus the extras hot showers, camping,
catering, massage, as many free Cliff bars and Bloks as you can
consume plus first aid were all available for 24 hours. We also had a list
of extra rules, head torches from 7:30pm to 7am required, hand torch or
glow sticks recommended, quiet times on camp site, passing the relay band
within exchange area, marshal points, individual timing chips wore on
own leg and water stations location on course.

Vicky and I arrived and set up base camp and registered for team Calne
Cruisers on the Friday night, we met the organisers Chris, Rebecca and
Claire in the bar and had a good chat and sampled the 24 hour catering
and bar. That worked as we got 8 hours sleep, more than double what we
would get on Saturday night during the race.

Rushing out of bed on Saturday morning in case Debbie, Gina, Helen and Karen arrived before
we even got up, we cooked ourselves bacon & egg butties, porridge and a cuppa. Our
team of 6 were assembled and all excited, apprehensive, nervous and
luckily full of energy.

Team assembled and ready for the start of RUN24

The 4×4 became the communal larder and tuck shop, so much food and drink
to keep us going through the night, some healthy, some comfort, some
energy, some soul food and quick snacks and luxury items kept us all
happy.

Over 500 runners assembled near the start for briefing at 11:45am, solo
and first leg team runners were corralled onto the course and the
countdown began..

12:00 on the dot I was off as team leader into the unknown, mainly
because Vic & I didn’t get around to walking the course the night before
– beer & burgers took priority!

The 5 mile course was a challenging trail route, hot, hilly and scenic as
we were surrounded by trees and lakes. It was well sign posted and
during the hours of darkness extra fluorescent orange tape, paint and
glow sticks marked the route and highlighted a few natural dangers.
Underfoot we had about 100m of tarmac, then 5 miles of grass, bog,
gravel, cow pats, lots of mud, bark chippings, tree roots, sandy
patches, which were lined with ferns, nettles, holly, corn, lakes &
streams.

The first lap was a bit congested due to the mass start but our
following 28 laps were free flowing as the runners were strung out.
There were a few single track sections in the first 2 miles and a heart
stopping moment as a herd of cattle charged over to us to see what was
going on during the first lap. Thankfully the fences held and we were able to proceed through
the cow pats on route. All competitors were excited, very friendly and
supportive of each other and I got to chat to solo runners, team
members and even marshals as we filled through gateways and along the
narrower sections.

Being first out I had to come back with a route report for the others –
unfortunately Vic didn’t benefit and went off just as blind as me as she
was on the second leg. The others told us we should have gone out to walk the course the
night before ! The route was generally a gradual up hill gradient for
the first 2 miles. Then undulating with one sharp but short hill. Water
station located at 2.5 miles which was well placed and refreshing. The
forest shielded us from the wind but we could see sky most of the way
around but still allowed  the sun to beat down upon us, so it meant we had a hot run even
during the night where only t-shirts required. One more medium hill then the
killer – a long gravel haul at 3.5 miles before you popped out of the
forest and ran along the side of a cornfield where the mile 4 marker met
us. It was then a run up and down along the edge of the campsite and
looped back into the start/finish and exchange zone. Here we handed over the
yellow band – baton to the next team runner. All very slick and smooth,
worthy of an olympic team lol !

Initially we thought we would be running an hour per loop so starting
our personal laps every 6 hours, with an anticipated 5 hours of rest for
recovery, food and a shower. Our first wrong assumption, we were running
the course between 43 and 55 minutes so I was running off on a new lap
every 5 hours not the expected 6 !

You’d think that running every 5 hours would be loads of time but during
the night you run 50 minutes, back to tents, shower, eat and then got 2
to 2.5 hours sleep, wake to alarm, drink to hydrate, get dressed and run
again. It goes in a flash.

We all got 2 laps completed in the daylight, then the way it fell I got
two night-time runs in the pitch black 10am and 3am, the others just had
the one night run. The forest was so different in the dark, I ran these
2 night laps without my iPod as I want to hear the night sounds around
me. Also I didn’t need any distractions as needed my full attention on the
trail ahead – well what I could see in the light of my head torch. You
get a sort of tunnel vision as you can only see what’s in the beam of the
light bobbing along which ever way you look. The glow sticks every 20 to
30 meters strung out like Christmas decorations off into the distance
gave you a guide and its amazing that after 2 laps you start to memorise
the potholes, tree routes, boggy areas and where the stinging nettles
are.
There was a calmness in the forest at night, your senses are alert
and heightened to all around. The air was still warm, and through tress
you could see the white headlights dancing along through the trees, but
you can’t follow them, you need to stick trail following the glow sticks and tape otherwise
you’ll be off course in a bog, lake or field of cows.

