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I endured

by @garyfallsover
Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Tags  Endure 24   |   Mizuno   |   Mizuno Endure 24   |   Gary Dalton   |   Profeet

Run247 columnist Gary Dalton feels the pressure at the Endure 24

How the hell do I get out of this one? That was the question that was pre eminent in my mind over the last few weeks as I contemplated the forthcoming Endure 24 event. Not that I have anything against Endure or even 24 hour racing, it was more the fact that I’d managed to become teamed up with some very fast runners and I was quite concerned about letting the team down by being rubbish.

Now I have a confession to make before I tell you the tale of the race. I’m a Profeet ambassador. Profeet are a small west London specialist footwear retailer who specialise in biomechanical analysis and some years ago I popped in there for some new shoes. I walked out a couple of hours later with a far greater knowledge of why I run the way I do and how to correct it and I’ve been evangelical about them ever since. So I occasionally get a call from Richard, the run manager, and am asked if I fancy doing some race, to which I invariably say yes because, you know, free entry’s free entry innit?

So when Richard asked me about Endure of course I said yes, when he said it was a team entry I thought even better, even less for me to do. What I didn’t ask, and what would become critically important to me in the coming months was who else was on the team? Well what soon became apparent, and the reason for my desired escape, was that three of my team mates were quick. I mean proper quick.

My teammates had podiumed at the SDW50, the SDW100, been the highest placed Brit ever at th MdS were all very comfortable sub 3 marathoners.And one of them was the owner of the most chiselled abs I’ve seen since Peter Andre burst onto the scene. And then there was me. At best I’d call myself enthusiastic rather than able. Competent rather than commanding. I’m sure you get the idea.

Photos: A great atmosphere as team and solo runners line up for the start or wait for change-overs © Run247

So in the weeks approaching the race my main focus wasn’t on what my strategy I’d employ for rest or how I’d pace things, it was what on earth I was going to do to not let the team down. See despite having played team sports for most of my adult life, and to a pretty high standard, I’d always had the sneaking feeling I wasn’t quite as good as the other guys. Except in this case the proof of that sentiment was there for everyone to see on Strava. But in rugby there’s room for interpretation, there’s good and bad to be taken from every game. Here there would only be the time to show how good you were.

As you’ve probably anticipated from the title of this column, my protests fell on deaf ears and I found myself picking up Danny, Louis and Richard from Putney station, along with a 60 quid tent from Argos in the boot and a pace schedule laminated and ready to be ticked off.

As team Profeet we were invited guests of Mizuno, so we when we arrived at the race site we were directed to a special parking area right beside the course,  handed a bag of kit each and a blue wristband that entitled us to free meals. Happy days I thought, I could get used to this. A quick toilet recce later and we were set for the off, Danny up first so we could destroy any illusions the opposition had of success, with Louis and Max after to kill off any remaining morale before Richard and I arrived to give them hope again.

Now if you haven’t done Endure 24 before, and I hadn’t, the basic format is this. It’s a roughly five mile route on a variety of surfaces, mostly trail with about 100 metres of climb per lap. There were options for solo runners, pairs and teams of 3-5 and 5-8 both single sex and mixed so you never really knew who you were out on the course with. This made it quite difficult for us to figure out who our rivals were, you could feel fantastic passing loads of solo or paired runners before having your confidence destroyed by someone from a team of 8 passing, who’d spent the previous four hours sleeping in readiness for their first lap.

So off Danny went with the mass start, only to return a frankly ridiculous 27 odd minutes later, handing the yellow wrist band over to Louis and starting the chain which would take us all through the next 24 hours of run, rest and repeat. Knowing that I had some time before my leg I returned to our tent to prepare, clapping and encouraging the runners flowing past at an already widely varied range of paces. I thought then that realistically I’d be happy with anywhere between 35-40 minutes per lap, having not seen the course but knowing it being trail would add anything up to a minute per mile to my road pace.

Photos: Heavy storms assure that the going is soft to heavy! © Run247

I could feel a few spits of rain as I got back to the tent which soon turned into a torrential downpour, it hammered it down as Max was getting ready and continued through his lap and onto Richards. And then it was my turn.

Off I went to the transition area and strained through the rain to try and catch a glimpse of Richard as he rounded the final corner and hit the home straight towards me, weaving around the solo runners, to hand me the wristband and sent me off on my first lap.

As I waited there I kept repeating the immortal and inspirational words of Steve Way, a runner I admire and respect as both a great ambassador for the sport and a fine example of what someone can achieve if you just put everything into it. So I stood there and tried to channel the spirit of Steve as I repeated his words ‘Don’t be shit, don’t be shit’

Well I’m glad to say I wasn’t shit. Well not by my standards anyway, by the rest of the teams standards I may as well have sent my Mum out but I was happy enough. The course started off with a nice section of tarmac path before turning into a decent uphill onto a farm track before turning into what can only be described as about 7k of sludge. On another day and in other circumstances I think the course could be fantastic but today it was just horrible, mud sucking every step of the way, trying to run as fast as I could. So on I ran, through windy forest trails, dodging solos with a breathless ‘sorry’ and trying to get the best possible time I could. I knew that with only five miles a lap I could try and keep a decent pace up and hopefully recover enough to do it all again a couple of hours later. What I didn’t know was how much I’d deteriorate as the day went on and how that would affect our group timings.

