Last weekend, I took part in an event called Enduroman Run to the Max which was my first ever 48 hour event. WOW! The whole atmosphere was amazing- there were people running everything from a half marathon to continuous triple Ironman and it was amazing to meet so many awesome people. I was a bit nervous before the event- I’d never run more than 100 miles before or longer than 36 hours and it seemed a big jump but was also was massively excited to give it a try. And I absolutely LOVED it!! Such an amazing experience and didn’t seem like 48 hours at all. Genuinely enjoyed nearly every minute of it and can’t wait to try another 48 hour event. And amazingly, came second overall and first female!! No idea how that happened but seriously was the most amazing event I’ve run in a really long time and loved (nearly) every second.
It was a lapped race which meant that straightaway, there was no chance of getting lost which was a massive relief and took out a lot of the stress. Each lap was 1.1 miles which I thought was going to be really difficult mentally to manage the same mile over and over but the course was so varied (and hilly!) that it seemed like WAY longer than a mile and probably was given the elevation- 100ft per mile which worked out to 12 000 feet over the whole weekend: nearly three times Ben Nevis! Scenery was seriously awesome though and definitely worth the extra effort.
I drove down to the New Forest after work and arrived about 8pm. I started running pretty much straightaway so I could get a few laps in daylight before needing a headtorch. It was raining lightly but not too bad, and felt really nice to be running on trails again. The first part of the lap was mostly downhill then gentle undulating trail before the mega hills in the last part of the lap which seemed to get steeper every time! The first part was like running through a rainforest though and really enjoyed it, so beautiful and natural. Then it opened up into some tall trees and around the lake before up into woods again and back to the start. Challenging but beautiful!
The first few hours passed pretty quickly- was chatting to a few people on the route and listened to David Bowie for most of the first night, working my way through most of his early albums from Space Oddity to Heroes. Felt really chilled and relaxed, and really helped to get into the rhythm of the run. I didn’t really have a plan for sleep or fuelling (bad mistake I know!) and decided to see how I felt. I didn’t feel tired at all so didn’t need to have a rest and had a couple of cereal bars to keep going. At 20 miles, I stopped for coffee and porridge which became a 20 mile ritual that I really looked forward to by the end of the race!
It rained pretty much constantly for the first night but eased off a bit by dawn. It was surprisingly mild though and didn’t need a jacket which was weird for me, I’m usually freezing! It was a relief when it started to get light though and I love the feeling of running into a new day. The rain had meant that the forest felt damp and Narnia-like which was awesome to run through although I wasn’t a fan of the midges!! I’d moved on from Bowie to Alanis Morissette by this point and spent the next few hours working my way through all of her albums from Jagged Little Pill to havoc and bright lights. It felt a bit surreal- it was like I’d grown with Alanis through most of her albums and was feeling a bit weird by the end so switched to Harry Potter audiobooks to reset a bit.
At 40 miles, I stopped again for coffee and porridge before heading back out. The sun came out for a bit in the afternoon which was nice to dry off and heat up again, and Saturday passed pretty uneventfully. I still didn’t feel tired so carried on running, and it was really cool to watch the Ironman swimmers in the lake. Massive kudos for outdoor swimming in the morning rain! Can’t really say much about Saturday because to be honest, the whole weekend is a bit of a blur but I know I enjoyed it and definitely listened to Blackadder Goes Forth on audiobook which made me laugh A LOT and was a definite boost. The other completely unexpected boost came from my dad who appeared randomly with six cans of diet Coke! Which were definitely needed towards the end of the race… I realised by 9pm that I’d been running over 24 hours so should probably take a rest so I had a quick ‘nap’ for about an hour, didn’t sleep much of it but good to lie down. My legs started to get sore when I got up again so had some paracetamol, more coffee and porridge then headtorch on and back out. I was freezing and already wearing layers so a lovely woman called Karen lent me her coat for the night which really, really helped along with several pairs of gloves!
The second night was a bit more surreal and creepy. The rain had left a lot of fog which was hard to run through in the dark because the light from the headtorch kept bouncing off it. It was also a lot quieter on the trail- most people seemed to be sleeping in the night section so hardly saw anyone out on the course. I did get a bit scared but a couple of awesome friends were keeping in touch via text which really, really helped. And once I’d got more used to the dark, fog and creepy trees which was bit Blair Witch-like, it was kind of beautiful with the full moon and no clouds. Was definitely relieved when the sun came up again though!
I’d nearly finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by the morning and was relieved that the creepy cave scene happened when it was light instead of running in the dark! Stopped again for more coffee and porridge, and kept running. Nothing massively exciting to write about except that I was still really enjoying it and feeling more relaxed and calm than I have done in literally months. My brain was quiet for once, no anxiety at all and mood felt pretty stable. Whatever chemicals the brain releases in an ultra need to be bottled into medication, it’s bloody awesome!! Works a million times better than any medication combination I’ve tried.
Finally reached 100 miles at about midday which was a massive achievement since it was the furthest I’d ever run and the terrain was seriously tough to run. I stopped for coffee and porridge (with peanut butter this time!) and it felt very weird to carry on running past 100! I realised I only had a few hours left which felt really surreal and kind of sad because I was still loving the whole experience and didn’t want it to end. By 44 hours though, the lack of sleep started to kick in and the trees around me started to move slowly and strangely, and there was lava creeping over the path. The toilet block was also moving and the ground kept coming up towards me. I took another break at the end of that lap and lay down for half a hour which really helped and the world went back to ‘normal’, or as normal as it can be when you’ve been running 44 hours straight!
I finished finally about 8pm after 110 laps- 121 miles!!!! Officially the furthest I have ever run and considering how tough the terrain was, I’m seeing it as a MASSIVE achievement. And not just the running- I was careful about remembering to fuel every few miles (porridge every 20 miles without skipping any, and cereal bars or peanut butter in between), took medication while running (including aripiprazole although I only had a smaller amount of quetiapine), chatted to lots of awesome people and had a genuinely amazing time. And, incredibly, I came second overall and was first female!! No idea how that happened but it was such an amazing weekend 😀 thank you so much to everyone at Enduroman for organising such an incredible event and can’t wait to run it again next year!!