Lapped endurance events, what’s the score?

During the past 12 months or so I have discovered the joys of the 6 hour multi-loop endurance event (I have also done 12 and a 24 hour events too). The concept is actually very simple, you have 6 hours to run as many or as few laps of the course as you want, complete one lap to receive an event medal. The laps can be anything distance wise, but 5k is normally the minimum distance. 


How does it work? There is a race HQ, normally an aid station, which acts as a central hub and tends to be more stocked with sugary treats than your average corner shop. You will start and finish each lap at this point. Everyone gets started together and once set off the clock is ticking. Each time you complete a lap you will recieve a mark or a band or similar to indicate the number of laps you have accrued. You keep going until you have either had enough or until you run out of time, when whichever point is reached you ‘clock out’ and the event organisers record your time and the number of laps you have done.


Doesn’t it get boring? You may think that running up and down or round and round for hours on end would be boring. Before I discovered these events I couldn’t think of anything worse, I hated running laps and out and backs on my training runs, preferring to go for a nice point to point or large single loop. You know, mix it up a bit, cover as much ground as possible and explore my surroundings. When I entered my first event I thought I was going to hate it, but I was prepared to give it the benefit of doubt and go into it open minded. I’m so glad I did as they are actually great fun. 


Could they be more supportive? One of the things that I found most surprising was the level of support, not just from the organisers, but from the runners. As you pass each other, multiple times, throughout the duration of the event you share a moment. It feels like we are all in this together, not against each other, but working towards our own personal goals. That shared moment is often a smile, a nod, a grunt, a vocalised platitude, anything really, basically some form of acknowledgment as you pass each other. It’s supportive, encouraging and puts a smile on your face. In this day and age where people tend to be so self absorbed it is quite refreshing.

Can you push your boundaries? Events of this nature can help you push your boundaries in a safe environment. The furthest you are away from the start/finish area is only ever likely to be about a mile and a half, so heaven forbid if you are having some sort of difficulty it’s not a long walk back and help is not far away. You can run until you are knackered and then maybe walk a lap. It’s all about relentless forward motion, keep racking up those miles until you run out of time. I’ve seen so many people complete their first half marathon, marathon and ultramarathon in this manner. #justonemorelap

Who’s behind the madness? There are quite a few events organisers that put on these events around the country. I first discovered them by looking at The 100 Marathon Club events page, yes, there is a club for people who have either run or aspire to running 100 or more marathons. 

Here’s a few of the organisers that I know about that organise these races throughout the year;

What if I’m last to finish? being the last to finish means absolutely nothing. In an event like this you tend to want to be the last to finish to ensure that you have maximised time and distance. These are small events, usually 2-300 people. People will run to whatever time/distance they have planned, no one tends to really know who is first/who is last as everyone is running a different race. It’s great. I highly recommend trying it. You will surprise yourself about just how far you can run. I did!

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5 reasons why you should wear Apricot

I have been known to visit a different parkrun from time to time. Ok, ok, I visit a different parkrun most weeks these days and I wear my Apricot parkrun top pretty much every time (unless it’s fancy dress!). My Apricot top proudly displays the name of my home run, Havant parkrun.


Here are 5 reasons why I think you should wear Apricot.

  1. Support the brand. Buying Apricot supports the parkrun brand. Personally I buy an Apricot product for every ‘free’ parkrun top I’ve received from Tribe Sports to redress the balance. Seems appropriate to me, it’s not all about the free shirts.
  2. Don’t be shy. These tops are an amazing conversation starter, “Oh you’re from Havant parkrun, I haven’t heard of that one before…” (boom boom). They are great for tourism and I’ve worn them at other events too, people will strike up a conversation about parkrun wherever you are running it seems.
  3. Protect your assets. These tops are incredibly comfortable and wick away moisture well. They are light and airy, well sized and soft on the skin. I prefer these tops to most of my other running tops. I’ve never suffered from chaffing in an Apricot top. My nipples thank me, yours will too!
  4. Ease of choice. It’s Saturday morning and you just don’t know what to wear with those trainers and shorts. There’s a real danger that wardrobe choice could make you miss the start! Heaven forbid, this can’t happen! Choose Apricot every time and remove the faff!
  5. Make a statement. All the cool kids are wearing them. It’s cool to be part of the parkrun tribe. Orange is the new black after all.

