Report from Grant
Apologies in advance, this race report may be a bit on the long side. Since the race I have been putting my feet up resting a temperamental IT band so if I can’t run I might as well type about running. However if your time is precious the short version is- I ran around for 24 hours, it hurt quite a bit, it was surprisingly good fun.
Long Version: (warning contains more toilet detail than really neccesary)
I entered this race on a whim back in January after chickening out on entering the West Highland Way race. The idea of running for 24 hours seemed slightly ridiculous but the idea got stuck in my head and I figured why not give it a go- I’m not getting any younger. Cut to September the 1st and the idea didn’t seem any less ridiculous but at least I had had a pretty solid 8 months training including a pretty pleasing run at the Lakeland50 in July. Despite this I couldn’t get past the nagging thought that my longest run to date was under 9 hours and couldn’t really fathom how I would manage another 15. So I thought best not to think about it too much and just run.
Elsie and I headed up to Inverness on friday night where we had a bit of a slap up meal courtesey of Elsie’s
sister, and then a short drive over to Aviemore for the race on saturday morning. Pre race was was a bit hectic, getting weighed, prodded and various bodily fluids extracted for the research study that was being conducted at the race, so I was a bit flustered on the start line and it was a bit of a relief to finally get going.
I set off at what I hoped was a comfortable pace chatting for a bit with Mike who I figured would be one of the front runners. However about halfway round the lap I had to drop back as my stomach started gurgling with the warning signs of an imminent bottom explosion. Fortunately there were portaloos at the end of the lap which saved me having to fertilise the beautiful Glenmore forest. Unfortunately the stomach problems didn’t end there and for a while I thought Ada might be counting my toilet visits as well as my laps.
(4 poos in 4 laps, possibly a course record?).
After the 4th lap things settled down and I managed to get into a nice rhythm. The course itself was lovely and varied. The 1st mile being a nice undulating twisty bit of single track which opens out into an open forest track for a mile, before turning on to a longish climb which was perfect for taking on food and then a nice descent back to the start. Plenty of variety meaning I never felt bored on the loop.
About 6 hours in I caught back up with Mike and found myself in the slightly uncomfortable position of leading the race and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had went out too quickly and was going to blow up. I tried to concentrate on enjoying the last hours of daylight before the headtorches came on. By 9 o’clock it was pretty dark and time to get into “night mode”. Elsie came out to run a lap in the dark with me before she went to bed. At midinght the 12hour runners completed their race and the course became much quieter and there were some long lonely laps where I barely saw another soul.
My main source of amusement was trying not step on the many frogs that appeared on the course overnight. Unfortunately at one point I lost concentration and there was a squelch and a rather unpleasant squeal, the poor little chap didn’t stand a chance. Maybe I am soft, maybe I was just very overtired but this actually quiet upset me and a small tear may have escaped. Fortunately Lee and Geraldine on the overnight shift at the 2 mile point waterstation were working hard to lift everyones spirits- mainly through the medium of some highly entertaining glowstick dancing. Despite this entertainment the darkness seemed to be never ending and it became pretty hard to concentrate on not falling over.
Eventually, around 5.30am there was some sign of light, the sun coming up over Loch Morlich was a beautiful and very welcome sight. The timing was great as I hit the 100 mile mark just as the sun was rising which made for a pretty special moment. Probably not so special for the people sleeping in the campsite as Ada let off a big horn to mark the moment. Sorry for the early wake up call.
Having reached 100 miles I decided to stop counting laps, stop worrying about pace and just keep moving forward as best as i could for the remaining 6 hours. I was pretty pleased with my progress overnight, I had managed some fairly consistent lap times, hadn’t struggled with tiredness too much but most importantly hadn’t fallen over which as you can see from the scars on my legs tends to happen at least once a race. However the hours following sunrise became a real mental struggle, physically it wasn’t hurting any more than it had overnight but mental tiredness was kicking in and even simple things like peeling a banana were becoming a challenge.
At about 9am Elsie saw I was starting to struggle and came out to run a lap with me. This was a very different lap to the one we had done together at 9pm the previous night when we had both been in high spirits. Now running and talking seemed like too much of a challenge and I was happy to listen to a bit (a lot) of chat from Elsie. My quads were now in a lot of pain as well and so was having to walk on the downhills and spent the rest of the lap in a kind of half run zombie shuffle. I had lost count of my laps at this point, and wasn’t entirely sure if I was still in the lead. I was so tired that I just couldn’t face processing any external information.
I figured i would probably only have time for one more long lap before we were moved on to the short lap route at 11am, so I tried to enjoy it and lift the pace a little bit. Weirdly running faster seemed to hurt a little bit less than running slowly at this point so I tried to do this as much as I could.
I reached the end of the lap at 11am and was given the option of going out for another long lap or go on to the short 350 metre laps. The reason for the short laps was so that our final distance could be measured accurately when we stopped at 12 o’clock. I decided to move on to the short laps, I saw Mike had done the same thing and not knowing how far he was behind me I decided to just try and run at a similar pace.
The short lap consisted of running round the Hayfield where all the supporters were camped, up and down a short sharp hill and back to the start. Because all the runners supporters were based here cheering along it suddenly felt more like a cross country race, my zombie legs disapeared and I felt like I was able to charge up and down the hill. Mike obviously felt the same as he threw off his shoes to run barefoot and was careering round the loop at a near sprint. After the struggles of the last couple of hours this was an incredible buzz. As more and more runners joined the short loop the atmosphere on the course continued to build and it became almost impossible to drop back to a walk no matter how much you wanted to.
After craving the end of the race for so long suddenly I didn’t want this to end. As we approached 12 o’clock all the runners were given a tent peg with their number to mark their position at the finish. As the countdown began we all broke into something resembling a sprint to pick up some last yards and as the horn went of to mark the end of the end of the 24hours we all collapsed in a heap as one.
129.04 miles and a pretty unexpected 1st race win. It’s fair to say I had exceeded my expectations and was pretty delighted.
The Glenmore24 is probably the best race I have had the privilege to take part in. The atmosphere all weekend was pretty special mainly due to the efforts of some pretty amazing people who make the race what it is. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last time I take part -sorry Elsie
Maybe see some other Bellas there next year…