July 12, 2016 at 3:32
Posted by Rachael Woolston
As part of our Fitbitch Challenge Community, eight of our runners (some who only started learning to run with us last summer) took on a 24 hour relay race in June, complete with Faraway Fairies in the woods and a DJ bar, as Louise Budd reports…
Last year, if someone had told me I’d enter a race that lasted 24 hours with no idea of I’d get the chance to sleep or eat I’d have said they were mad. And that, along with worrying about whether I”d be able to complete all the laps I needed to without letting my team mates down meant that I felt very nervous the day before the Mizuno Endure 24.
We arrived to set up camp on the Friday, the day before the event started which had attracted 3000 entries, of which there was a mixture of teams and solo runners. There was an exciting buzz in the race village, which consisted of the campsite, where all runners had pitched their tents and mobile homes, and the start and finish line for each lap.
On Saturday, the morning of the race our all women team enjoyed breakfast together and organised what we were going to do. We had pulled names out of a hat for running order – I was third – and we confirmed all this and wrote the order down on a wipe board, along with a rough estimate of how long each leg would take and when each runner should be starting their lap. It was so exciting to see Lisa run off at noon with all the other runners at the start, but it wasn’t until 13.33pm that I finally got my chance to run.
I raced off around the bend and almost immediately hit a hill which slowed me down. The route was mainly off road, on bridle paths some laid with wood chips and it also went through a wood that was gnarled with tree roots in places. Before the wood though, I had to run up Heartbreak Hill, with a gradient of 115m although it was made easier by the bar at the bottom, the VDub Bar (which had sports gels rather than alcohol on offer) playing tunes to help power you up the hill. I made it almost half way up before walking the rest. The top had stunning views over the forest and the next 3 km were undulating which allows you time to recover.
On the first lap, all the runners had been bunched together whereas by the time I ran my first lap, everyone was more spread out but there was always someone to chat with, and there were little sign posts at every kilometre with inspirational quotes. My favourite, was Mohammed Ali’s “Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”, at km 4.
While our team runners waited for our next lap, we all ate constantly, BBQ sausages, cake, crisps, bean stew, you name it, we’d bought it and ate it. There were also showers and toilets although you were lucky if you got a warm shower and the toilets got progressively worse as the event wore on.
I ran my second lap at 19.52pm when it was still light but my third one, at 2.41am was the most magical. We’d all brought shoelaces which lit up and flashed, which attracted lots of attention and cheers from other runners. It was exactly the boost that I needed as I approached 15 miles, as I felt really tired particularly as I’d found it so difficult to sleep because I was so excited. The woods were lit up with fairy lights and populated with the Faraway Fairies, people dressed up with wings and wands to help encourage you round. It was magical although, I was exhausted at the end, I got in the tent and fell asleep almost immediately, not expecting to have to run again. As it was I had to be woken up to run one final leg at 9.12am fuelled by a sports gel! Heartbreak Hill felt endless but our team were determined to hit the magic 30 laps and so I pushed on, past the VDub Bar, ironically playing Coldplay’s Paradise, and finally over the finish line.
Our team finally finished having run 30 laps or 150 miles, exceeding our target and placing us 7th out of 25 in the women’s large team category. Each lap varied from 46mins, 02 seconds, to my longest lap, my last at 50mins, 45 seconds. By the end I was tired, sweaty but absolutely elated. We all can’t wait to do it again next year.
Fitbitch Tips for Successful Team Relay Racing
Decide which order you are going to run in BEFORE the race and stick to it. We pulled names out of a hat although putting fastest or fittest first is also an option.
Use a whiteboard
When you’re tired and exhausted from running, it’s really easy to forget who is running next. Write it all on a whiteboard, including an approximate time of when you should be running next. It makes it much easier.
We completed three night runs before the race to get used to how it felt to run with head torches and how it affects your senses – you can hear so much more acutely!
Style it out
Forget taking one outfit, take your entire running wardrobe. If you get wet or sweaty, you feel cold and damp and so you need to get out of your clothes, layer up to keep warm and then put something dry on for your next run. I had an outfit for every lap.
Perhaps you don’t need this if you have a small team, but it made a big difference to us to have somewhere to change and put on kit. It meant that others could sleep without being disturbed.
In brief: the good, the bad and the plain ugly
- Fantastic team mates – doing a team relay together over 24 hours really creates an incredible bond and sense of camaraderie
- Brilliant course with great surprises in the woods such as the DJ bar and the fairies
- Sense of achievement – I’ve run a marathon before but but this HOW COMPARE?
- It is so hard to know what to eat. Next time, we plan to take little portion pots so that we can each eat individually at designated times rather than trying to do it socially.
The Plain Ugly
- Disgusting toilets that were not properly cleaned so quite a few our team were ill after the race. That said, the event organisers were amazing and quickly investigated and have assured us they will take action next year to ensure it does not happen again.
Male to female runners ratio: 1360 female: 1631 male