I was going to try and keep this short but just how do you keep a run report for an event over 24 hours short? So if you plan on reading this, grab a coffee, get comfy and get reading.
Endure 24 was a complete unknown to me this year, I have run for the past 3 years at both Endure and Thunder Run as part of the relay teams but I wasn’t sure how I would manage to keep going solo for 24 hours, whether or not I would manage to hit my initial 60 mile target and completely uncertain if once I got there if I could carry on. I had always said I would love to hit 100 miles but that target very quickly went out the window after my longest training run of 40 miles round Richmond Park and I quickly revised my second target to just be anything over 60 miles with an eye on 80, anything over 60 was always going to be a bonus. I had spoken to Jason Blair, Richard Goulder and Ann Bath over the previous weeks; all experienced in these silly distance races and decided that I should break the 24 hours down into 20 mile sections with a break between each one.
And so at 12 O’clock when the air horn blasted for the start of the race off I trudged being very careful not to head out to quick and set myself a pace I could comfortably maintain for the first 20 miles. The support from the start was amazing as everyone on the site had gathered to see us all off, the sun was shining and it was shaping up to be a great weekend.
I had set my stall out from the start to run the flat and downhill sections and walk the hills over the first 8 laps although I did run the first long hill from the campsite and I felt that walking right from the start just wasn’t an option. The first 4 laps went without incident; I was feeling strong and made sure I took a 5 minute breather at the half way water station that had been specially built for this year’s race. Last year the water station was set up from the back of a car but this year the organisers had built a little shack they called the Glade Cafe in a clearing in the woods with some little seats made from tree trunks for us to rest our weary legs. The counter at the shack was well stocked with Bloc Shots, Gels and best of all Jelly Babies which I took full advantage of as the guys refilled my water bottle. The organisers had also provided a portaloo in the clearing and I also discovered a stand pipe just to the side that proved to be really useful during the heat of the afternoon as I stuck my head under the cold water to cool off a little.
After my first 4 laps I took a break for around an hour getting some food down me and changing before heading out for my second stint of 4 laps. I was feeling OK at this point and quite optimistic I would get to 40 miles before midnight. My biggest concern at this point was that the night laps were going to be difficult as the ground under foot was extremely uneven in places and on tired legs this could be a recipe for disaster if I pushed myself to hard so I had decided that once the next 4 laps were done I would take another longish break and then walk through the night and only run on the sections where I felt confident I wouldn’t end up falling flat on my face.
Laps 5, 6 & 7 went quite swiftly and I had already arranged for my torches to be brought out to me at the start line for my final lap as the rules stated that anyone heading out after 8pm should take their torches regardless of whether or not they would finish before it gets dark. I came through to start my 8th lap just before 8:30 and was feeling rather pleased with myself as it was looking as thought I would get the first 40 miles done within 10 hours. This had always been at the back of my mind that I could do this as my training run in Richmond Park had taken a similar length of time but I wasn’t sure how much more difficult the terrain at Endure would make it. As it turned out I crossed the finish line on my 8th lap with 9 hrs 57 minutes on the clock so I was bang on target and feeling absolutely certain that I would hit my 60 miles. During my 8th lap I was still feeling pretty good and was wondering to myself if I should change my game plan and crack on for another 10 miles before coming in for a break. It was just getting dark and I was feeling happy in myself that I was pushing a fairly good pace even though I was walking large parts of the course by now, especially the inclines. As I ambled along up one of the hills one of the front solo runners came up behind me and took some time out to see if I was OK as he said I was looking a little wobbly from behind. I told him I felt fine and was thinking of knocking out another 10 before heading in for a break but rather then push on he stayed with me for a bit still asking if I was OK telling me that although I felt OK I was starting to look a little jaded and that as he approached me from behind I was snaking across the path a bit and that he thought maybe I should take my break after this lap. I thanked him for his concern, let him head off into the dusk and took stock as I walked along and sure enough he was absolutely spot on I was struggling to walk in a straight line, I just didn’t realise it, fatigue was definitely starting to set in so the decision was made, sod the next 10 miles let’s get some grub down my neck and do them later. I took the time later on to thank him as he flew past me yet again well on his way to 100 miles.
