Ok, ask yourself a question, what’s worse:-
- Running relay race for 24 hours or,
- The thought of running a relay race for 24 hours.
If you feel the answer is ‘1’, then perhaps you need to take the plunge and give it a go, just like a group of suckers for punishment did at the height of this summer in the picturesque landscape of Bramham Park just outside Leeds
Endure24 is advertised as ‘Glastonbury for Runners’. Now I’ve never been to Glastonbury but I’m sure they’re not exaggerating that up at all, I’m sure it’s *exactly* like Glastonbury. Except for the running & the drugs & the bands. What it most certainly does have in common is the sleep (or lack thereof) and the fact that you’ve got the kind of camaraderie that can only be replicated when you get 1000’s of people all in one place with a common interest and a common goal.
The rules are quite simple. Get yourself or a bunch of yourselves into groups of between 1 & 8 people then attempt to get a wristband around an 5 mile semi-trail course as many times as you can in 24 hours.
A lot of the Pumas had already done the event in 2017 so knew what to expect and this year there was a concerted effort get as many members as possible to participate, ensuring the club was represented en-masse and to try to make our own little area of the campsite a true home from home; or as much of a home as a campsite with no electric, crap showers and portaloos could possibly be.
To this end Peter Reason took over the mantle of team organiser and promptly wished he hadn’t; without going into too much detail at times it looked like the task of organising 29 Pumas (& honorary Pumas) into teams proved more difficult than the Brexit negations. All credit to Pete though, it all worked out in the end and everyone managed to do the laps they wanted on the day and everyone came out of the weekend with a massive buzz; but more of that later.
Home from home
The first Pumas started to arrive fairly early on the Friday to help set up camp. Gazebos were erected, cooking areas designated and an area marked out with tape to accommodate the later arrivals. Unfortunately Chris wasn’t at work so the crime scene tape couldn’t be utilised but after a period of erecting tents for some of the Pumas arriving later, the motley crew of early arrivals gave up the will to live and in traditional Pumas fashion, broke out the alcohol.
This theme continued through into the evening with more people arriving to take in the glorious evening sun. A few hardy individuals decided to walk the course to see what they would be up against the next day; the rest decided to keep getting drunk. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine who did what and when.
Stargazing became quite popular
As morning broke the camp became a real hive of activity with the Pumas designated foster parents for the weekend (Sharon Reason and Rob Bowman) cooking up a real feast of a breakfast to fuel the intrepid group for the next 8 hours until tea time.
Rob’s famous bangers
There were a few more stragglers turning up ready to run till about 11am but come the 12 o’clock start, all teams were as organised as they were ever going to be and the first runners ready for the countdown. Some decided to wear their Puma tops but then promptly regretted it as the swarms of insects rushed to them faster than flies round a freshly dumped cowpat.
The Final Countdown
The 8k or 5 mile loop started with largely downhill 1K through woods followed by a drag uphill before flattening out past the Temple of the Lead Lads. Then an open section leading downhill to Temptation Corner, where the SKAbus was parked with a couple of the Reading Roadrunners dancing around to Madness for the whole event while handing out shots of energy drink.
The Ska Bus
Up a rise to the first gazebo where marshals in hula skirts danced urging runners on towards The Deep, Dark Wood – the only really cool area and welcome break from the dusty gravel that most of the route followed. Slight downhill to Shambles Café & a water station offering Shot Blocks just over half way. The fastest descent followed before a sharp little incline to a copse then out onto a long stretch across the Festival Field. One more descent and incline into a tree lined path and the finish was in sight with a dip and cheeky, highly annoying little rise to the end of the lap.
As the race started, we all knew it was going to be a hot one, but I don’t think anyone realised quite how bad it was going to be. As each person took over the baton (wristband) from their previous teammate, all began to be clear. Whilst a lot of the course was run through woodland, just as much was exposed and with temperatures on the day hitting 26 degrees in the shade, the area over the Festival Field was akin to a fire walk in a sauna on the 9th level of hell.
