Updated: Jan 28, 2021
It’s hard to know what to say about this race. This could be a long old post giving a blow by blow, hour by hour account, almost as long as the race itself. But nobody needs that! So just the important bits this time.
Absolute top of the list is to say thank you to everyone involved in setting the race up and who was there on the day, both competitors and crew. The main thing that keeps us coming back for more of these bonkers races is the special vibe that happens. There’s a sort of communion on and off the track that just exists for a short while in that time and place. It’s a really special thing. Funny, painful, happy and sad things happen. It’s kind of like going to a rave just without the drugs. Running is the drug. I would name names but I don’t want to miss anyone out, you all know who you are, thank you so much for making it such a special 24 hours. But. Paul Corderoy, Chris Mills, Hammy and Tom, THANK YOU. Norbert for the photos.Alex thanks for the songs! Andy J massive congrats on the 100 mile age group WR. OK, sorry I named some names. But to everyone, thank you so much.
We set some goals coming into this race that were meaningful to us. For David it was an attempt at a PB of +228km, and a dream goal of reaching the Team GB qualifying standard of 240km. For me it was to renew an expired Spartathlon ballot qualifier of 180km+ with a dream goal of 225km for the Sparta AQ. It is perhaps not healthy that most of my running thoughts are built around Spartathlon. But that race has got me deep in the heart and there is no escape. So be it. As Rob Pinnington once told me: “Get it f****** done”. This was one of those times. We had a joint daznbone goal of running 1000 laps between the two of us, and raising £1000 for the amazing Foodshare charity #endchildfoodpoverty
24 hour racing is hard. Really hard. Morale sappingly, muscle bustingly, mind bendingly hard. I knew it before the race, but I sure as hell know it even more now. The premise is simple - as many laps of a flat circuit, in this case a superb 400 metre running track, as you can muster. The winner is whoever covers the most laps in the 24 hours. There’s no navigation, no elevation, no weight to carry, and access to all the aid you could possibly want every couple of minutes. On paper, completely setup for covering big distances. In practice, one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.
I think there’s two big reasons why. They kind of intermingle and become one big mass of pain. One is the lack of variation in the running means you are repeating the exact same motion thousands of times. It puts a unique strain on your leg muscles. Especially if you are an ungainly heel striker like me, the quads will suffer. Not so much for tippy tappy on the toes gazelles like David, and the exemplary Sam Amend and Melissa Venables. It’s not like being on a trail - which may seem harder but actually because you’re getting a lot of variety you don’t wear your muscles out in quite the same way. On the track this can become a big problem after about 12 hours, and the drop-off in performance is pretty astonishing. It can become hard to move at all, let alone run at a decent pace.
This plays in to the second big factor. Your body hurts, and now your mind starts asking questions. “What are you doing?”, “Don’t you want to stop now?” (Yes!), “Whats the point of all this?”, “That goal doesn’t really matter does it?”, “You can do this another time, let’s just have a coffee/beer/sleep/pizza/ now shall we? anything other than this!”. It takes a lot, a hell of a lot, to not succumb to the monkey mind. This is where the goal has to come in. It has to be important. Important enough to you personally to give you something to cling onto, in those hard night-time hours. When the carnage on the track is all around you, when you look at the clock and you think an hour has passed and there’s only 6 hours to go, and oh god it’s only been a few minutes and time seems to have stopped. Like Doctor Strange in his endless death loop against Dormammu. The undoubted winner of the mental battles was Nichola Duffy, over from Ireland to show us all how it’s done. True grit from another level.
So we held on, and we made it. Not to the dream goals. Another day for those. But David ran yet another Sparta AQ, and almost PB.ed, fighting back from a tough early and mid race to finish the final couple of hours as the second strongest runner on the track. There was no besting Damian from Coventry Godiva for that title, what a stormer he had. We wlll see you at Spartathlon my friend. The mighty Pete Windross won, what a great character. YMCA you legend. We’ll see you at Spartathlon too - 50th birthday present i’m sure you said. I made it, just, to the 180k Sparta ballot level. Now have to pray the organisers preserve this years waitlist places and there’s no redraw, that would be a heartbreaker. We reached the 1000 lap target and the £1000 fundraising target, massive thanks to everyone for the support!
It’s been a tough year and this was definitely a huge highlight in an otherwise blighted season. We’re very grateful to be healthy enough to run in races like this. Bring on 2021. Next stop Arc.