Its good to mix it up occasionally and do something different, and I do miss the ‘team spirit’ of not being able to participate in club events and social runs and the like. So when I was invited to join a team of girls at Equinox 24 I jumped at the chance. Working out really well as I would be able to work in the morning and then drive down to be the last to complete the first of a few laps at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire (pronounced Beaver apparently but I didn’t see any).
The other girls had gone down morning of the event to set up tent and to run. Starting at 12 the event ran onto 12 the next day – trying to complete as many laps as possible.
Heavy downpours greeted me as I arrived at the grounds. The car park was already a mud bath so I was looking forward to seeing what the course would be like. Helen C was out on course as the other girls had already done their first laps. They described the course to me and I was excited and ready to go.
Despite the heavy rain I had opted for tee and shorts with long socks and had come ‘ready to run’. It wasn’t particularly cold just rather wet.
The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Before I could get the tent up it was my go. I familiarised myself with the event centre, the all important start/finish and portaloos. Despite seeming that there weren’t many portaloos the event organisers managed to keep them very clean. I was a the start / finish a good 10 minutes or so ahead of time. Helen C handed over the wrist slapper to me and I went on my way. First running through camp and onto a tarmac ‘roadesque’ bit of concrete, then splosh splashing through the puddles overtaking quite a few people.
The course was an interesting mix of terrain. The first large ‘field’ sloped upwards on a camber with tractor like grooves to make it a little more challenging. It flattened out at the top but still on a camber and then dropped down to meet the roadesque track to the edge of camp. I was feeling the love for it as I danced my way round the field saying hi to people en route. Many it looked like were doing it solo (see how far you can go in 24 hours) and were rightly so plodding.
When you experience the run, you…relive the hunt. Running is about thirty miles of chasing prey that can outrun you in a sprint, and tracking it down and bringing life back to your village. It’s a beautiful thing. – Shawn Found
Onto the roadesque concrete I ran, which met back up with other runners at the edge of the campsite, those nearly finishing the 10km loop and those just starting so plenty of people running around. Marshals were at the corner to direct us and inform us of the man eating pothole. Down the tarmacked track I ran, a nice slope downward enabling me to get a nice rhythmic pace and across a bridge to what could be described as a hill aptly called ‘not that hill’. ‘No not that hill’ as apparently there was a ‘hill’later in the game. It was still raining but fun as the raindrops fell gently in time with the sound of my feet pitter pattering on the pathway. With less than 300ft of climb per 10km lap it really wasn’t that hilly but its all relative to where you live in the world.
Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.
So up the ‘not that hill’ I went, running on and overtaking people. I was feeling strong and powered on through past the checkpoint which was strategically placed at just after 4km and 7.5km, runners going up and runners going down the ‘not that hill’. There were lots of places where the route almost backed round on itself, which I thought was a clever idea for it allowed a more social feeling to the event.
I found the next 1 km or so a little more difficult than I should have done, a slight increase in gradient but nothing major, it was more the view of streams of runners in front of me that looked like they were running forever into the distance. I always struggle with this which is one reason I like the twisty and turny undulations of trail running. 5km was soon ticked off – half way there on lap 1. Another checkpoint around 5.5km supported the tune ‘Castle on the Hill’ and also provided water and jelly beans and the like. I didn’t take any this time around as I was keen to get off the concrete and onto the softer more ‘fun’ ground.
Dont count laps make every lap count
The following few km were across countryesque type terrain, mini up and down ‘slopes’ jumping over small roots in the ground and mini potholes, around corners and flying down steeply into little dips. What goes down had to go up again and this time it was the proper hill – yes ‘that hill’. A timed mat beeped precariously as I passed it to time all runners going up the somewhat steep and ardours slope to aim for ‘King or Queen of the hill’. Not an original concept by all means but adds in an ingredient of fun.
Some of the rain had caused the terrain to be a little more slippy as I lost my grip a couple of times huffing and puffing up to the top. But don’t stop at the top! Keep going, I said to myself puffing my way onwardS around the cross countryesque course still overtaking people. Back onto tarmacness as I ran down the ‘not that hill’ as others were coming up the ‘not that hill’ back to the 4km mark. We were signalled to veer off back down some more cross countryness. I flew down the banking smiling and laughing to myself, I was loving this, loving the gentle rain, the torrential rain, the wet rain, the dry rain and the rain rain and couldn’t wait for the evening to draw in so I could do it all again in darkness.
Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. – Langston Hughes
Back across the bridge, runners were coming down as I ploughed on up. Again just a ‘slope’ but one that could be felt a little and almost described as a hill if you were from Norfolk. It was only at this point in lap 1 that I looked at my watch. Eeek – put on the breaks girl! Slow down, slow down, as I spotted something like 7.20 minute miling, ‘too fast too fast’ I repeated to myself, knowing I would have 3 or 4 more laps to go over the 24 hours. Sloooowwww down. So I slowed down and began to relax into a slower less effortless pace for the last 2km, collecting my breath again and getting into a much more comfortable rhythm with my runner-way legs. Round the campsite I went feeling more composed, it felt ridiculously controlled but I knew it was a sensible option. I came into the finish happy and relaxed handing over to Sarah who would do the second of her 6 laps.
