“The Glastonbury for runners?”
Most of us had never heard of this race when Barbro first suggested ESM take part. It’s a 24 hour race over an 8K circuit, and can be undertaken solo, in pairs or in teams of up to eight. Barbro’s enthusiasm persuaded ten people – a mix of ESM members and Northala Fields parkrunners – to give it a go.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, when the teams arrive to pitch their tents and flags, and the party atmosphere starts to build. You only have to read some of the team names – ‘Your Pace or Mine’, ‘(Not) Far from the Muddy Crowd’ – to know that people are here to have fun.
The race itself starts at noon on Saturday and finishes at noon on Sunday, but anyone crazy enough to run over a 24 hour period is also crazy enough to start the day with a parkrun… So that’s just what they did. Saturday morning saw a group head off to Newbury parkrun – and not just any old parkrun, as Lindsay points out: “Very exciting to be running on Greenham Common, such an iconic place in the 1980s. The start line is on the runway!”
Those of us who haven’t done an ultra tend to think it must be very monotonous: surely there’s a reason for team names such as ‘Eat Sleep Run Repeat’ and ‘Andover and over Again’? Apparently not! Santosh had been planning to run 20 miles after the parkrun, but enjoyed the course so much he just kept going for another 20.
At ten in the evening, according to Lindsay: “It’s totally beautiful, except for the extreme density of flying insects in my headtorch beam. I love seeing the other runners with their torches and the fairy lights”.
Barbro adds: “The night run is so cool, lots of fairy lights brightening up the run, especially the first uphill to 1k, and the “rooty” downhill even had fairies cheering us on. The marshals were very supportive”.
With sleep deprivation and course features like Heartbreak Hill, emotions run high. Lindsay defied an ankle injury to complete her final lap: “I am amazed at my own stamina and that my ankle has made it… I hand over to Clare, and burst into tears. I have run further than I ever have before, further than I thought possible. I am not broken. Twenty-eight miles in twenty-seven hours”.
The Perivale Speedsters (Santosh Rai, Nilu Dewan, Pringla Awale Rai, Barbro, Katie di Paolo) finished 44th out of 147 teams, and the Perivale Rovers (Grace Albury, Louise Prince, Lindsay Donoghue, Nathan Sutton, Clare Hilton) were 98th. Ole Hansen entered solo and managed to run 13 laps, having targeted 10. Full results here.
Philip Prince, Jav Sondh, Garima Rai and Nilu’s husband Kamal were there to support, as were Lindsay’s kids Conor and Saoirse. This included a supply of delicious Nepalese food, porridge, and hot drinks.
By all accounts, everyone had a great time and is intending to do it all again next year. Interested? Next year’s event in Reading will be June 15th to 16th. Click here for more details.