Joking aside, these are great tops and I highly recommend them. I do honestly tend to chose my tribe sports tops over my other running tops as they just are that comfortable.

To quote parkrun’s Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams in a newsletter ‘Someone joins the parkrun family every 30 seconds. One of the most frequent questions we get asked is “how can I support parkrun?”, and right now a great way to do that is to purchase some Apricot of your own. By doing so you’re helping to secure the future of the milestone t-shirts, our wonderful friends at Tribesports, and parkrun itself.’ 

Treat yourself or a love one today.
ps. I’m not associated with parkrun or Tribe Sports other than being a weekly participant and fan of the parkrun movement and a customer of Tribe Sports. All opinions voiced are my own.

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Havant parkrun

The one with the Hawaiian theme. Today feels like the first parkrun I’ve done in ages, but it really isn’t! I begrudgingly skipped last weeks parkrun due to the small matter of running at Endure 24. I had wanted to visit Didcot, which wasn’t really that far from where we were camping in Wasing Park, a mere 28 miles away. I had been pursuaded by my fellow participants that getting a cheeky parkrun in, regardless of the fact that it was a D and I don’t have one of them, would be stupid on the morning of a 24 hour endurance race. I’m still not entirely convinced, but it’s too late now. I did however manage to run the equivalent distance of just over 22 consecutive parkrun’s and did at least 4 of those in my Apricot parkrun top. A total of 70 miles racked up in 18 hours 36 minutes. Not a bad days work I guess.


So why am I back at my home run this week dressed in a Hawaiian shirt? Well, this week is Havant’s 5th birthday so it’s most definitely a great excuse for a rare home run. It is the 264th event being held at Havant since its inception on the 16th June 2012! There have actually only been 261 Saturdays in the 1827 calendar days between then and today, but you have to factor in the New Years Day specials too. I don’t think there has ever been a cancellation at Havant in the 5 years it’s been running which is so very impressive and shows the love and commitment behind this free timed 5k event from the local running community. (EDIT: I’ve been informed that Havant has just been cancelled a couple of times when a water festival was taking place in the park, but never due to weather) The core team of volunteers at Havant, along with the volunteers that come out week in week out, come rain or shine, should be commended. Today is the day to go out of your way to thank every marshal and volunteer out on course, though I highly recommend that you do that every single week wherever you’re running. It’s thanks to these guys you get to run. Thank you volunteers!!


Havant parkrun is held at the picturesque Staunton Country park in Havant, there is parking on site for the princely sum of £1.80 for an hour or £2.50 for the day, which gives you a voucher for a free drink at the shop afterwards. There are toilets available near the start line which is a short walk from the car park. Make sure you are there in good time as the car park can fill up as Havant parkrun attracts in the region of 250-300 people most weeks. The course is mainly hard pack trail so this time of year a road shoe is fine, in wetter months trail shoes are a good idea as you have lots of puddles and mud to splash through (no nancying!). It is a small loop of the top lawn followed by two big loops of the woods finishing back up on the top lawn. It isn’t flat by any stretch of the imagination, you drop down the aptly named Black Slope twice, taking in the views across the lake before working your way around the forrest and back up to the top lawn. It’s a lovely but challenging route with some tricky camber on the paths to contend with. The fastest time ever recorded at Havant is a blistering 15:56 by James BAKER, an absolutely incredible time on this course.


Today’s special birthday run was also a pacing event. Pacing events are great, it gives you an opportunity to push yourself to a PB. Havant parkrun attracted 267 runners today and many of them scored a PB as a result, 32 in fact. Guess who was one of them, go on, have a guess…. I got a PB at Havant! My last PB at Havant was 24:19 on 13/03/2016. I absolutely smashed that this morning with a time of 23:22, almost a full minute quicker, and whilst wearing a Hawaiian shirt and leis AND having completed a 70 mile run less than a week ago! My fastest ever parkrun time, like ever, was at the pancake flat Southsea, 23:21, so I’m only 1 second off that today. It could well be time for a return visit to Southsea to see if I can improve on that. It would be lovely to get a sub 23 this year. Can you tell I’m quite stoked about this! I’m over the bloody moon!


