It’s taken a while to get round to writing up this run. Mostly because I’ve been flat out with work ever since but also because there is so much to write about and I’ve got a very short attention span. Here, then is a (hopefully) potted history of my 24 hour run around a 400m track.
Just to put it in context this was a charity event organised by a few members of my running club (Handy Cross Runners) for the benefit of 3 local charities (details at the end). It was, fundamentally, a 24 hour relay broken down into 30 minute slots with runners paying £5 per half hour. It started at 7pm on Friday 17th June.
5pm 17th June – arrived at track. Tent had already been put up by friend – soon to become enemy, then friend again – Alex. Faffed around a lot laying out clothes, getting changed, endless trips to loo etc.
View from my tent
6.50pm – called in for base line medical exam. BP, HR and blood sugars. Bit stressful as very close to start
7pm – we’re off. 13 relay teams using lanes 1-3 and 3 of us solo runners (one other runner, Steve, and one hand cyclist, Mark, using lanes 4+5.
Me and Mark – and a random Panda
7-10pm – all going well. I decided I would adopt a 25/5 routine right from the start. As there was a bell rung every 30 minutes it was easy to run until the bell, then walk 5 minutes. Naturally for the first hour and a half I totally ignored this plan as I was feeling fresh but managed to rein myself in and pretty successfully stuck to the plan. During this time the family came down to see me before wandering off for a slap up meal to celebrate my daughter finishing her A-levels. Cheers guys…
10-11pm – the heavens opened.
What had looked like quite a nice dusk cloud formation soon brewed into a torrential rainstorm. The benefit of only having 400m to run to my tent meant I could get a rain coat on pretty quickly but I was soon soaked anyway. Throughout the 40 minutes it hammered down there was one person who remained, standing by the track, encouraging me on every lap. Jide, what a man.
The rain subsided and after a while stopped enough for me to risk changing clothes and it felt so good to be warm and dry again.
11-2am 18th June – not a clue. Really can’t remember much at all. I was concentrating on getting to the bell so I could have a break and vaguely remember hitting marathon distance in 4 hours 30 but that’s about it. Family came back slightly the worse for wear on cocktails for a little bit and my brother was coming down for about 2 ish so I was looking forward to that.
2-4am – My brother arrived and ran with me for about an hour.
Me and big bro
He was also running an hour for one of the charities so the hour of run/walking with me was just a bit of a warm up. It really made the night go quickly though as we don’t meet up that often and was good to catch up. Also the family also made a surprise visit at 3.30 which was an amazing feat!
4-7am – because it was a pretty cloudless sky and a full moon it didn’t seem to get completely dark but it was great to see the skies lighten and for morning to start appearing. I wasn’t really able to eat anything but forced half a bagel and peanut butter down. The things that were keeping me going were some super concentrated frozen orange squash bottles provided by Bev. These were a life saver throughout the run and definitely something I will adopt for future ultras.
Some of the lovely lap counters, marking each lap we did, for 24 hours!
By now my focus was on beating my 100k pb which was 11 hours 57 minutes. I felt if I could get to that ahead of 12 hours I would be well on my way to reaching 100 miles in the 24 hours. While completing 24 hours was the main aim, I really wanted to run 100 miles at the same time. According to my Suunto watch I made it to 100k in 11 hours 37 minutes.
62 – 74 miles – time was irrelevant now. All my focus was getting to 100 miles. And it was getting harder. I kept promising myself little incentives – do so many miles and you can have a milkshake, slice of watermelon etc. I then, stupidly, decided that at 74 miles, with “just” a marathon to go, I would allow myself a 15 minute lie down. I’d seen the other solo runners stop and take breaks throughout the night so felt I was allowed the same. I’d read many times about how it’s a bad idea even to sit at an aid station but by this time I didn’t care. I was way ahead of schedule and thought I could allow myself this one luxury. I told Alex what I was doing and for him to get me if I didn’t get out of the tent in 20 minutes, crawled into my tent and laid down. I didn’t sleep but it felt soooo good to not be standing up.
