Endure24 2022 race report by James Scott, Maximum Mileage athlete and dad of two!
My venture into running ultra distances began in homemade fashion three years ago when taking on the Yorkshire three peaks with my best friend Keith and then when Frank and I did an essentially self-supported (with Vicky as our mobile aid station) 62 miles along the Ridgeway, after COVID cancelled Race To The Stones. These events, and those since, whilst also beginning to work with Nick ( Maximum Mileage Coaching ) a year ago, had each taught me lessons. Lessons about things being too hot, being too wet, and how to manage my sensitive guts. The hope was that knowledge would come home to roost in this effort at Endure24, and an unspoken goal of the 100 mile club be achievable.
Preparation went well for this event, I stuck to my plan as designed by Nick, and whilst not a fan, I did get in the gym and try to do some strength work. I was experiencing runners’ knee in my left side in the six weeks before, which I kept quiet from Nick as I did not want to sideline my race ambitions so close to the event, and it wasn’t preventing me from covering the miles on my plan (I got a telling off). In the two weeks before I stayed off the booze and sweets (and think I lost a bit of weight) to try and get myself feeling fresh for race day. Usual carb loading and drinking water like a fish were order of the day 72hrs out.
Race day itself was a calm affair, with a fairly relaxed 6:30am wake up (officially 5:30 due to crying baby), porridge, and on the road to Reading just after 7:30am. The atmosphere at the campsite was immediately exciting, lots of people milling about in early morning sun, the smell of frying bacon from campers next to where I parked my car in the solo area, and morning yoga taking place in the big tent; enough time to get my head together and kit laid out in the solo support tent. Possibly too much time as race time wasn’t until midday, but they wanted all cars on site by 9am.
Midday, we’re off and running/walking. My initial plan was to be back at the start in no less than 55 mins with 5 mins to top-up bottles, grab food and head out again. Given my general vulnerability to ‘start gun adrenaline’ I managed to stick to this quite well, with the first few laps being around an hour of moving time. I quickly established where the hills and inclines were that I was going to walk to save my legs, and stuck with that approach until mile 75; albeit with the running between them slowing down over time. Those that know of my ventures into ultra distance to date will know that my guts have been the race ender before my legs (18 miles spent walking with stomach cramping at last year’s RTTS). So this had to be on point. What I had learned this last year (through Nick, literature reading and trials in training) was the water to sugar ratio for me had to be high if my body was going to absorb and not reject the food. So I stuck with 60g carb per hour, split every 30 mins, and 1 litre of fluid whilst it was hot, reducing to 750/500ml into the cooling evening/night. I alternated plain water and Torq hydration (just electrolytes), no Tailwind or equivalent. This worked a treat, everything stayed down (and up…) and my energy levels were stable throughout, whilst joints and muscles started to inevitably hurt. The only thing that became annoying was needing to pee as frequently as John Keat (going twice an hour towards the end).
My body held up pretty well, I developed a swollen right ankle at about mile 40, a combination of running on a left leaning slope (we were asked to keep left on the course) and the Nike shoes I was in knocking my swelling ankle. A change of shoes to Salomon Sense Ride 3’s and fresh socks at this point sorted that nicely! Paracetamol and CBD became a feature at this point too. I had been warned about the challenges of night-time running by experienced voices, and the 2am ‘witching hour’ when sleep really wants you and hallucination risk is at it’s highest. I therefore began introducing caffeine into my eating schedule from midnight and popped in some headphones for the first time (with Peter Crouch and the Josh Widdecombe/Rob Beckett parenting podcasts for company). It was fine, my head stayed in the game, I loved the atmosphere of the night running; and when the batteries ran out, just listening to the silence of the night other than plodding feet was therapeutic. Soon enough the sun was greeting us around 4am, torches could be turned off and the air started to warm up again.
By mile 75 my running wasn’t really ‘running’, it was more of a glorified hobble. I tried power walking a lap, and realised I was only gaining about 5 mins per lap by trying to inter-disperse running. Therefore at this point I decided it was more economical to stop trying to run and just power walk my laps. Mile 80, and my head was starting to drift now due to mental tiredness, and there were sore points on the soles of my feet, every joint was aching; but on I plodded. Where lap 18 had seemed so far at the start, now it was cyclical, I knew the course leaf-for-leaf, and they did seem quicker in my head now, even though they were slower. Rather than counting up, from lap 15 I started counting down; 5 to go.
Having started nearly a day earlier thinking a lap an hour, easy, I’ll be done with 4 hours to spare, suddenly I was doing the maths in my head and starting to become concerned. What I hadn’t accounted for was the 2.5hrs I would spend off the course self-supporting myself with water and food changes, charging things, swapping shoes and peeing etc. (lessons learned here on self-crewing). I knew physically at this point 100 miles was achievable, but was there enough time left on the clock?… after each remaining lap (as they became slightly slower) I was dividing the minutes left to complete by the laps. The calculation got me to being allowed 1hr 40 for my remaining couple of laps and I started to smile. Needless to say, I got there. The “well done solo” shoutouts from fellow runners (those still actually running because they were in teams) were smile-inducing on that final lap (I had ‘solo’ marker penned on my calf, both to attract these encouraging comments and also to explain why I was slow and not moving aside if someone wanted to run past). Into the finishing tunnel I headed for the 20th and final time, as the crowds had really revved up in that final hour, a few people enthusiastically cheered me on, all strangers. I suddenly found myself tearing up and debating whether I hold these tears back (I did, but only because someone else didn’t try to cheer at me).
That was it, done, slightly anti-climatic as I was there alone whilst those around me all celebrated with friends and family, but my running has always been a personal thing, my headspace and personal pursuit. I’d been celebrating in my head for those final two laps and smiling.
I grabbed my medal, bonus extra t-shirt from the merch stand for hitting 100 miles, and was off to the now empty solo tent to pack away my gear and hobble it all back to the car. Quickly away in the car to try and beat the fallout from people still packing away tents, and a 40 minute sleep at Membury Services. That evening everything hurt, no muscles wanted to do their job, and stairs became evil. This morning, the afterglow, and sense of achieving another goal.
Now, what next…
Enthusiasm is common, endurance is rare.