So, i'm on facebook one Thursday evening or was it a Wednesday? Anyway, Barbara says she has a place going for a 12 hour race. I hesitate at first and then ask for the place. Straight away she replies that it's mine. I am running a 12 hour race and it was free. Yippee!
I give myself a bit of reflection time to think about what I have just done. I have just entered myself for a 12 hour race in a couple of days time. I did a 50K trail race the previous weekend which was so hilly and I have Fort William marathon the following weekend! Plus, I have never tried running for 12 hours before.
A little bit about the event: It's called the Endure 12/50. This is because there are various options. You can run 50k, 50 miles, 12 hours solo or 12 hours as a relay team. The course is 5 mile loops around Beale park near Pangbourne/Lower Basildon or if you really don't know where this is, let's just call it Reading. I wasn't quite sure how these 5 mile loops worked but I would find out soon enough. The race started at 7pm and finished at 7am. I had a lot to prepare for.
What do you take on a 12 hour run? I was really skint but could afford my train fare and had to buy a headtorch as headtorches only seem to last a few months on my sweaty head before they go faulty. I went into Blacks in town and bought a Petzl headtorch which was reduced to £25. Certainly not top of the range but it would do. Next, off to poundland to buy spare batteries, plus more batteries for a handheld torch I was taking as a backup. I was also carrying a sleeping bag around with me. I probably looked like I was going camping and I was proved right when the guy in Blacks asked where I was camping. I said I was doing a 12 hour run and he just looked at me kind of weird like I had just asked him for all of the money from the till.
I had also shopped on Friday night for Salted Pretzels, salted peanuts, and made some Peanut butter sandwiches and an ultra runners best friend - Coca cola :) I then packed for all weathers: Suntan lotion, sunglasses, hat, raincoat, long sleeved t-shirts, Lordshill vest, Shorts, gloves etc..
The sleeping bag was only a last minute decision. Even though I had planned to run for 12 hours, you never knew if you were going to pick up an injury or DNF. My brain does work on certain days :)
I jumped on the train to Reading, changed to another and got off at Pangbourne. I walked the wrong way from the station for a little while until I decided to check Google maps on my phone. I then walked about a mile and a half in the right direction and came to Beale park. I spoke to Barbara while I sat on a hay bale. Barbara and Ian arrived and we collected our numbers. I was then introduced to many runners and supporters from Eastleigh running club. They let me hang out there with them and put my stuff there as I didn't bother with a tent. I then saw Danny White from our club who was doing the 50k and Lewis Chalk from Stubbington. I was also looking out for my friend Carla who I didn't see until we were in the starting grid. There was a bit of a delay and we got off about 10 minutes late I think but it didn't matter. Nobody seemed that bothered. It was quite a nice, relaxed atmosphere with lots of people laughing and joking.
I ran the first 5 mile loop with Carla and we chatted the whole way round. I met Carla through a JDRF running group as we were both fundraisers for the charity. Carla still does every run for JDRF and her daughter who is a type 1 diabetes sufferer. You can find a link to her fb page here:
Anyway, we got talking and I think I talked her into doing Bramley 20 this year and this is where we met for the first time. That is the farthest she has ever run. Now she was doing a 12 hour run! She'd hadn't even run a marathon before. After the first 5 mile loop I ran on and Carla said she was going to see her husband before he left.
My plan was to do 2 x 5 mile loops at a time and then take on some food and fluid even though I was running with a hydration pack. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea to begin with as you had water stations on the way around the 5 mile loop. On the first and second loops I also got chatting to different Eastleigh runners who were doing the relay. On the second lap I was chatting to a guy from Hardley roadrunners named Steve. Actually, he was chatting to me but I couldn't concentrate too much as I needed the toilet so badly (and not just a wee). I had to stop off mid loop and go behind some trees. I had my toilet roll and just as well as the Lordshill vest doesn't have sleeves (old joke ;).
It was a lovely sunny day as you can see from the above photo. The course was a windy 5 miler on trails and road. You were running on grass and then gravel track, road and then more grass paths with the river Thames on your left with barges and a few ducks and swans. Very pretty. You couldn't get lost as there were marshals, water stations, signposts etc.. We ran over a springy bridge, back on grassy paths and then into part of the country park with a few little monuments to stare at. Another road, a dark wooded area and then a little climb which I would use as an excuse to walk later on and then more woodland and then very uneven bumpy ground caused by 4x4's. It was nice to see Lewis Chalk and Danny White whizzing past me a couple of times. Lewis won the 50k in a crazy time of 3 hours 20! Faster than my road marathon time..lol
After being cheered in by a big group of Hedge-end runners I came to the end of my second loop. I stopped and refilled my water bottles and added electrolyte tablets and ate a few salty pretzels. It was pretty humid and I was sweating a lot and losing a lot of salt. There was no sign of Carla and I thought she may not be running much and only doing about 20 miles the whole time. In fact, I didn't see her again for the whole race! I must have scared her off..