15 minutes later my alarm went off and I tried to get up. Nothing was working. I couldn’t move my legs. Luckily Alex’s brother had come to check on me and pulled me out of the tent and onto my feet. I managed to shuffle round the track until my legs loosened up a bit but it was a bit of a shock that I felt so bad.
74-90 miles – the worst part of the whole event. I’d gone from a 25/5 ratio to 3/1. I ran three laps and walked one. Sometimes I walked all 4 and then another 4. Unsurprisingly the miles just wouldn’t decrease. And then me and Alex had a little falling out – talk about don’t shoot the messenger. The lap counters had worked out that my watch was way out and I had run 5 miles less than I thought. I was not a happy chappy and decided to ignore him and just go with the miles on my watch. I knew he was right, gps isn’t always strictly accurate and round a running track mostly wildly inaccurate but I couldn’t deal with that right now! I don’t remember what I said but I think he came away with the impression I wasn’t very happy with him. Sorry Alex.
90-94 miles – by now I was walking a bit more than running and had a lot of help with people walking round with me or jogging when I was up to it. This really helped as I was in a bit of a depression by now. I knew the 100 miles wasn’t far away, but also really knew I had to run even further to get the “real” 100 miles.
At 94 miles my body pretty much shut down. I’d had regular medical checks and everything was fine but I hadn’t eaten properly (or hardly at all) and didn’t want to. By this time though I was craving salt. I’d been drinking full fat coke with a couple of teaspoons of salt in it for a few hours but needed something else. I got to my tent and Marion got me some crisps. I sat down, opened the packet, put my hand in to get a crisp, and totally shut down. Couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t move, nothing. I eventually forced the crisps down and carried on. Pretty soon I felt much better.
94-100 miles – this took for ever, I mean hours. But eventually at around 5pm I did it. People lined the track to welcome me in and it was quite an emotional moment. I’d been joking with Chrissie, who was in charge of the BBQ for what seemed like the full 24 hours, that I wanted a burger as soon as I got to 100 miles and she duly delivered.
Chrissie hiding her baps for once
The only problem was there was nothing I wanted less that food at that time. Sorry Chrissie.
For the next half an hour I sat beside the track resting and thinking about what I was going to do now. According to my watch, the thing I had been relying on the whole time, I had done it – completed my 100 miles within 24 hours -but really I knew I hadn’t. I had to carry on and run 100 miles as measured on the track.
100miles – 100 real miles – and so I did. And it felt great. I had no pressure on me, I’d rested for a long time and, once the stiffness went, I felt pretty good. After a while one of the counters told me I had 8 laps left to get to 100 miles and I ran pretty much the whole way. There was, embarrassingly, another celebration for my proper 100 miles and it was over. Except it wasn’t.
100 miles – 7pm 18th June –There was still about half an hour left until the 24 hours were up so after a brief stop I kept on going. According to the Suunto I completed 107 miles and according to the track just over 101 miles.
And then it was all over. Prizegiving done ( I was honoured to be given the first Terry Eves Memorial Trophy) and I was chauffeured home by my daughter leaving everyone else to do all the hard work clearing up. And I did feel guilty – just a bit…
Tearing up, just a little bit
It was am amazing experience and one I definitely wouldn’t ever do again! I loved almost every mile of it. There were so many enthusiastic, friendly, supportive, helpful people that made it not only bare able for me but also possible in the first place.
Huge thanks to Craig, Beverley, Alex, Chris, Charmain, Rachael, Simon, Phil, Dave, Chrissie, Mark, Steve, Marion, Robyn Jude, Louise, Helen, Brian, Matt, Gary, Gareth, Keith, Helene, Steve, Jo, Paul, Bex, Tim, Teresa, Jolyon, Jide, and anyone else who I’ve forgotten who did so much to make this whole amazing day happen. I’m only banging on about it from my perspective but the point of the day wasn’t anything to do with me. It was to raise money for these 3 charities
ArticOne Foundation, Wycombe Homeless, Pepper Foundation
If you would like to donate to these charities you can!
Either here at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/mattfowler
or the main page at https://mydonate.bt.com/teams/handycrossrunners
Oh, and just because I should – here’s my Strava route!