Epic, Brutal, Relentless – those aren’t words you would normally associate with a great weekend away! But they are the tagline for Endure 24, a 24 hour endurance race which I took part in last weekend and which proved to be one of the most fun weekends I have had in a long time.
I have never even considered an endurance event before now. A marathon has been my limit to date and when I read about runners who take on amazing challenges and run for 24 hours at a time, my mind boggles and my body aches at the very prospect.
Yet here I was somewhere south of Reading in a wet muddy field, pitching my tent for a weekend of running, running and a bit more running. But I wasn’t doing it alone! The great thing about Endure 24 is that you can enter it as a soloist (madness) or as a pair (aaagh) or you can enter it as a team. I was entering with not one, but two teams of eight. So a total of 16 of us, all mums, all completely new to this sort of event, pitched our tents together with hysteria, excitement and nerves rising between us.
Endure 24 involves a five mile circuit, which loops up and around the Wasing Estate near Aldermaston. It is a beautiful part of the country, with lakes, woodland and fields all encompassed within that one loop. The challenge is to run as many laps of five miles as you can within 24 hours. It sounds simple and it is, the great thing about it is that anyone can get involved. Whether you run one lap or 24 you get a medal, the experience and the chance to share this incredible event with other runners.
All too often running is a bit of a solitary undertaking. Even if you run in a club or have a training partner, when you toe the line for an event generally you are on your own. It’s you and the clock. Endure 24 is, for most of us, a very different beast. Here you really are part of a team. The weekend was an exercise in working together to support each other and enable each other to perform at our very best
RunFitMum is my running club. I set it up with a friend four years ago and we focus on encouraging women back into running after they have kids. Most of us are focusing our efforts on 5 and 10k events. We do lots of couch to 5k courses, this sort of event is a long way from our comfort zone. As our first foray into endurance running we elected to undertake this event as pairs. So, we entered two teams and paired our runners up according to running speed. over the course of our training we encouraged the pairs to run together to get to know each other and to make sure that the matches worked. It’s an unusual approach and not one that would work for everyone but we knew we weren’t going to be troubling the leader board and we wanted to make the 24 hour element of the race as accessible and fun as possible. Tackling your 3am lap with a partner, turned what could have felt like a very lonely and scary undertaking into a much more fun and exciting adventure.
Infact it was the 3am run which I probably enjoyed most of all. My partner was my sister, Chloe, I suspect I am not alone in never having run at 3am before. We were woken up in the dead of night by the partnership who had gone out two before us. The next pair were already on the course and we needed to get our kit on and get to the exchange area in time to meet them when they got back and take on the baton. A certain hysteria took hold. Where were our head torches, how did they work and would we be able to see enough, which shoes, where were our numbers, and then we were out of our tent into the freezing dead of night, surrounded by other runners looking equally confused and unsure. The race itself, had a very different feel at night. The loud, excited, jostling of the day, was replaced by a quieter focus as runners waited patiently for their team mates. There was a sense of trepidation, excitement and also a slight recognition of the lunacy of the whole situation. Then our runners came in, we picked up the baton and we were off.
There is something very magical about running quietly around a beautiful forest in the dead of night. Other runners pounded around us, some had been on the course for 15 hours now. The sense of shared purpose and intent was palpable and very uniting. Runners are always a wonderful crowd and this event was just another opportunity to showcase that. The support, chat and laughs on the course where fun runners like us had the opportunity to rub shoulders with serous endurance runners and share this event together made it a very magical and special place to be.
I came away from Endure 24 high as a kite. Infact, I am not sure that I have come down to earth yet. The whole team have already signed up for next year, so if ever there was a sign that an event was a success then I think that is probably it.