Endure 24

It’s 6pm(ish) Tuesday afternoon and I’m sufficiently recovered to start putting some words together about my whirlwind weekend away at Endure 24. It was an exceptionally last minute decision to go along, on Friday afternoon my weekend plans changed and the idea of travelling up to Wasing and spending the night in a field with thousands of Lycra clad runners took hold.

Let’s start by explaining the event itself, Endure 24 is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a 24 hour endurance event. You turn up, pitch your tent, run a 5 mile loop through the forest and continue running these loops in an attempt to rack up as many miles as you can in 24 hours. If you’re a hardy soul you can enter it as a solo runner, running as a pair is also an option or you take on the challenge as part of a relay team.

The vast majority of runners at Endure24 are teams of between 3 and 8 runners, the most popular category is mixed teams of 6-8 runners. There are only a few rules:

  • Each person in the team has to cover at least one lap.
  • There should only be one person from your team on the route at any time.
  • Its fine for the whole team to take a break and resume running when you want to.

I was fortunate enough to be welcomed with open arms into “Team Alice”, I’ll explain where that name came from shortly. Team Alice is made up of people I met through Havant parkrun, you couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of people. We were one team in a group of three teams that were camping together, the other two teams were from Victory AC, also regular Havant parkrunners for the most part. I knew a few people there but got to know more of them over the weekend.

Team Alice, captained by the lovely Karen, had seven members including me. The running order was established as being the following;

  1. Karen
  2. John
  3. Smokey Dave
  4. Giselle (not pictured above)
  5. Aimee
  6. Rachael
  7. Me

We had our own rules too. Quite simple really and very easy to adhere to when in good company.

Your first runner starts when the event kicks off and does a loop (or a double or triple depending on how they’re feeling) and hands over a wristband to the next team member who is waiting for them in the holding pen who then does their loop and so forth. Sounds straight forward enough, but there are normally 50 or so other runners in the holding pen waiting for handover. It’s often very difficult to find the person you are handing over to, if they are even there waiting! The runner has to stand track side of the railings shouting out a name hoping that their handover person is there and that they can hear/see them. This is where Team Alice got its name from, last year when they previously did it there was some poor soul wandering around shouting for Alice, the whole holding pen joined in and everyone was shouting for Alice, “who the f**k is Alice!!!”. You have to have been there to truly appreciate this as it happened frequently throughout the event and can be very funny for those joining in shouting, not so for the poor runner who can’t find anyone to hand over to.

The whole event is quite surreal, I don’t think I’ve ever obsessed so much about “what time is it?”, “what time was it they started?”, “when are they due back?”, “who’s out running at the moment?”. I’m quite a worrier when it comes to being places on time, I hate being late for anything, this meant a lot of extra standing around in the holding pen for me.

You have to predict how long it’s going to take you to run the 5 mile loop and let the person you are handing over to know beforehand so they can roughly calculate when to be there. You also need to keep track of what time you finished and handed over to tell the person after so that they have time to prepare to get down to the holding pen for their run. Bearing in mind that this also involved waking people up in the middle of the night and wee hours of the morning.

The course itself is a 5 mile loop through the forest, the start/finish area being the focal point but there is a ‘shack’ at around 5k into the loop that serves up water, gels and shot blocks as well as the ‘VDUB Bar’ just a little further round on, a neon lit VDUB bus blaring music and dish out out energy shots. 

The course is undulating and the aptly named ‘Short Steep’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ are exactly what they purport to being. The first few miles are a mix of tarmac and gravel track, but towards the end of the loop you head into the technical wooded section before breaking out of the woods into the open and the final grass stretch to the start/finish area. The wooded section is a great little section with roots and trees to dodge and avoid with lots of small bumps, holes and ridges to keep you on your toes, it also drops down nicely after the horrible climb up Heartbreak. At night it becomes a completely different ball game, you have to really pay attention running the course or risk injury.

Running through the forest at night really is something else, whilst it was the most treacherous run I had it was also the most enjoyable. There is something about running through the woods in pure darkness with only a head torch to light your way, OK, slight exaggeration as the course is full of runners with head torches. There are some serious torches on the market, some akin to strapping a small sun to your forehead, or even to your chest should you want to pretend that you are indeed Ironman! There are also some fairy lights up on the trees when you hit the woods section.

The whole event really is something else, there is a fantastic atmosphere around the whole campsite and things seem to run very smoothly. When the toilet blocks had issues there were people on site to resolve them, likewise when the showers lost water pressure. I was really impressed with the organisation of the whole thing.

Support out on the course is great from other runners and the marshals dotted around here and there. Wearing my Bosh top I received the usual great levels of support with Boshaaaa shouted many a time. It was great to go to an event of this size and bump into people I know from online running groups and other events I’ve participated in. The running community really is fantastic, especially Bosh.

I only did three laps myself as I was still suffering a bit from the Goonie Run on Tuesday and I’m due to run a marathon this weekend so I should be tapering not running in an endurance event. I could have had a fourth lap but just wasn’t feeling it. Sleeping rough due to lack of preparation on my part and my continuing back issues played a large part in my decision to stop when I did too. I’d also not taken much by way of food and drink with me so my energy levels were low. It was certainly a big learning experience into how well I cope with stop/start running with lots of waiting in between and what sort of supplies I should have taken with me.

The three laps I did manage to churn out were as follows;

  1. 43:07 – very humid
  2. 46:49 – very dark
  3. 50:07 – cold and stiff

Reasonably consistent times but the downward trend as I tired is noticeable. Our team ran a total of 25 laps in the 24 hour period racking up 125 miles between us. There were 221 teams in our category and we positioned 188th overall, not that position is even remotely important as its all about getting involved, having fun and team work. I certainly felt like I earned my medal.

The top solo male runner, Paul Beechey, ran a staggering 27 loops in the 24 hour period, that’s an unimaginable 135 miles of running! The top solo female runner,  Erika Trevblanche, completed an equally amazing 26 loops totalling 130 miles of running, simply incredible. These solo runners didn’t sleep, they just continued on and on through the night, loop after loop after loop. It’s amazing just how far the human body can be pushed, it’s superhuman!

What an event. I’m well up for doing this next year and learning from the rookie mistakes I made this year. What a great weekend surrounded by great people all doing something we live for.

The official website : http://endure24.co.uk

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