Its amazing what you can do accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit – Harry S Truman
I went back to our little camp and put on some warm clothes, I couldn’t be bothered to change a big mistake really as I was damp but I was keen on getting my tent up and my goodies including cake out of the car. By the time I had done all that and faffed around and had a cuppa tea it was almost time for me to be back on the course again. It was still light so there was no need for my head-torch.
The second lap was not much slower than the first, about a minute or so, yet it felt not so as much lung busting and I knew which bits I could push on and which bits I could ease back on. The previous blip at 4-5km that I had experienced on the first lap was overcome and I ran much more ease.
It was then beginning to get dark as I handed over to Sarah again for her 3rd lap. The other girls had been out and between laps were either chatting, eating, drinking or meandering around the event centre getting some food and stuff you do at these types of events. It had stopped raining and a few sparks and bangs were to be heard up yonder. Fireworks, fireworks spurted out above the castle rooftops, an enchanting moment as we watched the glittering colours fall from the peaceful night sky. It was time to eat, so I cooked myself some food as I had brought my two gas burners with me ready to fuel for my night run. Plenty of tea kept me going alongside more cake.
A trail shared is a trail halved
It was around midnight that I was on my next lap. Head torch at the ready. I’d opted for my long sleeved Helly over my tee, and 3/4 leggings thinking it was going to be a bit chilly. However I was wrong, the night was still young and the air was muggy, moist with that ‘warm dampness’ feeling. I was instantly too hot. My head torch was not playing game, the light was fantastic, its one of those reactive ones that shines depending on the light. However it kept sliding off my head despite my buff. I’d not got the strings quite tight enough and the balance right around the top of my head. It began to annoy me as I ran around the course.
The big field at the beginning was a big contrast to running it in the day. It almost felt faster as it wasn’t possible to see that much infront despite there always being people around with differing brightness of lights. The grooves in the ground were indistinguishable but this didn’t seem to stop me dancing on round. I was having so much fun. Other runners were struggling with their Poundland head torches, I was grateful for my little piece of luxury kit as I overtook just about everyone on the lap, whizzing down the downhills and powering up the up hills with as much strength as I had. Despite being a couple of minutes slower than the previous two laps it was so much fun.
what you do in the dark puts you in the light – Under Armour
Back at our little camp, 2 of the girls had decided they wanted sleep so the rest of us would do double laps into the night from there on wards. I was more than happy with that decision. Ellie took the first double lap. We went down to the start to meet her after the first lap to make sure all was good, and all was good and off she went into darkness for the second lap. Heather was up next and we repeated the act, I was ready to run if necessary but Heather looked strong as she passed into the handover area took a sip of water and off she went.
Then it was my turn. It was about 4.30 am and I would be running into dawn on my second double lap. As much as I thought it would be easier running into dawn it was actually the lap I struggled with the most, not so much because I was tired but because on the second lap the light was adjusting so quickly the changing light sensation began to play havoc with my eyes. The ambience of the light dispersed opening up the course once again.
The light of morning decomposes everything
The struggle with the light adjustments and the fatigue in the legs meant that I was tiring quite quickly. On my second lap I took on some water at the 5km mark and some sugary chocolate coated buttons. My head torch was now slung around my wrist as daylight had all but emerged. From 8km to 9km I felt drained, there was no denying it. I’d had no sleep so it was not surprising. I picked myself up as I approached my last 1km around the campsite. The camp was coming alive once again and beady eyed runners cheered us around.
Through the blackest night, morning gently tiptoes, feeling its way to dawn. – Robert Brault,
The camp had been fairly quiet over night, and now an aroma of porridge seeping from every tent and every gazebo enticed me to run faster to finish of what would be my final lap. Only person over took me on my double lap, one fast bloke probably in a ‘large team’ of speedy blokes. I would take that.
I love the quiet calmness before the world is just waking up. That amazing moment before the chaos of the day starts. Mornings are magical. – Keith Wynn
Sarah had all but woken and was ready for her next lap after a good nights sleep. Sarah ended up doing a single lap and then a double lap to finish the team off later in the morning – superstar at her best – clocking 6 laps. Helen C who had also taken some night sleep was also ready for her next morning lap. Myself Heather and Ellie had decided to call it a day. Mission accomplished. I tried to put my head down for an hour or so but couldn’t sleep so just decided to mooch and have more tea and probably eat more cake amply provided by all members of our team.
We ended up doing 25 laps in totally, a fully supported team in that we helped each other when others were feeling bonked out or didnt want to run. A totally awesome team the way we worked together so well. I was delightfully surprised with my running. Maybe the course suited me being cross countryesque for a lot of it, the sticky mud the ‘not that hill’ hill and ‘that hill’ hill, the team spirit used throughout our team ‘running towards 30’. Well I did 30 miles so maybe despite being a tad bit older than 30 (cough cough) it was aptly named.
It’s always about the trail and never about you.
We did well overall too, bagging about 25th out of over 100 ‘small teams’ (teams of between 3-5) with no disquisition made between male or female or mixed teams. Not bad for a nice relaxed, easy going team of ‘running towards 30’ers’ (cough cough)