Would Havant parkrun be the same without cake? Pretty much every week cake is laid on at the shop after by the cake club. They lovingly bake treats to freely share with anyone who pops over to the shop after parkrun for a coffee and a chat. It’s a lovely social element to this particular parkrun and something that makes Havant very dear to me. It’s very welcoming and very inclusive and there are lots of people I’ve met here that I am happy to call friends. Havant has a lovely family feel to it and I can’t recommend highly enough that you pay it a visit and join in.


Sadly this week I had to rush straight off up to QE Country Park to walk the cross country route and mark out marshal points. I did however manage to get a cheeky Cornetto in when I got there. Mint choc and it was bloody lovely!


Where to next week? I’m not sure yet, I’ve got 9 more to visit to hit 50 different parkrun’s, that’s the target. So maybe Whitely to complete Hampshire again or Horsham to complete West Sussex, or maybe Moors Valley or Guildford, choices choices!

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70 miles is a long way

In the days since running 70 miles at Endure 24 it has become very apparent that a lot of people struggle with the whole concept of running that far. There’s been a lot of disbelief and rationalisation going on.


Some of the answers given to questions this week have been as follows;

  • Yes, it is further than running from Portsmouth to London
  • Yes, it is a good distance for a bike ride
  • Yes, it is like running the Great South Run 7 times in a row
  • Yes, it would have been easier to use a car
  • Yes, I do like to run a bit
  • Yes, I am still quite porky, I like food, what can I say!
  • Yes, I did pay good money to do this
  • Yes, I did run for over 18 hours

And on the flip side of that

  • No, I have not run the London marathon
  • No, I wasn’t doing it for charity 
  • No, I can’t think of better ways to spend my weekends
  • No, I didn’t get bored

I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but if a 17 stone lump like me can rack up 70 miles in 18.5 hours then I’m sure a lot of you could do it and more besides. It’s all about desire I guess, or stubbornness maybe, apparently I can be a bit stubborn. I do also love running and spending time with my running family. I’ve made so many good friends and wouldn’t have gone as far as I did without their support and encouragement. #proudtobepjc

As I alluded to in a previous post about Endure, if I had done some proper training for this distance rather than bouncing from distance race to distance race I could have pushed further. I’m already waiting patiently for entries to open up so I can book a place for next year and train with the end goal of running 100 miles in 24 hours and earning myself a special Tshirt.

  • Yes, there are easier ways of getting a tshirt…

In reality though 70 miles is still not a big distance in terms of ultra running. Racking up 100 miles in 24 hours is an amazing achievement and will earn you a coveted belt buckle. However, 100 miles also isn’t a long way in terms of ultra running. There are races that go on for days and days where you have to be self sufficient and carry all your kit with you. Now that is hardcore? Truly hardcore. Running 70 miles is just a nice day out in comparison.

So, what’s next? Well I have a 12 hour overnight endurance run coming up on the 1st July, the aptly named Insomniacs. That starts at 6pm Saturday and goes through till 6am Sunday. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve also got the Midnight marathon and a few more 6 hour multiloop races on the horizon.

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Endure 24 – 2017

Endure 24 is a running event of epic proportions, a place to truly push those boundaries, the Glastonbury of runnning events. The premise is simple, run as many miles as you can in 24 hours on your own or as part of a team. Each year they add runners to the Mizuno Endure24 100 Mile Club, any runner covering 20 laps of more solo will recieve a special Endure24 100 Mile Club t-shirt. They don’t give many away but its a great target to aim for.


The most I’ve ever run to date was 50 miles at the Ox 50 last month, which itself was further than anything I’d ever run before by almost 20 miles. 50 miles is a long way! 20 miles is a long way! Could 100 miles in 24 hours be possible? According to some quick calculations it could be done by maintaining an average pace around the 14 minute mile mark for the duration of the event. Could I do it? Highly unlikely, but always nice to have a long term goal in the back of your mind. A target to aim for and a game plan to work against.


The course

The Endure24 route is an undulating mixed terrain trail loop. It is five miles long making it easy to calculate the distance you’ve covered and how many laps you want or need to do. Although the distance is 5 miles it’s marked out in kilometres for some reason. Out on route there is the Vdub Vibes camper at 4km blasting out the tunes and dishing out shots of energy drinks. There is an aid station at 5k providing water and shot bloks. The route is very clear and well marked out and marshalled.


