Wednesday, 2 July 2014

RACE RUNDOWN: Mizuno Endure24

I have been far too excited to write this review. Three days after Mizuno Endure24 took place, I am seriously suffering post event blues. I have looked back over my pictures a hundred times, I’ve been hooked on #endure24 on Twitter and quite frankly all I’ve been able to talk about is Endure24.

Held at Wasing Park, nr Reading, Mizuno Endure24 is a 24-hour trail event for various team categories to enter. You can enter as a solo runner, in pairs, teams of five or teams of eight. I opted to take part in a team of eight with my hometown running club, Newbury AC.

(Kitted up and ready to go!)

I hadn’t really looked into the race much. I knew it was a five mile woodland course and I knew I would have to prepare for a trail run (an area VERY unfamiliar to me) but other than that, I haven’t really taken time to research it. I just knew it would be a fantastic achievement and a right laugh with my old teammates. I also loved rocking the club colours from my junior days again.

On Saturday morning, I arrived at Wasing Park to meet the team who had set up our tents the night before. The sun was shining but we knew rain was predicted and we had all (luckily) packed a variety of kit to cater for all weather conditions. It wasn’t until 11am (an hour before the start) that a humongous, loud and slightly terrifying storm hit us. The rain hailed down and as we sat huddled in our tents, all we could think about was how battered the course was getting from all the rain.

(Athletes Village)

Midday struck and it was time to venture out to the start. Layering up with hoodies and coats, we all trudged to the start line and were definitely feeling a tad low from the awful weather. Attempting to keep team spirits high, we watched the start kick off with a huge siren and over 300 runners’ heading out on the debut lap on the course. 
(Runners lining up at the start)

Our first leg held a great position in the first group and came home in an impressive 32 minutes, caked in mud but looking like he had a great time! In fact, everyone that was coming back and handing over all had huge grins on their faces and no one had a bad word to say about the course.

(Our Captain, Chloe, waiting in the changeover box raring to go!)

As it got nearer to my start time, I started to feel really nervous. This is the first time I have ever been part of a long term relay and not being one of the stronger runners of our pack, I was feeling very concerned I wouldn’t make it back in good time. By the time 3pm had come round and I was in the changeover box waiting for my team member to come round the corner down the home straight I got my head into gear and realised that I just needed to try my best.

The buzz I felt as I set off for my first lap was incredible. The first kilometre was uphill on gravel through a huge open field. I passed several solo runners, who by this point was switching to walking and I even got chatting to a couple of them. I then reached the woods and the journey through mud, mud and more mud began.

It is safe to say I have never defeated this much mud before. This course made cross-country races look tame (as you can see from the picture above which was taken by @MattversusMatt on Twitter). Undulating through the heart of the woods, I found I was picking up good pace through the sludge and was really enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery. There were some areas where a careful step was required as tree roots were hidden under deep mud pits but once I found my rhythm, I felt fantastic! After 5km, you reach an open area of the woods where Al’s Bar was appropriately pitched, offering water and energy gels for all runners. On most of my laps I stopped a couple of times here, before heading up a short steep mudslide back on the trail paths.

(Photographer Kenesis.t2 captured me on the course - overtaking a real man wearing pink!)

Finally, you pop back out on the fields and slalom through the campsite to the start line to pass the baton to your team member. When I had finished my first lap, I was ecstatic to see I finished it in just under 42 minutes – three minutes ahead of what I had estimated I’d do each lap. I enjoyed the course so much I couldn’t wait to get back out there for a second leg at 8.30pm. I didn’t even care that my trainers were soaked through and covered in mud.

We were all churning out fantastic times on our laps, so much so that we were positioning ourselves in 15th place in the eight-team category by the evening. By the time I headed out for my second run, I was feeling faster and even when a second wave of torrential rain crashed down at the 6k mark, I still came back to camp with a smile on my face despite being soaked through to my pants (seriously).

