Race Report:  Endure24 2014

Race Report: Endure24 2014

The Endure24 24 hour race-athon; a beautiful sun drenched dreamscape full of vivid sun sets with colors so deep and vibrant that they make your jaw ache and sun rises exquisite enough to make Monet weep tears of happiness.  Or, a nether world mud bath of such apocalyptic size that it makes Glastonbury seem like a childs mud pie; a place where Hades himself would cry for forgiveness in.  Accomplished Irishman and Endure24 pro Nathy Feely takes a moment to reflect on this years Endure24.

Quite a few moons gone by an invitation went out for runners to endure 24.  The promise was a 24 hour relay in the woodlands of West Berkshire in the gentile surrounds of Wasing Park Estate in the shadows The Atomic Weapons Establishment.  Interesting that none of our AWC members joined us, begging the question what do they know and are not telling us?  In many heads the invite translated to a Mid Summer bimble spread out over a day.  Perhaps a little like the #thelongslowone … ahem not quite.  In time names came forward and a team was formed then lo and behold another team materialised and for good measure Finch Coasters ponied up a solo runner in the guise of Chris Manton. June 28th it was to be but the effort was a smidgin more energetic than the traditional mid-summer druid fest at the henge.

As the day neared frantic online activity ensued, who would be on which team? what was the running order to be?  One team got all scientific and set up a self reporting race time predictor (OK a shared spreadsheet, but it showed intent).  The initial predictions were bullish, a 5 mile loop sounded pretty innocuous, how hard can it be?  All was looking good until the trickle of (real or invented) injuries began to flow and the numbers dwindled.  First was Dave “the UltraMan” Jones who suffered an horrendous fate when he pranged his ‘ittle toe on the stairs.  Next, after fighting his way back from a real injury Shane “show me the money” Foster suffered an injury from over-training… oh no he was moving house and what lifted a box and hurt his … not sure.  This presented a major problem as the fewer people per team the more laps per person.  So Shane, unable to brave the elements, enlisted his little sister who had “never run more than 10 miles in my life”.  Let me say here and now The Foster family has a new no. 1 runner the ever smiling Laura Foster together with rock solid hubby Ray Searles did some of the tougher laps of the day. I believe it was around this time that Emer Moore volunteered the entire family to savour the delights of Summer camping in the Royal county.  Particularly like her style of dispatching hubby Fergal down on Friday to prepare camp for her arrival on Saturday class!

And so to the weekend, rumors abounded that other teams and clubs would be rocking up and performing a massive land grab on Friday morning.  Not to be outdone some pioneer Coasters agreed to follow in the afternoon early evening.  Friday, despite dire weather predictions, was glorious, tents were painstakingly erected, or in the case of Rhodri pumped up.  Camp was set, food was cooked and the carb loading commenced.  I’m not sure Calrsberg is quite the carbohydrate  we had in mind Mr. and Mrs. Widdup but it all counts and seems not to have adversely affected you. So as nice as Friday evening was it was all reversed on Saturday morning.  I think the last time we had rain like that Mr. Noah built himself an arc.

So without further scene setting lets see what race day had in store …….

At noon sharp with a huge field gathered the race didn’t start, instead the MC wittered on for a full 7 minutes thanking various people for their efforts.  All fine and dandy but a) he had a full 24+ hours to express his gratitude B) all the race models spreadsheets and scraps of paper assumed a noon start.  Witness lots of disgruntled nervy runners.  So at 12:07 blunt the field was off, first up for Finch Coasters team B was Simon Crute with a double leg of 10 miles and for team A Rhodri Jones.  Nathy had run this event last year and reported that the course was fine, a few little hills but nothing to worry about however you’ll remember 2013 was probably the best summer in living memory.  The aforementioned precipitation had truly saturated the ground and word soon filtered back that the course was “challenging and deteriorating” in horsey parlance the going was heavy.  On the competitive front our friends from Datchet Dashers led off and were ahead with 4 blistering sub 30 min laps … which was quite disconcerting.  After 7 laps Team A were averaging 37 min per (5 mile) lap with Team B just behind with 44.  Chris’s first lap was a credible 50 minutes and after 7 was still averaging  just over the hour mark.

Let’s take a minutes to consider Chris’s mammoth effort; with no fuss no fanfare, no online collaboration or spreadsheets off he went and in the end completed 9 laps, 45 English miles, 45 rain-sodden, mud-drenched weary miles with no showers and no snatched sleep.   Congratulations Chris you put every word of this report into context.

The course was as advertised a gradual hill to begin on tarmac followed by forest trail all fine even when wet underfoot however once the firm ground gives way to untreated surface the going gets very tough indeed.  Vast puddles interspersed with gigantic elongated mud baths, exposed tree roots that get more exposed as the event wears on.  Unlike a normal race participants encounter runners and walkers of very different speeds.  The slower tend to get the better line forcing faster runners to plough through the water and mud bringing us all closer to nature.  The end was a half a mile or so of winding grass surface within the tent-village and was probably a good idea at the time of planning.  By the second lap however it was a messy tight-cornered injury-inducing slip rink.

Whereas the daytime running was hard the overnight effort took it to new levels.  Simon managed to run faster at night but for the normal among us the times slowed some.  Rachel encountered some of the very worst weather on offer but took in all in her stride.  Solid running from Emer, Andy Surplice and the late Paul Mackenzie helped keep it all together.  Andy “I’m not a bat” Yarrow preferred to fit his running around the solar star and social life so ran two near back to back laps on Saturday took a wee break to party in Beaconsfield, sleep in his own warm dry bed then returned on Sunday to perform another very credible two laps.  All that sleep and luxury meant that he averaged well below 40 minutes for his four laps.

Our injured comrades were still very much part of the team with Shane Foster actively managing the team’s timetables and administering physio where required.  Oh no he drank beer and gloried in his sister’s success.  Dave Jones on the other hand not only came to visit but brought cooked breakfast setting a great precedent for non running team members.  Emily Marshall was officially part of the Woodley park run team but was a very welcome visitor to the Finch encampment.

Sunday offered a most beautiful morning, those of us lucky enough to take a shift around the 04:00 mark were rewarded with a near perfect sight, the rain had subsided (sorry Rachel) and the ground, whilst still boggy, was slowly trying to rid itself of its excess moisture.  With the raising sun so too came improving moods, the start/finish village was energised and jolly the end was a mere 6 hours hence.  Running pace quickened and talk of next year emerged, surely a good sign that folks were prepared to face it all again.

On the scoreboard Team A were knocking on the door of top 10 in the Male 8 section (Jo alone was not enough to qualify it as a mixed team).  It looked like we needed Rhodri to head out for a sixth time (30 miles!) and so he duly obliged.  Team B in the most contested mixed 8’s were a couple of pages down the very long leaderboard.  At the sharp end of the Male 8, Datchet relinquished their lead and were eventually beaten by 2 laps.  The winners were ACHILLES HEALS hailing from Cambridge (must be all the hill training in the fens) who were still putting in the odd sub 30 min lap in the latter stages.  Congratulations to them and congratulations to Team A who placed 9th in the Male 8 with a total of 35 laps, Team B with 29 laps but I must finish however with a very special mention to Chris Manton who had very credible a top 100 finish on his ultra debut, sooner he than me.

Some lovely photos of the day and night and the next day can be found just about here.  Clicking on them and they go nice and big