What do you do when someone asks you if you want a spot in an event where you run as much as you can in the space of 24 hours? If you’re me, you obviously say yes!
Nicknamed ‘Glastonbury for runners’, Endure 24 is a running party in the woods! It’s an endurance running event that takes place twice a year in Reading and Leeds. You can enter as a solo runner (which I did), a pair or a team and you attempt to run as many 5 mile loops as you can within 24 hours. There’s free camping for runners, friends, family and support crews with 24 hour catering, showers and a massage tent. The race village is full of music and entertainment with live result updates screened throughout the weekend. I’d been wanting to try something like this for a while so when the place came up I decided now was the time!
My colleague’s wife is a member of a local running club and they were all going to the event in Reading together, but one person was unable to make it. I took that place and became an honourary member of the Portsmouth Joggers for the weekend! There were 24 of us in total! We traveled up on the Friday before to get a prime spot for our camp and, after we had set up everything, I wandered over to the registration desk to pick up my race pack which had an Endure24 t-shirt and some goodies from Clif Bar and SOS Hydration in it. Then we cleared out the local Domino’s of their pizza for some much needed carb loading!
A lot of people asked how I felt ahead of my first ever Endure 24 and, although I was nervous about trying something new, I did feel a lot more relaxed about this than London. I put so much pressure on myself to perform well at the London Marathon (even when the heat showed up!) that I thought it would be nice not to feel like that for my next event. Endure 24 is a lot more relaxed and I had no plan in mind so I just wanted to see what I could do.
Just before noon the next day, we all made our way over to the start line after having a team photo done. You could feel the buzz in the atmosphere and that everyone was raring to go. Then the air horn sounded and we were off! I started out at a steady pace as I didn’t want to burn out early but, when I was part way into my first lap, I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad!’.
The course is a beautiful mixed terrain trail which loops into Wasing Wood. There’s a couple of bigger hills but most of the course is nice and undulating with plenty of down hill sections as well! One hill in particular was tough. The name says it all really – Heartbreak Hill. The first time you run up it, it’s not too bad. The tenth time you run up it (Well, not run!) it does start to feel like it’s doubled in size! You think you see the top and then you turn and it carries on going up. The course was marked out in kilometers and each sign had a motivational quote on it to keep you going!
When I finished my first lap, I stopped off at our base camp to grab some sweets (the first of many giant jelly strawberries!) and a drink. Unfortunately, the hydration vest I had ordered for marathon training hadn’t arrived on time to take it to the event, so I had to keep topping up my water before setting off again. As we were set up near the start of the course, we could grab food and drink at the start of each lap.
Before I knew it I had completed 25 miles (time really flies even though you’re running the same course!) and, as night time fell the course became even more beautiful than it already was. I took the opportunity then to sit down and have some food. We were very lucky to have a team making sure we had everything we needed whenever we arrived back after a lap. We even had a team chef who had carefully developed a menu that included pasta and ratatouille, chilli and rice and even Nutella pancakes so we were well looked after!
At this stage I knew I wanted to complete at least 35 miles before bed. I also knew that I wanted to do at least one lap in the dark so I waited at camp until I fully needed my head torch, and headed out for the last time that night. It’s amazing how much the course feels like it’s changed when you’re running it in the dark.
Once I had 35 miles in the bag I headed into camp and chilled out before heading to bed. I wouldn’t normally choose to camp myself but the thin air mattress I had borrowed felt like a 5 star bed after being on my feet for so long! Our tent backed on to the last leg of the course so I fell asleep to the sound of feet shuffling past and light of the runner’s head torches flashing by.
The next morning I was up at 6am after getting roughly 5 hours of sleep. I did a quick check of myself and how I was feeling – no cramp, feeling hydrated, legs not too sore. I was ready to set off again! I didn’t think I was going to be able to run much and headed out intending to walk but I surprised myself by running most of that first lap on the Sunday.
I managed to get another 15 miles done with a combination of running and walking and I crossed the finish line for the final time to complete 50 miles in 23 hours, 15 minutes and 14 seconds. I was 44th out of 88 solo female runners! I collected my medal from the same place I’d picked up my race number and left feeling amazed at what my body can do and how far I’ve come with my running.
I loved every minute of Endure 24. It’s definitely a race for the runner’s bucket list – it’s one of the best weekends you will ever have! Every one is so friendly and encouraging and, every time you head out onto the course, you will see something that you hadn’t seen on the last lap.
Places are very popular and they do sell out within a matter of hours so be quick if you decide to give it a go. Go on … after all #Gloryisforever.