24 hours of relay running

Running is an individual sport, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Running with a group of friends is a great way to stay motivated and improve, but racing with a group of friends is another level of challenging fun.

Endure24 is a 24 hour race where participants run as many laps of a 5mile loop as possible during the allocated time. 2017 was the second year I participated, this time in a fabulous group of 5 ladies: Coren, Sarah, Sophie, Jess and myself, named the #badassladygang. We were in the ‘3-5 person small team’ category, however you can also run as an individual, pair, or in a large 6-8 person team.

We went into the race with the main objective of just having a lot of fun camping and running through the woods. It was a chance to get out of London and do something a bit different to normal. For some in our team it was their first ever relay race, their first time running at night, and the first time they may run more than a marathon distance in a day. There was no pressure or expectation to compete, we were a social team here to have fun. Accompanying us was the dream-team crew of Matt and Sye, who looked after our campsite, cooked up a storm on the barbecue, and didn’t complaining when the alarm went off at crazy hours of the morning. Legends!

I was the only one on the team who had run this particular race before. Last year I ran in a mixed team of 5 and clocked up 35 miles (7 laps) which I was extremely proud of. When I organised this year’s team I thought I just wanted to go and have fun, but in the few days before decided I may as well try and race at least some of the laps. I’ve felt like I haven’t been running very fast or well, and it’s been almost 6 months since I last set a PB, so in a way it was a chance to prove that I haven’t plateaued. My total running time in 2016 was 289mins, so my personal aim was to beat that time.

Our running order for the daytime laps was Coren+Sarah+Julia+Sophie+Jess (repeat), meaning approx ~2.5hours rest between laps. I somehow convinced the team to let me avoid any nighttime laps (I’m not a fan of running in the dark) and instead run a double in the morning, so our night lap order was 2 x (Coren+Sarah) + 2 x (Sophie+Jess) + 2 x (Julia). Then we returned to daytime mode, meaning I picked up my nighttime slack by running again with only 2 laps rest (Coren+Sarah), and then took on the final lap for the team again after 2 laps rest (Sophie+Jess) to total 7 laps (35 miles).

One of the things I learned last year from doing the event was the importance of having fresh kit for every new lap. This meant clean socks, shirt and sports bra, and changing from shorts to leggings as the day wore on. In addition, I decided to wear a different colour tutu for every lap for a bit of fun: conveniently I own six tutus from various marathons, and ran six times! It’s only fitting therefore to tell this race-report via tutu colours.

Lap 1: Yellow tutu (Edinburgh Marathon) ? Went out hard – probably too hard because I came into handover huffing and puffing and just glad it was over. It was a bit of a shock to be running fast and I didn’t enjoy the push too much. However, I did set a lap PR of 37:45 which I was not expecting. Happy that I had at least raced one lap, but wanted to take it easier going forward.

Lap 2: Dark blue tutu (Florence Marathon) ? Sye made a very astute comment to me that this was my last opportunity to really race before the half-iron triathlon in two weeks time – the unspoken meaning being that I would regret it if I didn’t at least try to run well. He was right, so instead of giving up I said I would run 39mins… and came home in 39:16! That 1.5min different felt so much better and I started to enjoy the course while still running hard.

Lap 3: Orange tutu (Dublin Marathon) ? By now we had checked the team standings, and were surprised to see that we had moved into 3rd place in the 5F category… and then 2nd! This lap took place after 8pm which meant mandatory head torches, but it was barely dark enough to warrant turning it on. By now I knew every twist and hill of the course, and had the best time flying around it. I came into transition with a huge smile on my face, and another great lap time of 38:10.

Lap 4&5: Pink tutu (Cambridge Boundary Run Marathon) ? After a few hours of uncomfortable sleep my alarm went off at 4am so that I could eat breakfast and have a coffee before setting off on my double lap. The caffeine definitely helped because once my legs had woken up I found that I was able to run manageably fast given I had to do a second lap. I also picked up a bottle of (imitation) Lucozade at 4km and carried that with me to stay fuelled up. Crossed the line in 40:27 to the cheers of Sarah and another friend Tom before continuing straight on. I had settled into a good pace but could only keep it up for half of the first hill before deciding to walk to the top. It was a good energy-saving strategy I had previously reserved only for Heartbreak Hill (the worst one), but this time also employed for the Hill of No Return and Little Steep. Despite the walks I still finished the lap in 41:51 and 1:22:18 for the double, a significant improvement on 2016’s 3am double lap.

Lap 6: Red tutu (Paris Marathon) ❤️ Finally my legs decided they were done running fast. Once again I walked half of the three main hills, and gently jogged the rest of the way around. By now we had moved into 1st place in our category by a few minutes, but I couldn’t do much to increase the lead on this lap. I had been plagued by stitches/cramps throughout the race and they were getting particularly bad now. Lap time: 44:19.

Lap 7: Light blue tutu (Barcelona Marathon) ? Our 1st place lead had now increased to 12 minutes, but there was still a faint possibility that the 2nd place team could put up a good fight – so I went out with the hope of running a strong lap and keeping them at bay. I sprinted the first 200m before realising that my legs & stitches weren’t happy with me, and that instead I would just have to keep moving forwards and avoid letting any females overtake me in case they came from our rival team. At 3km a lady jogged up beside me, and so I slyly asked how her team was doing. She said “yeah good, we’re coming second in the females and I’m just running the last lap hoping to make up the gap”. That was a jolt to my system: I had just met my competition! I said “oh, cool” and then kicked into a new gear I didn’t know I had. From then on it was a race to the finish where I just needed to put as much distance between me and her as possible. It was tough, but I was not going to let our win go without putting up a hard fight. On the last switchback with 500m to go I couldn’t see her anywhere behind me, but still made my team who had come to finish together with me sprint to the finish line just in case I had missed her. With a 40:55 lap we beat her to the line… AND WON!!!

As it turns out, she was actually from the 8F category, and so my last-ditch-attempt 5km sprint was unnecessary. However, I am so proud of that final effort, because it proved to me that I can fight. There was no more giving up like in the last 10kms of Cambridge and Paris, I pushed myself hard to achieve something for both myself and my team. It was incredible.

I am so proud of my whole #badassladygang, and humbled to have had the opportunity to run alongside these fabulous ladies. While I was attempting to sleep, they ran through the mud and rain in the dead of the night. They showed grit, determination and perseverance, and did so with a smile on their faces. We had so much fun the entire weekend, and our winner’s trophy will forever be a symbol of the hard work we put in. Personally, I exceeded every expectation of my running, and with 282 total minutes knocked 7 minutes off from last year’s effort. Success!

Endure24 is a fabulous race. It is really well organised, the course is great, and there are plenty of facilities for food and drink (even a bar!) so the camping doesn’t feel too bad. The support is great, and I was happy to see so many other runners I know also participating in the event. For the first time there is a second Endure24 up in Leeds this year, as well as the shorter Endure12:50 which takes place in July. If you’ve got a group of friends who are keen to run laps in the woods overnight, I thoroughly suggest you check them out!

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