It was weird but I was feeling very tired early on and the legs were cramping. I had put my headtorch on at the end of my third loop (15 miles). It was getting dark but I was quite confident that I knew the course quite well now. I spoke to one Welsh guy who was carrying some beer and was going to sit by the music bus bar thing. A campervan with lights playing music and offering free Lucozade. "So" he says "How do you train for a 12 hour race?". I just kind of looked at him blankly as I didn't even know the answer to this. " I think you just have to enter and hope for the best, mate". He laughed and walked off while I kept on plodding.
Just before it got dark I saw a girl passing me but she didn't get very far as she twisted her ankle with about a mile of the loop to go. I asked if she was ok. She said she was but was holding back the tears. I offered to walk back with her but she said she'd be fine. I left her and carried on. This part of the course was very rugged and you really did have to be careful. I didn't like this part of the course too much and dreaded its arrival every time.
I was now running on my own a lot in the dark and was starting to feel negative. I wasn't running well at all. Only 20 miles in and I was walking parts of the course already.
The bus was playing "Baba O'Reilly" by "The Who" and there were fairy lights glowing in the woods. I watched as mice and a shrew ran across in front of me on the grassy paths in the light of my headtorch. Moths flew into me from time to time as well. It was still very humid though. Even during the early hours of the morning I was still sweating lots.
Mile 30 or lap 6 came and I was feeling a bit weird. I sat down again and took off my headtorch. I had been running with a headtorch for hours now and my vision was going a bit crazy and distorted plus I hadn't slept since 6am the previous day. I bought a cup of tea and some crisps. Just as well I bought some food as there was no free food apart from energy gels. My legs were feeling fine now. They were feeling much better than they had done at 20 miles! I changed socks and t-shirt at mile 30 so that made me feel much better mentally and feeling fresher.
As I was starting loop 35-40 I spoke to Lydia from Eastleigh running club. She was doing the 50 mile race and was on her last lap. She was 10 miles ahead of me! She said she was going to walk most of it and I walked/ran the whole loop with her while we chatted. This really lifted my spirits and I was feeling more positive and in a much better place. Everyone cheered as she came in and before I started my next loop she came over tearful saying that she was the first woman in the 50 mile race. I gave her a hug and congratulated her. What an amazing achievement. She had won the 50k race the previous year beating all the men and a lead time of 7 minutes! Incredible. 12 hour solo next year Lydia! ;)
I was feeling so much better and decided to get going. I was going to do 50 miles at least. 2 more laps Dean, you can do it! I got chatting to this other guy who said I was looking pretty fresh. I felt pretty good too. It was getting lighter and I could switch my headtorch off now. His name was Graham. He was also 10 miles ahead of me. As we spoke we worked out that we might be able to do another 3 laps (15 miles) if we ran this lap faster with few walk breaks. We pushed on, chatted and gave each other the confidence and energy to get round. It started to rain pretty heavy now so after mile 45 I grabbed my rain coat. Soon as we neared the magic bus I was feeling a bit dizzy and sick and told Graham I was going to walk for a bit and he could run on if he wanted. We walked with a good pace until I said the dizziness had passed. It was nice to have the rain cooling me down. We just had to get this 5 mile loop done before 7am. If you did, you were entitled to another loop (if you wanted it). I was thinking 50 was enough as I walked but then I felt okay as we got running again and the deadline was back on. He was working out our times/mileage etc.. by this time I couldn't even say my own name let alone do simple mathematics. People were asking me how many laps I had done and I would just look at my watch and say 45 miles. I really didn't have the brain capacity for such simple maths..lol
Lydia and other Eastleigh runners cheered us as we came in from my 10th lap and Graham's 12th. We didn't stop and we just kept on going. We had made the deadline with about 15 minutes to spare. It didn't matter how long we took now as we would get our distances. 55 miles for me and 65 miles for him. We even had time to facetime his drunken friends and chat while I ate pretzels. Some sheep seemed to appear from nowhere on the last loop and now there was no-one in sight. Were we the last ones left on the course?
Turns out we weren't, but almost. 55 miles done and I felt okay and not even tired. I spoke to all the other runners left and we congratulated each other. I bought a cheeseburger and waited for Lydia and Danny to collect their awards. Danny came 3rd in the 50K and was looking fresh every time he lapped me.
Still no sign of Carla the lightweight. I thought i'd check the results anyway and there she was on the live results. I had to do a double take. She came 10th with 50 miles! Wow, what an amazing woman. She was so scared about running 20 miles at Bramley in February and now she had ran 50 miles!!! Awesome Carla. I went away with a big smile on my face and really happy for her. I was also glad I did that extra loop. Haha. She almost put me to shame there.
Ok, it was 8.30am and I had been awake for 26 and a half hours. I now had over a mile to walk to the train station to catch a replacement bus to Tilehurst and then a train to Reading and another train to Southampton followed by a 3 mile taxi ride. I probably wouldn't get home until about 2pm.
I was walking through Beale park to the exit when two of the awesome lady volunteers asked where I was going. They ended up giving me a lift all the way to Reading and we chatted about running. They were really lovely and I said i'd come and visit them at their local parkrun one day in Reading. I was bragging about my new 50 parkruns t-shirts until they had both told me that they had done about 250 each. Doh!
I was home by midday, very hungry and very tired but with an indescribable feeling of awesomeness. :D Yes, I would probably do it again. It would be so much better to get more of our running club there though. I think it's only about £35 to enter as well!