The training

So, the training, well, erm, what have I been doing for training, getting long runs in and back to back runs, double run days and all of that other good endurance stuff. Yeah, I’ve not done any of that really. I’ve basically been running a marathon a month since September 2016 and ticking along doing 20-30 miles a week in between. Long runs pretty much non-existent, much like tapering! I hadn’t planned to do this, it just sort of happened and I’ve been rolling with it.

My weeks basically shape up like this

  • Monday – rest day
  • Tuesday – speed work (5 miles fast)
  • Wednesday – hills (5-6 miles social)
  • Thursday – hills (5-6 miles)
  • Friday – rest day
  • Saturday – parkrun day (5k fast)
  • Sunday – hills (8-10 miles social)

Three weeks of that then chuck a marathon in for good measure, which usually means I drop the Wednesday and Thursday runs, and change Sunday to 26.2 (or longer). That’s it, that’s my training plan in a nutshell. Pretty rubbish really.

These are my ‘long runs’

  • 24.09.2016 401 Challenge marathon 390 – 27 miles
  • 01.10.2016 401 Challenge marathon 397 – 30 miles
  • 27.11.2016 Winter Festive Frolic 27.6 miles (5:21:43)
  • 18.12.2016 Portsmouth Coastal marathon (4:58:07)
  • 08:01.2017 Resolution run – 26.4 miles (5:16:50)
  • 05.03.2017 Malta Marathon (4:47:58)
  • 26.03.2017 Queen Elizabeth Spring marathon (5:29:44)
  • 30.04.2017 Wickham Whistler – 26.4 miles (5:30:42)
  • 05.05.2017 The Ox 50 – 51.5 miles (12:14:26)


The Team

This year a group of us from my running club, the Portsmouth Joggers, were all heading up together to take part. PJC had a total of 9 runners taking on the 24 hour challenge solo as well as a pair taking it on as a team. Our 11 hardy runners amassed an amazing total of 665 miles during the 24 hour period running the 5 mile looped course through sunshine, rain and darkness.

SOLO

  • Pauline Dorn 10 laps – 50 miles
  • Del Roberts 11 laps – 55 miles
  • Hannah Little 11 laps – 55 miles
  • Jenny Campbell 12 laps – 60 miles
  • George Taylor 13 laps – 65 miles
  • Michelle Cuming 13 laps – 65 miles
  • Andy Little 14 laps – 70 miles
  • Paul Jeffrey 14 laps – 70 miles
  • Kirsten Walton 15 laps – 75 miles 

TEAM

  • Jonny & Simon Langley 10 laps each – 50 miles. 100 miles total 


The runners were supported at base camp (and at various places around the course) by a fantastic crew, Tom and Liz Worman, Clare Fleming, Paula Taylor, Stacey Parry and Angela Langley, not forgetting team mascots Mollydog and Bertie. These guys totally looked after all of us. I had hot food cooked for me, coffee supplied and all my needs looked after at the end of each lap. I certainly couldn’t have pushed as far as I did without them.


It was quite simply a fantastic weekend of fun and running within the PJC family with people pushing their personal limits and putting their endurance and mental fortitude to the test. I am really looking forward to us doing it bigger and better next year and can’t thank everyone involved enough for the support and encouragement day and night. Although we were predominantly running solo we were most definitely a team.


I managed to grind out a total of 14 laps, 70 miles, in 18 hours 35 minutes and 59 seconds before calling it a day. This secured me 46th position in the male solo category out of 118 entrants. Not that it counts for much but I was 1st place out of those that completed 14 laps. I still had 5 hours or so left to push further but by that point I’d had enough, my feet were getting really sore and fatigue had really kicked in. Even though I’d love to have run 100 miles I basically talked myself out of it on that 14th lap and convinced myself that stopping was the right thing to do.


Those 14 laps were a mix of sundrenched running through the woods and being soaked to the bone in the early hours of the morning as it rained fairly solidly through the dark small hours. Head torch running is always fun, when it’s raining it gives you a strange ‘hyperdrive’ perspective on the world, at least it does when you’ve been running for 12 hours and your mind is in a weird place!


At the end of the race, after a massage and some impromptu downtime I handed back my chip, collected my medal and treated myself to a nice big double 99 flake ice cream. It is the best way to finish things off, a nice cold ice cream, the go to fuel of endurance athletes!

Next year that special 100 mile tshirt will be mine.

#proudtobepjc

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