July is fast approaching and for me, that doesn’t just mean summer but also my first ultra the ‘St. Cuthberts Way’. This 100km race will see me running an unfathomable distance, much of it at night…I figured I better get some experience!
Which brings us to a man called David Goggins, an American ultra runner who devised a fun but intimidating challenge which bears his name. The ‘David Goggins Challenge’: 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours. The challenge ticked all the boxes. Unfathomable distance, running on tired legs, running at night…All the fun stuff!
I of course didn’t want to do this alone and wondered who I could convince to join me, and how? Surely an impossible task. How could I expect anyone to join me on such a crazy endeavour?
A trip to the pub and two pints later, coach Mark Fry had been convinced to join!
What wouldn’t be so simple was the logistics. 48 hours of running takes a lot of planning. The chest infection in the run-up to the challenge didn’t help either! The plan would consist of five steps:
Step one – the route
Two routes to stave off boredom without complicating matters when our brain dies off. We’d be free to run them in reverse to mix it up a wee bit too.
Step two – pace
Not knowing exactly what to expect we went with an A, B and C plan for pacing:
A – the gold standard
All runs under 12 minute miles.
B – the back-up plan
Screw 12-minute miles…Just no walking!
C – the ‘just survive’ plan
Complete the distance. Walk or crawl. Complete the distance or die trying.
Step three – home base
Mark’s house would be home base, to avoid the stairs in my flat on wrecked legs! Set up on the downstairs sofa for power naps we loaded up with gels, sweets, pasta…Beer! Everything we’d need for 48 hours. Well almost everything…
Step four – friends
We knew, more than anything, we’d need company. The best part of a running club is the support from your fellow members so we reached out to see if we could get a few people to join us. Spoiler alert – we were overwhelmed with support! In-fact, we never ran alone in the 48 hours.
We strategically started at 6pm on Thursday to ensure our finish time was 2pm on saturday…perfect pub o’clock. Joined by Audrey, George, Fiona, Kev and Fen the inaugural run couldn’t have went better. Well…we could have been slower to stick with ‘Plan A’ but fresh legs and high spirits saw us run a speedy 42 minutes, way ahead of target pace. A quick shocking icy blast of the garden hose on the leg and a foam roll and we were officially underway.
Weirdly the next three a bit hours of downtime, spent watching youtube videos of others who have taken on the challenge, was a bit anti-climactic. Though the fact that the people in the videos were breaking down and crying suggested this comedown wouldn’t last.
The 10pm run, first of the night time runs saw us tackle Brunstane hill with Debs and Adam in toe. Wednesday sessions at PRC meant this wasn’t too big a killer and we finished feeling good and ready for some food and a nap. The sleep didn’t come easily though, way too much adrenaline in the system!
I woke with a start 30 minutes before the next run at 2am. I knew immediately this was a mistake, waking up this close to the run. Panic set in a bit and it was the first time I wondered whether this would be possible? The thought didn’t last long as Darren and coach Alan J joined us for the night time shift. Mark had promised us a cold beer when we finished this lap so we got done in a speedy 43 minutes – a great incentive for speed!
Sitting with our beers at 3am we made two key decisions. Firstly, forget about pace, run to feel. This is probably my greatest takeaway from this run. Secondly, even if it impacts sleep I would try to be up for an hour before each run, to get my head in the game.
Fiona, Allan, Stephen, Karen, Ange and Debs joined us at 6am, complete with sugary breakfast snacks joined us as the sun came up. I was tired after being awake for 24 hours but friendly faces and good chat gave me some energy as the run progressed. On the return I attempted to trick my body clock into believing that, despite my lack of sleep, it was indeed breakfast time by eating some eggs on toast. Some stretching and another blast of the icy hose, I was feeling good.
The next few hours went well. Some great company from Debs again (despite having a 20 mile race the day after!), Aileen, Zoe and Luke. Mark’s insistence on our recovery rituals kept the legs feeling good, if a little stiff!
6pm arrives. 24 hours after we started and significantly more since I slept properly. It occurs to me that sleep deprivation is literally a form of torture. We are literally torturing ourselves voluntarily. Stupid? Probably. Feeling sorry for myself. Have a celebratory and well earned beer. Feel better. Feel less stupid.
Maybe I should have had more beers now I think about it? I’m sure I’ve read that beer can actually help you on runs… Had a pizza too at this point which raised the mood massively. And David Limmer brought some chocolate and sugary drinks. I should write a runners nutrition cook book.
The aforementioned feast and fine folk like Fiona, Fen, Gary, Kerry, Derek, Karen and Scott (phew – that’s a lot of amazing people!) helped in taking us over marathon distance. And really, that’s the story of this run. The amount of people, including my partner in crime Mark, who joined us on this crazy adventure. In-fact our 10pm run had the most people joining us, crazy eh? Carrie, despite her injury, Debs again! Kerry…Again! Coach Craig and his amazon son, Sandy, Chris and super coach Terry. This was a pivotal time in the run and having such a big group was so refreshing and the chat made this section so much easier than it should have been. Though we won’t mention that I fell trying to take a selfie at the start!
And that takes us to 50km. Buzzing. Though hard times were coming!
Broke my rule and woke up too close to the 2am run. Deja vu. Big thanks to the ultra running legends Catherine, Donald, George and Audrey for getting me through this one. Dizzy. Light-headed. Sick. This was the slowest and hardest one. But I didn’t walk. We’re not at Plan C yet!
This wasn’t the time to get de-motivated. Downed some Coke. Stuffed my face with sweets, crisps, fruit. The whole stash! With the sun returning, so did a bit of energy and as Fiona and coach Craig, complete with his trademark motivational speeches and accompanying soundtrack, returned for another round.
The 10am run (we’re getting close!) saw more company from Ange, Zoe, Derek, Scott, Sarah, Deena, James and Vikki, who, by the way, went above and beyond by providing homecooked bacon rolls at the end of the run!. A true highlight of the whole experience!
As the day goes on, filled with great company, sore legs and power naps, 2pm approaches and it begins to dawn on us what an amazing experience this has been and the adrenaline kicks in. Jackie, unable to run due to injury popped by to see how we’re doing before we are joined by Fiona…Again! Natasha, Laura, David, Kev, Allan, Luke and Debs…Again! And we’re off…the final lap.
David Goggins you will be pleased to know…we did it. Complete with a sprint finish and a glass of prosecco! Surrounded by friends, I can’t explain what a fantastic feeling that was.
Back to the runners nutrition cook book…
Chapter 6: cocktails. Pina coladas, Brambles. Pornstar Martinis.
Chapter 7: Pub supper. Steak and Staropraman.
Chapter 8: Go to bed you drunk eedjit!
Got home before ten and went straight to bed…well I drunkenly helped a struggling neighbour lift an oven up the stairs but I’m trying to forget that. Oven delivered, I crawled into my well-deserved bed and promptly disappeared into oblivion.
48 miles is a long way. I am tough. I can run on tired legs. I can run through the night. I know my body and my body knows me. Listen to it. Fuel is important…seriously…FUEL IS IMPORTANT! Enjoy your runs. Enjoy everything you do!
Our club is amazing. Seriously…our club is AMAZING. 40 runners…40 runners with busy lives, 40 runners with their own races,40 runners with children and families, 40 runners who enjoy sleep! They all came out.
For everyone who joined us, for everyone who gave encouragement on facebook, for everyone who wished us well on this crazy challenge. Thank you. You make the club truly special.
But the biggest thank you is reserved for coach Mark Fry who supported me to an unfathomable degree by joining me…every step of the way. Be careful next time I invite you to the pub Mark…there’s always another challenge!