It’s now that you see the twists and turns the route took us through the
forest. Headlights catch the marshals high-viz jackets lighting them up
on the turns, even in the middle of the night they were cheerful and
encouraging. If you dare look up the night sky sparkled above but fleeting glances were all you could risk as concentration on your foot fall was required at all times. The forest came alive with the sound of owls, foxes and the soft pounding of runners feet. Visually you were limited to your head torch and glowsticks. The forest air was warm and slightly damp in the early hours bt very refreshing throughout.

My laps started at 12pm, 5pm, 10pm, 3am, 8am being 51 minutes, 50mins,
53mins (in dark), 53mins (in dark), 55mins totalling 25+ trail miles, a
midnight marathon 🙂 Our team delivered very consistent with laps
from 43 minutes to 60 minutes.

Our running order Me, Vic, Helen, Karen, Gina & Debbie kept logging the
laps in the forest, a total of 28 laps, 140 miles covered. Our second assumption was
we would be last – wrong again.
With the additional walking to/from start, around the campsite back and forward to the showers and loo’s we all covered more than a marathon distance in the 24 hours.

The atmosphere throughout the 24 hours was great, encouragement and
respect especially for the solo runners on course, the support at the
exchange was lively and great commentary in daylight hours. Apart from
the commentator called us the K9 Cruisers for the first 3 laps ?! The clock ticked away over the start finish arch as a reminder of time gone and ahead. Time literally flew by. There was also a TV that displayed the progress of all teams and solo runners, showing laps completed, times and positions.

The HQ with food and massage was buzzing through the night, midnight massages by a team that worked throughout was perfect  for tired legs and a great place to socialise with other runners. Even though we were in a competition the chat was friendly, possibly as there were so many novices like us that had no expectations coming into the race but to enjoy the team experience and a new challenge.

Victory for Team Calne Cruises 🙂 we were totally made up, this bunch
of novices pulled 6 more laps ahead of our nearest rivals in the female
team relay 6-8 runners.

We were ecstatic at our victory and even happier as we got a trophy,
medal and vouchers for Sweatshop – that’s a new pair of shoes and sports
bra for me.

Top tips and highlights of the race – take loads of running kit, it will
get sweaty, muddy, wet and two pairs of shoes are a benefit, even better
if one is a pair of trail shoes. The hot showers were heaven, clean,
spacious and even amusing when the generator cut out and you have a head
of foam, but quickly sorted. The loos were fully stocked with loo roll throughout
and some of the cleanest porta-a-loo’s I’ve ever seen. Race pack included individual
timing chips, t-shirts, a box of Cliff bars, race number (take a tri
race belt, easier when changing kit each lap). For a first event by
organisers this was well organised, generous prizes, great communication
throughout via emails and website. The services such as massage,
onsite catering, hot showers were a bonus and luxury.

We took too much food, not enough running kit – Vic ended up running in
a wholly inappropriate bra on her last leg with borrowed shorts !

But we had a blast ! it was so much fun to run with friends in a relay.
We learnt that you can survive a night on 4 hours sleep (split into 2 snoozes), you can run on
tired legs, you can run in the dark, you can enjoy chocolate, crisps,
jacket potato and porridge at 3am guilt free, that too many gels and
hydration drinks make you go to the loo loads and that challenging
courses are just that – challenging ! Our first endurance event was one
to remember all for good things, and you bet we will be back for another
event.

Calne Cruisers team 202 – victory haul 🙂 Not bad for a bunch of novices.

11 comments

  1. I’ve just put my name down for the year’s event with my running club Chineham Park Running Club. Well done on your victory, fabulous blog post! Sounds like a wonderful event, I’m looking forward to it already!

    • Louise you’ll enjoy it whatever the weather. The atmosphere is great. My top tips – take loads of running kit, use the massage & showers as required, mingle in main tent with others. Support the solo guys they are awesome.

  2. I smiled with glee while reading your beautiful account. I too completed the event, and it was a very emotional. I actually hugged one of the poles that held up the tape dividing crowd from race. I celebrated, post race, with a fine wine, and a box of biscuits, knowing I was the best

  3. I just smiled throughout reading your blog. What a great weekend. Congratulations on your result. Fantastic achievement. So looking forward to next year.

  4. I did Run24 and tried to recall an account of it for my friends and family but struggled as after 20 miles and no sleep at all however your account is a perfect description of everything I felt including the night run, the air the lights all like words out of my own mouth – thank you for speaking my mind when I couldn’t – great article!!!

  5. Fabulous blog – felt like I was back there again (Reading Joggers C team – probably similar ability and ‘goals’ as yourselves. Everyone is absolutely buzzing about how good this event was.

    • We all loved the event, a little tired today but as you are we’re still buzzing from the weekend. I’ve been tasked to seek out more adventures. But Loch Ness marathon in September for 3 of us will be enough to start with, especially as only our 2nd marathon each. Good luck in future events & running adventures.

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