The race in the end was won with 26 laps of 10km in 24 hours and 15 minutes. Christof and I ran 13 laps each following a rather simple plan of alternating laps. I managed an average of 55:48 per lap and Christof 56:10 (had to squeeze that little detail in) so very even in our distribution of effort! Christof was the more consistent with his laps only varying by 3 minutes and mine by 4. The path to our win seemed to come about 5am on Sunday, when after 18 laps or so the team just ahead of us began to slow dramatically and eventually stopped. Whereas we kept going, ticking off the ~ 1 hour laps one after another eventually outdistancing the competition by 3 laps. What was the difference, fitness conditioning or nutrition and planning? Possibly even injury – we’ll never know.
Heading into the event we felt that we had the fitness to run 26 laps. This left us thinking the biggest challenge to running for such a long period of time would be fuelling and comfort. As such we did our back-of-the-envelope calculations to see how much we would lose in terms of fat, glucose, sodium and fluid. So we got to pouring over easily digestible foods in the supermarket to find a good combination to make up a lap’s worth of fuel. My stand-out choices were a coffee milk drink (which had just about everything on the list with the added bonus of caffeine), rather cheap crisps absolutely stuffed with salt (Space Invaders/Frazzles) and a snickers hazelnut variant with more salt than the normal variety. I would then top this up with whatever extra fluid I needed to replace (we had scales to get an idea of how much we lost each lap).
So the execution would be simple right? Run 10k up hills, over tree roots and rutted fields before trudging back to the tent to stuff a snickers bar, packet of crisps and a milkshake down my throat, change into fresh clothes, curl up in a sleeping bag for 30 mins, then get up, put the trainers on and head to the start line again. And that’s what we did, 13
times. 13. Thirteen. The first 5 or 6 weren’t so bad but then it got dark. Those laps through the night will haunt me for some time. Not the near twisted ankles or pangs of pain from my knee or growing blister on my right toe. It was the anticipation in the tent. Lying there, half-asleep knowing it was subjectively the briefest of reprieves. Then the alarm would sound, or Max would prompt me to head to the start line. In some ways beginning to run again was the better bit, you just had to do it. The wait in sweet comfort before the run was mental agony.
With light beginning to sneak through the clouds on the horizon the struggle seemed to ease. Maybe it was the knowledge it would ‘soon’ be over or simply that it was easier to see where we were going but running was suddenly easier. Several minutes dropped off our lap times (especially Christof’s) and we knew we could keep on plugging away and would get those 26 laps. And so we did.
If anyone is ever tempted to do this as a pair my advice is get a solid routine, with agreed lap times so you can plan to make it through the night with as much rest as possible. One person running a slightly quick time gives the other less rest and uncertainty when to be at the changeover – so they take even less rest and will be slower (ironically giving the first runner even more rest to go even quicker the next time – exacerbating the situation!). Also taking longer leaves them standing about at the changeover. Make it through the night with a fixed schedule and with proper fuelling the following morning will take care of itself.