 (Us girls in the team enjoying a moment of sunshine - after a change into dry clothes)

By night time, the team began taking shifts in sleeping in between laps. This was when the going got tough, as getting sleep was impossible. I was soooo uncomfortable and kept clock watching until I needed to be up at 1.30am for my next run. Also, I kept hearing fellow teammates coming back from their laps and talking about how bad the conditions of the course were getting and I couldn’t help but listen into their conversations.

By about 1am, I decided to get up and get my night gear prepped. I opted for leggings, my long sleeve Cabbage Patch top and a super bright head torch. The worst feeling ever however was putting my feet back into my ice cold, soggy trainers. That definitely woke me up!

Lining up in the change over box was the weirdest yet most uplifting feeling ever. Being around people, all in their mud-ridden gear, head torches on at the ready made me feel stoked to enjoy this run. I was pleased to have the first kilometre on gravel to adjust to running in the pitch black so by the time I hit the woods, I felt confident running with my head torch. It really surprised me how well your body judges your surroundings. All I could see was the dim trail of mud directly in front of me, yet my senses were on high alert for any trips and falls that could occur.

If I’m honest, I am struggling to try and remember my night run. It definitely seems blurry – a bit like how a night out on a few too many gins would be remembered. I don’t know if this was due to my extreme tiredness but I do recall feeling relieved to cross the finish line in 47 minutes. I did suffer a slight hiccup at the end of course where I slipped and twisted my knee but other than that, I felt fab!

 (L-R: my trainers after the night run, resting my knee with some ice cubes in a latex glove - good old first aid!)

When I got back to the tent, I decided to ice my knee to be on the safe side but by about 3.30am, I was fighting to keep my eyes open and so opted for a few hours’ kip. The run I think helped knock me out for a light nap. By about 6.30am, the sun was streaming through the tent as I groggily woke up, aware that my final run was in a couple of hours.

My knee didn’t feel 100% but I was determined to complete all my laps. By this point we were also jostling between 9th & 10th position so I knew I had to contribute a good time in order to keep in these rankings. Setting off at 8am, I felt really stiff climbing up the gravel incline for the very last time. I was relieved to actually have the soft terrain of mud to run on as this helped my knee a lot. I also got chatting to a woman on the course who was completing her 6th lap and had her two young kids camping with her. This Super Mum made me realise that I could easily push myself to complete my final lap in good time. I crossed the changeover line in 45 minutes and was very pleased to learn I completed my four laps (20 miles) in 2 hours 55 minutes!

My body must have registered this torment was over as extreme hunger kicked in at this point. I hadn’t consumed much food through the 24 hours and I felt no shame in heading for a jacket potato with cheese and beans at 9am. Never has it tasted to delicious!

At midday, the claxton sounded to signal the end of the 24-hour period. Our final runner came in just gone 12pm with a fantastic time of 36 minutes and securing our 10th place position. Waiting at the finish line to greet him home, we all rushed to get our medals to get our team snap taken. By this time, the sun was shining and the weather was scorching. Such a transition from the day before but a fantastic way to end what simply was the best 24 hours EVER!

 (Our final runner bringing home 10th place!)

This event provides ultimate value for money. I can’t quite remember the exact amount I paid but it was around £30-35 which includes camping, great facilities, sport massage tent, hydration and gels, vitamins, t-shirt and an impressive medal. If you compare this to some half marathons that charge the same (if not more!), it really is worth every penny. I am chuffed to pieces with my achievement at Endure24. Not only did I complete my laps faster than I predicted, I also tackled the worse trail conditions known to man.

I cannot wait to hear when the 2015 event will be taking place, as I will definitely ensure I get my spot pronto. If you want to set yourself a challenge and have fun with fellow runners, I suggest you do the same too as you will not regret it. This event will be a tough, if not impossible, race to beat.

(Feeling like champions!)


Course: 5/5
Scenery: 5/5
Facilities: 5/5
Water Stations: 5/5
T-Shirt & goody bag: 5/5

My time: 2.55.39 (20 miles)

Lipstick Runner’s overall rating: 5/5

For more information on Mizuno Endure24, visit the website HERE

Lipstick Runner.

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