My first Endure24 – Bananas, Blisters and 90 miles of running

Those of you who read my previous post will know that I recently entered Endure24, a 24hour trail running event on a 5 mile looped course, with the objective of covering as many loops / miles as you can within 24 hours.

In summary, I absolutely loved every aspect of the event, from the event organisation and set-up, to actually running a loop-style course.

Here is a synopsis of my experience…

The journey

Several months ago now, my neighbour (affectionately known as ‘Tractor’ – @RunningMuppet) had agreed to run the event with me, so the two of us packed up his car the night before so that we were ready to leave for Reading bright and early on Saturday morning.

On advice from several seasoned ultra-runners regarding the importance of getting a substantial amount of food inside, prior to attempting a race of this nature, I completed my first breakfast at about 7am (porridge, bagel). Leaving soon after, we picked some motorway services midway to our destination to have our second breakfast (sausage buttie), which still allowed a good couple of hours for all the food to digest before the race started.

The event

Before we knew it, we were arriving at the event. What immediately struck me was the size of it. It looked more like a festival than a running event! There were tents, marquees, cars and people everywhere.

As solo entrants we were able to take our car right to the course itself to ensure that our supplies and clothing were within easy reach. We parked up and headed off to grab our numbers.

The next two hours flew by, during which we ate more food (Cliff Bar, Flapjack), got changed, put on plenty of sunblock and Glide, laid out our supplies and listened to the race briefing.

It was 11.55am when we were asked to make our way to the start line. What was hilarious was the way that all the solo runners (identifiable by their green numbers) walked as far to the rear of the starting area as possible – to the extent that there was a gap of 10 yards between us and the last group of relay entrants!

The hooter went off to signify 12noon and the 2013 Endure24 had begun….

The race strategy

As planned, Tractor and I set off at a very easy pace. To our credit, we had put together a very specific race strategy.

Our gameplan was to give ourselves up to 1hr 15mins to complete each 5 mile loop. I know to many people that this figure will appear to be pretty slow, but our plan was to sustain this pace for the entire 24 hours, to give us the best possible chance of reaching three figures (ie. 100 miles).

In the back of our minds, we were hoping to ‘put some time in the bank’ during the earlier laps, to allow for the slower night laps and the natural slowing down as the event (and our bodies) would begin to catch up on us.

So, on that first lap, we just let everyone go, walking the hills and slow jogging the flats and downhills. The course was much rougher than I’d expected, so we had to be constantly aware of where we planted our feet. We just wanted to learn the course – to learn where we would take on food, take on fluids, save our energy and ‘cash in’ on low energy running.

Then, it just came down to discipline. The discipline to be patient and to meticulously stick to this gameplan.

At the completion of each lap we’d stop at the car to meet our good friend Bryan (@bryanwe) who was crewing for us. Bryan would check on our status, encourage us to eat and drink whilst with him and then give us even more fluids and food to take with us (grapes, 9 bars, bananas, flapjacks, electrolytes and more bananas).

That became our routine, which we maintained for the next 40 miles. It was at that point that Tractor showed the first signs of mental fatigue – well, it was either that or just he’d got fed up with my constant happy mood.

It was interesting, comparing our two approaches to the race. I could quite happily switch off from the ‘big picture’ and by that I mean thinking about what I had already completed and what I still had to complete. I just focused on what was round the next hill, corner and so forth. Tractor on the other hand could not get his mind away from analysing pace, splits, averages, all the time adding in those calculations to the overall event.

In short, I believe the event was beginning to drive him a bit bonkers (as I also think that my lack of concern for any of these things was doing too).

I think it was on the completion of that lap (40th mile) that he took a longer break and we split up.

So, I kept on my simple routine, but within the next couple of laps I felt blisters coming. I got back and put on some Compeeds, but the damage was done – large blisters on the balls of each foot.

From that point on, things were pretty painful and awkward. My pace took a hit and I immediately slowed to laps of about 1 hr 30mins, with the only benefit being that I was entering the night stage and as such I was expecting to slow anyway.

All I could do was accept the new circumstances, keep up my food and drink and get through the night.

I have to admit that plodding around the course, in the middle of he night, on my ‘todd’ was quite soul-destroying, so I changed my approach. I put my watch onto the actual time, rather than my 1hr 15min-lap time and said to myself, ‘just get to 3.30am’ and you’ll see the first signs of dawn.

Basically, I ended up repeating that phrase to myself on a very regular basis until I saw the first signs of a grey dawn approaching.

The test

However, it was at about 6am that I needed Bryan’s help. I had just completed, what I thought was my 65th mile, equalling Bryan’s outing the previous year, my feet were feeling like hell and my 100 mile target appeared a life-time away…

I wanted to quit.

