Endure 24 – Reading 2015

Those of you at last years AGM will remember me talking about and showing a video clip regarding this event as this is the second year we have managed to put an ERR team together for it, It’s Billed as Glastonbury for runners and it doesn’t disappoint.
The email went out last summer for team members and despite my best efforts I struggled yet again to properly sell this event to ERR, as on paper, it’s a 24hr sleep depriving mud slog, running silly miles. While in actual fact it’s a team bonding, self discovering, immense achievement grabbing, new friends finding, camaraderie building, medal and T shirt winning, BBQing and camping……………… 24hr sleep depriving mud slog, running silly miles. As a result of this the only people to sign up immediately were these that had done it the previous year and knew the above. The exception was Arthur who signed up as our fifth runner. All seemed well and our team was registered (the event fills up very quickly) however a couple of weeks before the event it became apparent that due to injury, we were going to loose John Bishop and Darren Cattell. Thankfully John/Jane had already sorted his replacement and Robert Story was now on board, but we still needed to find a replacement for Darren. Emails went out promising sunshine etc…. nothing, so face to face recruitment was needed and after selling it to Ben as “it’s like a whole season of cross country in a day” he could not resist and also signed up.
Back to a team of five, we arranged to meet at the venue on the Friday night to set up “Camp ERR” we had a minibus booked and it was all systems go.
We arrived slightly later than planned (something to do with me forgetting my head torch), picking up Chris on route (who was running as a pair with a friend), Robert was already there in his camper van with Florence and the children and had found the perfect spot to set up camp, which we did in no time.
Holly and I put our Tent up, the BBQ was fired up, the wine was opened and we settled in for the night, hitting the sack by about 11:00. The rain started at 11:05 – it had been a very humid evening; the rain had cleared the air and stopped by morning.
The morning was cloudy but no rain and after the compulsory camping fry up, the timing chips and T shirts were sorted, as well as the running order: Robert starting, followed by Ben then Arthur then Elaine then Me.
We all got to the start for 12:00 and cheered Robert off on his first lap. Robert, true to form quickly found himself in front of the main pack giving him a fairly clean run without too many bottle necks as the runners on the first lap will experience.
Chris was had also started running as his mate had not yet arrived, so we were not sure how long Chris would be running before he got a break.
We also met up with Nick Maynard who was also running in team of 4 with some work mates.
We then went back to “Camp ERR” with the exception of Ben who was up next.
No sooner had I put the kettle on for a cup of tea when Robert walked into camp. We had only been back 5 minutes! It then dawned on Elaine and I, that the rest time between runs this year would be considerably less than last years 4+ hours, in fact it worked out to be nearer 2:45 hours between runs meaning the night runs would be interesting?
Ben was soon back also completing a seriously fast lap as did Arthur, surly they couldn’t keep this pace up! Yes they could!
Knowing that Elaine was now out, I made my way to the start for my first lap, having a bit of time, I had a look at the large “real time” results screen that was erected by the start /finish line to see how we were doing and there we were, 2 ½ hours in and at the top of the screen in first place! “Eynsham Road Runners”, leading by 4 minutes! Elaine came in also putting in an impressive lap and hands the relay band to me and I was off.
The lap starts on grass, then onto tarmac for a gentle climb for the first mile before turning into a woodland track whilst still climbing until about two and half miles. The trees shelter made it very still and humid at this point, you can feel the heat coming off the ground, then it’s down hill, onto a gravel track for a bit before the “big climb” just after mile three. It’s called “AL’s Bar & Disco Hill” but it’s better known as “Bast***d Hill” on Strava, saying that, it is fairly short in duration and not as bad as anything we run in XC. Half way up the hill and I catch up with Chris (I don’t get to say that very often!) and we complete the rest of the lap together, which is now through some trees then back onto the road, all downhill, back into the camp site onto grass again. Loads of cheering crowds around, there in front is the start / finish change over area and Robert waiting to start his second lap. That’s it – first 5 miles in the bag.
I got back to the camp and find Ben busy with a scrap of paper working out everyone’s start times for the rest of the event, this continued throughout with Ben constantly amending and updating as our times came in. It was incredible how accurate his estimates were with people coming in pretty much to the minute.
So it’s now back into camping holiday mode with the others around the camp, Holly is platting hair and playing card games with the Storey’s and Chris’s partner has now arrived so Chris is back and we are now just chilling and waiting for our next lap which comes round very quickly.