But whatever the conditions, everyone just kept on going. Some walking, some defying the odds and running the whole lot. Solo runners were particularly obvious to spot thanks to a big “Solo Runner” sign on their backs, but that just encouraged the rest of us to support them as we inevitably went past (some faster than others).
As evening set in our Sharon & Rob provided us with a hearty meal of pasta to try to build up some of the carbs lost during the day ready for the push through the night. Although the night stints were initially looked at with dread they actually produced some of the best times as temperatures tumbled and breathing became easier. With it being mid-summer the sun was only down for a few hours and some even had time to stop and enjoy the beauty of the pre-dawn as the sun began to light up the morning mist.
Andrew Mellor pauses for what is probably the best photo of the weekend
Once the morning broke the atmosphere was a sharp contrast to the previous evening. The excitement and upbeat attitudes had given way to a mass of tired and aching bodies who were just happy that the end was now in sight.
Trying not to set light to the field
It wasn’t long before temperatures started to rise again but at least it brought another slap up cooked breakfast from Rob & Sharon to try to replenish the tired calorie drained muscles.
Just 3 hours to go now and the leading Men’s and Women’s teams both had prestige targets in their sites. The lead men ‘We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village’ were in 2nd place and whilst beating the leading team might have seemed like a massive effort, they were defiantly determined not to let the Mo Farriers in 3rd place catch them. Likewise ‘Not fast Just Furious’, the lead female Pumas team were flying high in 3rd place with the ‘Sole Mates’ snapping at their heels, this despite losing a key team member in Elizabeth McDonnell who could only commit to 2 laps before leaving the site. This left just 4 Pumas ladies hammering round and trying to stay ahead.
As the last laps came around the organisers encouraged all the members of each team to cross the line together. Tiff was the first Puma to cross the line for ‘Ha Puma Matata’ after the 24 hour cut-off at 7 minutes past 12. Despite her best efforts she didn’t manage to beat that 12 noon target which meant I couldn’t do another lap (shame..!). Next were the lead guys who had decided to let Tim do their last lap as he was the best chance they had at keeping hold of that second place although we were denied the classic Tim Brook sprint finish as he stopped to let the rest of the team catch up and cross the line together.
One by one, all the teams came in until the very final Puma, Lisa crossed the line accompanied by the entire Puma family (and supporters) at 12:53.
The last few yards
At the prize giving it was confirmed that our lead Male and Female teams had managed to hold onto 2nd and 3rd in their respective categories but each member of all the teams felt a huge sense of pride and achievement at having completed the 24 hours. All this despite the furnace of the day, the cold in the dead of night, the drained bodies and the lack of sleep.
Whilst endure 24 does fill a lot of people with dread, what it certainly does create is an undying sense of camaraderie not just within teams but across teams as well. Whilst running round the course, the amount of encouragement to and from fellow runners was very uplifting and as I’ve already mentioned on Facebook, where else could some random bloke I’ve never seen before, in the middle of a wood in the dead of night ask me if the Pumas might be putting on the Coley Canter this year? Best not answer that but at least at Endure 24, it was all above board.
Massive thanks go to all the supporters and helpers who turned up and camped with the runners:-
Sharon Reason, Charlotte Reason, Rob Bowman,Hollie Bowman, Paul Trudgill.
Your intrepid teams
We Will Destroy you and Burn your Village – 2nd place Male 3-5 members
40 Laps, 200 miles , 00:36:27 Average Lap, 00:32:34 Best Lap
Not Fast Just Furious – 3rd place Female 3-5 members
32 Laps, 160 miles, 00:46:07 Average Lap, 00:40:36 Best Lap
Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies – 6th place Male 6-8 members
32 Laps, 160 miles, 00:46:00 Average Lap, 00:37:02 Best Lap
Scrambled Legs – 6th place Female 6-8 members
27 Laps, 135 miles, 00:55:18 Average Lap, 00:44:33 Best Lap
Ha Puma Matata – 70th place Mixed 6-8 members
25 Laps, 125 miles, 00:57:55 Average Lap, 00:46:02 Best Lap