And so just before midnight having had some hot food, hot drinks and a hot shower it was time to get back to the grind stone and knock out the next 20 miles and what an experience those 20 miles turned out to be. From the start I’d always thought that getting to 60 miles wouldn’t be too much of a problem. I had done the 40 miles before and although tired I felt that I could have pushed on for more but I had seriously under estimated how hard doing those additional miles would be once sleep deprivation and night time running were thrown into the equation. This is the point I take my hat off to those guys who run these distances on a regular basis because those hours between midnight and sunrise were really hard work. I had been awake since around 5am Saturday morning and whilst the first night lap went ok only taking me around an hour and a quarter from start to finish from then onwards it was a battle of wills between my mind and my legs. My 10th lap begun just after 1 am and that’s when the games started. I was still fairly compos mentis at this time but my legs didn’t seem to want to respond as fast as my brain wanted them to. I had got to the Glade Cafe and taken my usual jelly baby break when the weirdest thing happened. As I was trudging up the hill after the water stop I was passed by this guy wearing a Chelsea top with Lampard on the back. I said hi as he went past me and asked him if he was pleased that Mourinho was back at the bridge which he replied to in a very slurred voice as he started to walk. This guy was all over the place and as I caught him up I put my hand on his right shoulder as he looked like he was about to fall sideways and asked if he was alright. He turned towards me and replied he was OK but had drunk a few beers before his lap and the smell of the alcohol just hit me, he stunk like a brewery and looked like he’d had more than just a few. I left him to it and had a chat with the marshals up ahead as I felt he was a liability both to himself and others; they thanked me and said they’d take a look at him. As I got a short way along the track from the marshals, there he was in front of me again staggering along the track. I couldn’t for the life of me work out how he had got there as he certainly didn’t overtake me on the path. On reflection the only way he could have done it was to crash through the woods and miss that entire corner of the course, how he didn’t get lost in the woods and end up way off course is anyone’s guess.
I had a quick coffee break before lap 11, began plodding along the trails again and was really struggling when I bumped into a guy called Ian Stewart. Another solo runner who was on the same number of laps as me, I had spoken to this guy a few times over the course of the event and with the help of him and one of the female solo runners we pulled each other round the 11th lap all feeling more than a little tired. This left one more lap for my 60 but by this point I was not in good shape, I was feeling really cold even though I was wrapped up in 3 layers, leggings, hat, gloves and snood so more coffee was the order of the day before getting the last one done. The sun had come up, everyone had eyes on stalks and I was in a world of my own. Never had 5 miles seemed so far and that 12th lap took me around 2 hours to complete and looking back I am surprised I did it that quick. Having run in the relay teams before I had noticed how the solo runners appear to just go into a trance and hardly respond as you pass them, now I know why. At one point on lap 12 Laura Perry walked with me for a while and I didn’t even register her being there at first. I had a moment where I couldn’t figure out why my fingers had turned black, I knew in my mind they hadn’t but it took ages for my brain to process the fact I was wearing gloves. I was told afterwards that I kept telling Laura my hands were black and she apparently got quite worried about me. I vaguely remember chatting with Rosie Gerrard for a short spell and Krystal Newbury walked for some time with me on my 12 lap as well and I know that their support definitely got me through it, I can’t thank them enough. I had a spell of paranoia when I was convinced someone was following me through the trails without a torch but every time I turned round there was no one there, my mind playing tricks on me again.
I finally finished the 12th lap at around 7:20 am and staggered into the catering tent where I was met by the wonderful Derick Summers and Mandy Brown who sat me down, looked after me and very kindly got me a bacon baguette before I headed back to the camp site. I was so cold the girls in camp quickly got me wrapped up in more layers, a blanket and sleeping bags as I apparently wasn’t looking that clever and I promptly fell asleep in my camping chair.
At this point I had pretty much thought about calling it a day and then I saw it, the message on Facebook all the way from the land down under. I had been putting progress reports on my Facebook page and had posted that I had reached my goal of 60 miles to which Pegs replied:
“Well done Kevin. As others have said an amazing effort. I know you have given it 100% but thought I should point out you’re just 2 miles short of the magical 100km…just put that out there so you can be aware before the clock runs out….Pegs”
Well that did it, Pegs can even motivate from the other side of the world so I had to get up and do another, so off I went for my final lap with Natalie Warren, Nikki De Sousa and Howard Brinkworth to keep me company. The last lap was a nice stroll through the woodland trails as we picked our way past all the flowers and Rhododendron Bushes, counted the lakes along the way whilst trying to spot some fish and for the record we counted 6 although looking on the map I can still only see 5 so the 6th must have been a small pond that doesn’t show. Having taken a break at the Glade Cafe we walked most of the way back with a female solo runner from Serpentine called Teresa Griffith who had also managed the magical 104Km and timed it just right so that after a slow run round the final lap of the field I got to the back of the finish straight just as they sounded the horn for 24 hours and I was the first to cross the line after the cut off to a huge round of cheers and applause from everyone present. It was a moment that made all the pain and effort worthwhile and a feeling of huge achievement and elation of having gone the distance.
I really want to thank everyone present for their help and support over the weekend both on and off the course; I certainly couldn’t have done it without you all. A big thanks Ann Bath for walking part of the course with me on Saturday evening and apologies to Krystal as I believe this may have delayed you getting your sticky Toffee Pudding. Thanks to Matthew Pritchard for putting me and Sam up in his tent and Team Tu Tu for putting a smile on my face every time I saw those bright Tu Tu’s floating past me in the night. Thanks to all of you who helped me when I hobbled back into camp in the morning suffering from the cold and exhaustion, I don’t remember too much about that bit and thanks to Natalie, Howard and Nikki for getting me round that last lap. Sam deserves a medal for all the fetching and carrying she did, making me tea, getting me food.
And finally the answer to the question on everyone’s lips, “Would I do it again?”
To bloody right I would!!