Photos: The action carries on right through the night © Run247

So I counted down the kilometre markers, wishing it would stop with every step, running every step of every uphill until I took a sharp right turn at the bottom of a steep downhill and saw the beautiful sight of the 7 k marker. The sprint finish took me into a switchback trail which seemed unnecessarily cruel, back and forth I ran when I could see and hear the finish line crowds off to the side and then I was done, handing over to Danny and seeing him speed off at a breathtaking pace. I stopped my Ambit to see a lovely number starting with 35 and then trudged back to the tent with a smile on my face. For about ten steps until I realised I’d have to do that another seven times at least.

And so we continued through the day and into the night, run, rest and repeat, trying to get soaked kit and feet taken care of before the next lap, clapping friends when they passed and shouting words of encouragement when I saw others struggling.

One of the problems of being one of the slow guys in a fast team is that your rest periods were reduced and they became even more so when evening drew in and we dropped one runner off the rotation so they could get an extended rest and the chance of some sleep. As the last in the line up, I’d have to continue without sleep through the night and into the morning, but as long as we kept the pace up, I’d finish my race before the others.

So every lap we went out, handing over to each other with a quick tap and a word of encouragement, building a steady lead over our chasing rivals, knowing that we were only one slip or trip away from letting them back into the hunt. First Danny, then Louis and Max tried to get some well earned rest, but sleep was hard to come by beside the course, with runners shouting for late arriving teammates to hand over to and crews encouraging their flagging soloists.

Then dawn finally broke on my sixth lap, after a night when I felt sure someone had just tipped an ocean over us, light dawned over shell-shocked runners who looked like B-movie mud monsters. With the dawn came a revival of the spirits and the guys kept churning out some incredible times, delivering us safely a lap ahead of our chasing rivals, who to their absolute credit never gave up the hunt. My final laps were a blur of tiredness, I really didn’t want my times to creep up but I knew it was inevitable with the worsening conditions and the difficulty of the course, however I was happy that my average lap time stayed at the 40 minute mark and that I’d done my bit. Around half past nine I went out for my final lap, returning 44 minutes later safe in the knowledge that, barring disaster, my race was done and I could finally relax.

From there on it  was inevitable that the guys would smash out some impressive laps. The atrocious conditions didn’t seem to slow them in the least, as Danny, Louis, Max and Richard churned out fantastic times in defiance of the conditions and we were all there to run in with Max for the last couple of hundred metres of our final lap, rounding out our race for 200 miles in a total time of 24 hours 19 minutes, to win the mens team 3-5 category.

Photos: Gary's team celebrating their win © Run247

So how did my first ultra win feel? Well it felt pretty good actually. I knew deep down I had done the best I could on the day and though it wasn’t as good as the other guys it was enough, I hadn’t let them down and that was all that I could have asked for going into the race.

Would I do it again? Probably not actually. Though the race itself was fantastically organised and I can’t fault Mizuno for either their hospitality or their kit, it just wasn’t what I run for, at least the team format wasn’t. When I played rugby competitively the team ethic ran throughout everything, but although we were in a team effort here, it felt distanced somehow, like we were a collective rather than one unit. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy every minute with the guys, I love spending time with passionate people and they were some of the best, with the added bonus that I now know how to heat food without carrying a stove, courtesy of Danny. You do need to be in the Sahara though.

I’m not used to racing at the front end of the field and I’m not sure I like it. Throughout the day and night I was concentrating only on my race, I barely engaged with anyone out on the course, only muttering a breathless ‘well done’ or ‘great effort’ as I passed them. It was all about getting around in as quick a time as possible and not about enjoying the course, meeting people and chatting to them to pass the time. Please don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic time with the team I was with, but the race itself was uppermost in my mind when I was running: "Must not let the guys down, must go as quickly as possible". For me a large part of why I love ultras is the people I meet along the way. I’ve met some of my best friends through races and if the choice is between meeting a new friend or taking a couple of minutes less to complete a race I’ll choose the chat everytime.

Photos: Run, rest, repeat...

Having said all that I loved the atmosphere Endure 24 has created, there was all shapes and sizes out on that course and the grit and determination shown was humbling. It showed me that it truly does take all sorts and for that alone it was a brilliant weekend. That and the fact I can claim my first ultra win!


About The Author

Gary Dalton

Gary Dalton is a rugby loving, crime fighting, white Irish Muslim ultra runner. Despite all this he's not a complete eejit. 

Gary is originally from the west of Ireland and can't actually remember when he moved to London - he blames a heavy diet of being tackled by prop forwards and potatoes for the memory loss. He hates going out for runs, canals and borderline hypothermia and loves ice cream and going out for runs. 


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