Endure24 is dubbed the Glastonbury for runners. It draws together around 3,000 weirdos, like me, from all walks of life to spend 24 hours of their lives running multiple five mile (8k) laps of a course in Wasing Park near Aldermaston which is situated just outside of Basingstoke.
When I was first asked by a friend of mine to join a team of six to take part in the event I thought, how easy could this be? Five miles is nothing these days, and I regularly run that, plus some during the evenings after work as I'm a keen runner, with ultra-marathons and all things running on the brain. How wrong could I have been! The team itself consisted of me and five friends, two of whom had partners that worked for St Michael's Hospice in Basingstoke. One also had a family member cared for by the Hospice during her battle with terminal cancer.
The event itself included camping for the weekend and, being part of a large running club with a lot of its members taking part, meant that we met early to head down to the site and claim a large plot of land for everyone. I was already battling sleep deprivation having been up until 4:30am, and combined with trying to assemble tents and gazebos on a windy day, disaster was inevitable! Breaking a friend’s tent before he had chance to sleep in it was never part of the plan, so a trip back to Basingstoke to pick up some new tent poles followed, after which it was time to head to registration.
The idea of this event is to run as many laps as you can in 24 hours, with only one member of the team allowed on the course each time. A yellow band is your “license” to be on the course and is handed over in well-rehearsed fashion in a pit funnel at the start/finish of each lap. We had agreed to try and run 120 miles during the event, which would equate to four laps each. We were all more than capable of running 20 miles over 24 hours but we didn’t factor in the effects of no sleep and a lack of quality food over the course of this period.
The first laps were fine and by the time we'd all completed our first lap we were ahead of our schedule and set to go further than originally thought. By the time we were on our third lap each we were all in agony. One hill added to the suffering and we subsequently booked ourselves into the on-site massage tent to try and loosen up our legs. This only worked for one more lap, after which we had to push on and endure the fatigue and pain. Running through the night was a novelty to us all and some were unfortunate enough to also have to deal with rain despite the Met Office saying there was just a 10 percent chance of precipitation.
By 6am we were down to three team members, with three pulling out due to injuries. It was time for my fifth lap by then and the guy after me said he couldn’t go any further; time to put my race pack on that I use for my ultra-training, load up with water and gels and try and run ten more miles. It was never going to be attractive at 6am in the morning but I managed to get through in one piece. I will freely admit though that these two laps saw me at my lowest point of the weekend. Thoughts of my four kids and fiancée were running through my mind and I was close to tears for no apparent reason.
Over breakfast it was clear that the team was close to breaking, we were all pushing ourselves to limits we hadn’t experienced before, were on 145 miles in total and needed one more lap to make it to our increased target of 150. I realised that I hadn’t taken many pictures around the course and decided to put in one final lap for the team (and for my memories) and ran out with just my phone for my last lap. Having captured the memories on my phone, all that was left to do was collect a medal each and take a celebratory picture! After returning home it was a bath and some well-deserved sleep.
All grand ideas at the time, but on waking it soon became apparent that I should have kept mobile for a little longer as it took all my efforts to stand up and use those things called legs that had decided to rebel against me!
As mentioned above, we were running this event to raise money for St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke and, thanks to all the kind donations from friends and family, we've managed to raise (including gift aid) over £1,000 that I know will be welcomed and put to good use by the Hospice. If you'd like to add to this amount, for which we would all be very grateful, you can do so HERE.
Alex's team, '24Hr Party People' was supported by the NewVoiceMedia Foundation who will match the funding raised. Find out more about the NewVoiceMedia Foundation.