This was my first attempt at ultra running, and whilst a 24 hour running challenge was maybe a little over ambitious, I liked the set up of the challenge- it was a little over a 6.5 mile loop, which you completed as many times as possible. As I had no idea how far I could actually run I thought this concept was a good idea, as I could stop whenever I needed (no pressure of going point to point) and also could pick up food/drink as I passed through the checkpoint each time.
So I guess I best give you some background before I talk about the race itself. I hadn't trained any longer than 26.2 miles, and had only done 2 marathons this year. I was meant to do another 2 marathons in 2 days in early May but got an IT band injury in my hip whilst running the Brighton Marathon, so had hardly done any running since (mostly just biking). I had also been asked by several friends and family members to get an ECG test to check my heart was ok and I wasn't in danger of dropping dead at any second, so I got one with my nurse. The test results were not given to me until the Thursday, 2 days before my race, when the doctor (who had the worst bedside manner I've ever come across) rang me at work and told me that the results were inconclusive and she thought I had a 'Long QT'... when I asked what this was she told me to Google it (really!!) which nearly gave me a heart attack in itself when I looked... oh yeah, it's that condition that causes people to drop dead at any second...great (ironic really as you're not meant to shock people who have that condition!). She would not give me any further details of my results (she had referred them to a cardiologist but results could take weeks) we finished the phone call with her saying 'I wouldn't run for 24 hours without some conclusive results' and then the final caring words of 'I don't see why people can't just do things in moderation'... Charming! To cut a long story short I ended up getting an appointment the same night with a cardiologist at the Nuffield in Brighton (hello overdraft), a second ECG, and being told that I was ok to run... phew!! My long QT is at the top end of the 'normal' range so all is good. I must admit it was a massive wake up call in the few hours that I had to wait to go to the Nuffield that I realised how quickly everything could be taken away from you... I literally don't know what I would have done if I'd been told I couldn't do any of my crazy sporting antics anymore. I hope I never take what I'm able to do forgranted again.
Race day- the race started at 1pm on the Saturday, and 34 of us set off. The course was beautiful, a mixture of mainly farm tracks between fields (if you had hay fever or allergic to rapeseed you would have been screwed!) and a couple of roads. Whilst some of the ground was uneven it was a very flat course so you could get into a nice rhythm. My tactic was to keep a steady 11 min/mile pace, and walk through the checkpoint to eat and drink. This went well and I had a couple of runners to speak to that were running the same pace. I ran the first marathon in 4.58... way too fast Jade! Although I had kept my pace I hadn't been walking for long enough through the check point. I decided at this point that I should just keep running at this pace until I could run no more. I should mention at this point that my hip started hurting at only 6 miles in, I was worried this was going to cause an issue but with some ibuprofen and the seemingly magical Cliff Shot Bloxs that I always use in races (no, unfortunately I'm not being sponsored by them!) the pain disappeared, and after the first marathon I had no aches and pains at all... this was not to last, I knew that, so I just enjoyed every moment of running and was in quiet wonderment and awe that my little legs kept going. I think I got to around 40 miles when it got too dark and I had to run with my headtorch. I'll be honest I'm a complete wimp in the dark, and was pretty scared about this prospect (it really was very dark in the countryside) but apart from the bullfrogs it was really peaceful and calming running in the dark.
Every so often I could see a headtorch bobbing along in the distance, and I knew I wasn't alone. I carried on running until 46 miles and then my legs starting to complain, as always my quads were starting to scream at me. Dinner was served at HQ, so I ate some veggie soup, potatoes and pasta and set off again on a run/walk strategy to cover 53 miles. All in all just under 12 hours, I was very pleased with myself. The only problem was as soon as I stopped my legs seized up. I knew I had to rest, so I somehow got myself in to the boot of my car (back seats already folded down) and slept fitfully (damn cramp) for about 3 hrs. I woke up and was surprised that my legs felt a bit better, as I opened the car boot I was humbled to see one of the guys (who ended up being the winner) running past to start another loop. I also felt massively guilty for sleeping and scorned myself for not just pushing through the night. I had a quick breakfast and set off again with a crazy ironman shuffle going on, it was a pointless and energy zapping exercise, and realised walking was just as fast. My knee started to become very painful with a shooting pain and cracking/clicks every time I put my foot down, I had to look at the bigger picture and the rest of the race season so I called it a day with just another 7 miles under my belt that morning. Total distance covered- 60 miles.
Do I feel like I could go further in the future- most definitely. But for a first attempt I am very pleased that I did my best. I'm fully aware that had I just walked for 24 hrs then I would have covered a bigger distance, but that was not what my challenge was about, and I certainly wouldn't have felt happy doing that. I wanted to run as far as I could, and running until you drop is more my motto. I was more pleased with getting a double marathon under my belt than walking until the cows come home. But I have learnt that I am clearly no good at pacing myself! Would I do an ultra again, absolutely! Phil Couch (I'm sure it was you Phil) told me a quote last year before my ironman from T.S. Elliot that says 'Only those who will risk going too far, can possibly find out how far one can go' and that has certainly stuck with me.
I shall stop my waffling now (gold stars to anyone who has made it this far, you're nearly at the end!) but I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone for your brilliant support, encouragement and kind words before, during and after the race, and of course the donations to the BHF who I ran to raise money for.