It’s called “Glastonbury for Runners” but instead of trekking around muddy fields, watching bands and drinking alcohol, the attendees pitch up, hydrate on alcohol-free electrolytes (if they’re serious about the race, that is!) and run 5-mile loops through a beautiful countryside estate.
This year, our ‘ladies team – small’ comprised Sarah Harris, Sarah Gerrie, Nicky Payne, me and honorary ESM member for the weekend, Ann Gallagher (shhhh, she’s actually an Eagle….). We rolled into Wasing Park, near Reading, the evening before, giving us time to find a good camping spot and refresh and replenish in anticipation of the next day of running. It was the hottest day of the year on the Friday and despite the heat, there were plenty of attendees making the most of the festivities at the bar area. We picked a strategic camping spot that was not too far from the loos and showers but also not too far from the race start. No one wants to be walking for ages in the depths of the night trying to find their tent after going to the loo or coming off the back of a tough 5-mile loop!
The concept of Endure24 is simple. Starting at 12 noon on Saturday, runners have 24 hours to complete as many 5-mile loops as they can. This can be done as a solo effort, all the way up to large teams. Only one person from a team can be running at any given time. Strategy is up to you. Go hard each lap or find a pace that you can maintain? Continuous running or have a break during the hours of darkness? Change order or keep to the same one?
After a relaxing evening of dinner and a single, sensible beverage, we awoke refreshed and ready to race. We decided on our race order and strategy. Obviously we were in it to win it and wanted to make sure we all knew who was going when so that we didn’t miss our handovers. We decided that Nicky would start, followed by Sarah G, Sarah H, Ann and then me. We’d do single laps continuously until closer to midnight when we’d each do a double to allow us a bit more rest. This meant that, calculating ~40/45 minute loops, we’d start doing doubles at around midnight.
The 5-mile loop of Endure 24 in Wasing Park is really lovely – lots of wooded areas, dirt tracks and interesting running terrain. It’s not boring at all, which really helps when you’re running it again….and again…I ran the same event in 2019 and was really pleased that some of the muddy areas had been improved with either tarmac or wood chip, making it a much more pleasant experience and less mentally taxing in the dead of night!
Nicky started us off at noon, high up in the pack of the first runners. It’s a massive party atmosphere when the first runners head off and the rest of the team headed down to cheer her on as she started. The handover was done by literally handing over a wristband that we called The Slapper – the incoming runner could hit it on your wrist so you could take off quickly for your lap. There was also a big screen that showed team names and a video of incoming runners allowing those waiting to see who was arriving and get in place for the handover.
As the day progressed, our splits stayed quite consistent but the weather worsened. It was blustery (so much so, our gazebo almost flew away while Sarah H sat underneath it) and showery. This continued into the night and the ‘waiting room’ tent at the handover area in darkness had a foreboding air with all those people looking at the sideways rain. The weather looked worse than it was though, and mostly the rain passed in showers and wasn’t heavy enough to make you cold. It also meant mud wasn’t an issue, thankfully.
Nicky had kept a close eye on the results overnight and noticed that we were in the lead just as we were returning to single laps. We figured out that if we kept up the single laps for the next 4 hours or so, we’d be able to hold our lead. In the end, Nicky, Sarah G and Sarah H completed 7 laps each and Ann and I did 6 each. A grand total of 33 laps, or ~165 miles! We finished at approx. 11.30am and, as long as someone is out on the course at 12 noon, they are allowed to complete the lap. I had been deliberating doing a final lap to take us up to just after 12 noon but when I found out there was no way the second place team could catch us, I gave up on that idea and went for a massage (no regrets there, I must say). To finish our race, Sarah H ran a blinding last lap which was her fastest lap of the race! What a finish!
We weren’t able to stay around to collect our winners’ prizes at the ceremony but before we headed off home we all reflected on the event as something we really enjoyed and would definitely do again. In fact, we all agreed that having more than one ESM team would make it really special. So who’s up for 2023?