17:42 and it’s time for my second lap which is a bit slower but more comfortable as it is getting cooler. Back to the tent and it’s time to start the BBQ again for some more food.
Before I know it, it’s 20:55 and Elaine has just come into view running the camp site loop before coming into the change over area, I take the band again and I’m off on lap 3. It’s not dark yet but it will be by the end of my lap so head torches are now compulsory until tomorrow morning. A bit slower again but only by a couple of minutes. I get back to the camp fire up the lights, have a burger and get ready for the night shift.
Again before I know it, it’s 00:20 and I am again waiting for Elaine in the change over area. I am at the back, as I am not expecting her for another couple of minutes when I suddenly hear my name and Eynsham being called out, Elaine has made good time and is back before I expected, I still have my
trackie bottoms on! We do the change over, and I wish her “Happy Birthday” as it is now the 14th and it’s Elaine’s birthday ( I said I would take her out for her birthday and here we are!) this is a slower lap again as it’s properly dark, however most of the route is illuminated to some degree with fairy lights and glow sticks ( it was a bit like Tess’s night run in the woods but warmer) all you can see is trails of head torches in the distance identifying the course, Al’s Bar and Disco is now quiet but still well illuminated and is a welcome site as I know that once I have climbed that hill, it’s all down from there. I get back, hand over to Robert and it’s off to bed for a couple of hours.
What seems like a couple of minutes later I hear Arthur telling me he is back and Elaine is out again so it’s time to get up, new top & socks and it’s back to the start.
It was 04:00 and this lap was my slowest and I didn’t enjoy any of it I was stiff / tired & hungry and just glad to get it over with. At the finish I had had it and was seriously considering calling it a day, it had taken over an hour to complete the lap (which had thrown Ben’s table) and Robert was probably wondering where I was. However once I got back to the tent and eaten a load of flapjack I was feeling better.
Back to bed, Arthur‘s morning call and it’s back to the start line for the start of lap 6. Last year my lap 6 started just before midday and here I am at 07:45! I am feeling stronger and this lap is going to be faster thanks to the daylight. I had seen that we were still in 6th place and on my way round I was trying to work out our start times to see who would be running the final lap and at what time and whether we could swap the order to get an extra cheeky lap in. after handing over to Robert I spoke to Ben and we looked at the times, we knew that the final lap would be mine which was incredible and meant that we would all complete 7 laps (35 miles) we just need to work out what time I would start this lap. If it was before 11:25, we could risk letting Robert or Ben run my slot and still get back before midday so I could then run my lap meaning we get an extra lap.
We realized as the morning went on that this margin was going to be too close so stuck to the original order with me starting the final lap at 11:38.
The last lap is always special and I was again faster than my previous two laps. The buzz as you enter the camp site for the final time is fantastic as everyone has now finished and all the teams and families are there cheering everyone through, especially the solo’s who have been running for 24 hours. I saw our team on the final bend before the finish line, and that was it- another Endure24 over. My timing chip was removed and swapped for a medal. I joined the rest of the team and we waited for Chris to come in, he soon came through looking as fresh as ever (almost)!
We went back put the tents down and packed the minibus and then hit the road.
Our final results:
Chris & his partner came 4th out of 18 men’s pairs completing 26 laps (Chris ran 16 of these which is 80 miles
Nicks Team came 17th out of 29 (men’s 5’s) although only a team of 4 with Nick completing 8 laps.
The Official ERR team (mixed 5’s) finally finished 8th out of 79 with us all completing 7 laps each and we only missed 7th place by 1 minute and 30 seconds! (I should have eaten before that 4th lap!!)
This again was an incredible event that everyone loved. The sense of achievement was beyond description as I have pushed myself further that I would have believed, running 35 miles without all the training required to run a marathon. It was also so good to do this with the team, all of which I feel I now know better, we have been through something special.
There were a lot of large running groups there this year with members in serious teams (solo’s , pairs & 5’s) but also a lot of more social teams running in the 8’s categories with a lot only needing to run 2 or 3 during laps during the 24 period, so it really can be a camping weekend with a couple of runs thrown in if that’s all you want. It’s very family orientated and family / supporters are all welcome and can camp for free.
Next year is ERR’s 30th anniversary and it would be great if we could attend this event in numbers and really make a weekend of it.
I will be recruiting soon!! Steve Butler