Now, what’s worth noting is that even though the night stage felt rubbish, I never considered stopping or quitting. It was only once I’d got through it and also reached 65miles AND felt that I wasn’t going to reach 100miles, that I wanted to quit.

I immediately called to Bryan to meet me in the main food tent and after picking up some breakfast (porridge and coffee) I said I’d like to go back to his car to eat it and chat.

After repeating to Bryan how I felt, stating very solemnly that ‘there was no reason to carry on’ he responded in the most ‘unlike Bryan way’ that I ever imagined.

Rather than calling me a wimp and kicking me out of the car (the expected response), he just paused, said he understood what I was going through and then hit me with the killer statement of ‘I just don’t want you to look back in a week or so (once the pain has gone) and feel like you’ve short-changed yourself.’

Ouch! That hit me pretty deep – but it was the perfect response (at least for me).

He also explained that most of the other solo competitors were in a similar boat to me, so not to think that they were still jogging lightly around the course, and that my feet can only get so bad – and once they are at that level, they’ll not really get much worse.

At what appeared to be that very same moment, I happened to look out of his car window at another solo runner (known as ‘Pete’), actually ‘solo hobbler’, who was limping around to start another lap.

What could I do? I took another sip of coffee and was out the door.

With my adrenaline pumping a 1hr 10min lap followed, my fastest since the previous early evening, and from there I went on and completed another 3 laps, adding 20miles to my total.

The unexpected

So, there I was, entering the final section of the lap when I looked round to see… Pete, the chap that gave me the final push to get out of Bryan’s car. That was it, I had to hobble round the final kilometre with him so that we could finish together. Great!

So, there we are (actually three of us), Pete, myself and another solo runner (who I didn’t know). We reach the 2nd last turn and I see my family…

“Chaps, we have to run past my wife and kids – they’ll give me too much grief if we don’t.”

So the three of us try and break into some kind of limping, hobbling run, whilst giving out some high five’s and smiles (which were actually grimaces as we kept landing on our blistered feet), whilst shouts of ‘come on dad, faster’ were being directed back at me.

Then, as we reached the final corner I looked up to see Anthony Hubbard (@anth_hub), who has been one of the BIGGEST supporters of the Maximise Potential project since its launch!

What I find incredible, is that through all the emails, tweets, Facebook messages and even phone calls I’ve been lucky enough to share with Anth, I’ve never met him! So, the chance to shout ‘hi’ was a definite highlight.

Then we were on the final straight – 50 yards to go, 20 yards to go… crossed!

As our names were announced across the PA system, the final surprise of the day occurred as myself and the runner I didn’t know the name of, realised that we knew each other off Twitter and had actually been trying to meet up at the event. So, Justin Horrocks (@Footboy1976) and I will know who to look out for next time!

Then I turned and see Bryan and gave him a big hug (the first and definitely the last), thanking him for having the experience to get me out of that car those several hours prior.

Then my kids asked me to pick them up and when I failed… managed to stand on my feet – OUCH!

The final unexpected happened when I saw the official results, to realise that I hadn’t completed 85miles… I’d actually completed 90miles in 24hours.

The lessons

The most important lessons I learnt were mental – having the discipline to just focus on ‘the now’ was essential to succeeding and enjoying this event. I’m convinced that by staying focused on the moment I didn’t feel as tired as I have done in the past, when my mind has been considering how far I’ve already run or how far I still have to go.

Another key mental lesson was the test I went through when I wanted to quit. Basically I think it was because I’d reached my initial goals (65 miles / getting through the night), but also realised that my bigger goal had gone (100 miles). So, I had nothing to go for. Once Bryan and I had the chat and we re-focused on how I’d feel if I reached 85miles, I got excited again and wanted to get out there. So, the next time I face this, I’ll know to re-assess my goals to give myself a fresh target to work towards.

From the point of thinking I was done, I was able to then cover a distance which was well on the way towards a marathon, so it just goes to show how much the body is keeping in reserve (Thanks to Kevin Betts, @52marathonman, for making me aware of this!).

My clothing, my eating and my drinking all went to plan and as a result my energy was sustained right the way through the 24 hours.

Finally, my blisters. Looking back I realise that I was concerned about blisters, but I’d not invested any time in putting together a strategy to eliminate them. So, after the race I spent the next two weeks asking every experienced 100mile runner I could find about their socks, blisters and feet management (who were all incredibly helpful!).

What’s next?

My immediate goal is to go and support Andy North (@anorthadventure) on his LeJog World Record attempt in July, where I’ll be running a marathon on day 2 of his 6 day challenge.

Then, it’ll be back to the hills as I look to take on my first 100mile ultra in October (Caesars Camp). Apparently I’ve picked an absolute beast, but let’s be honest, is there really an easy 100?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little account of my first 24hour run and thank you for taking the time to read this!

About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!