Friday, 7 July 2017

24 Hour World Champs review

So, um, that didn't go to plan.  At least, not for me it didn't.  The wonder that is David Bone covered an amazing 130 miles, and James managed around 104.  I only reached 89 miles, i'll bore you with the ugly detail in a sec.  To start things off on a positive note though, here is David's press photo from the weekend (page 2 of the Irish Times).  This is after 23 hours of running:

The man is a god. Disco Specs Power

Hats off to you David you lovely lovely man.

So what went wrong for me?    I'd prepared well, i'd tapered well, i'd eaten really well, made sure I was really well hydrated.   I thought I was well prepared mentally, but looking back perhaps this is where I went badly wrong.  I'd anticipated being really fired up by being on the same course as the World Championships which of course has many of the worlds top ultra-runners competing in it. And, initially, it was really cool.  There are too many to mention them all, but just seeing top top runners like Dan Lawson, Pete Kostelnick, Andrzej Radzikowski, Radek Brunner, Katalin Nagy, Pam Smith, Yoshihiko Ishikawa, Patrycja Bereznowska etc etc etc was fantastic.   

Courtesy of

The first few hours went ok I guess.  Physically I felt a bit off, just kind of a bit meh.... flat, without much power or zip, but it didn't bother me that much.  There was great banter between the runners, I made some new friends and chatted with old ones.  The GB men's and ladies World Champs teams are a fantastic bunch of people and would give a friendly word of encouragement every time they came passed.  Thanks a lot to all of you.  Stuff like that is really appreciated.  Robbie Britton made me laugh:

Lapping 1: "what's your first name Strachan?".  "Darren".   "Ok, well done Darren"

Lapping 2: "Strachan i've forgotten your name... i'm just going to call you Gordon, is that alright?".  "It's fine Robbie i've been called worse things"

Lapping 3: "Hey Gordon, want to hear my favourite Gordon Strachan quote?" "Sure Robbie".... "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog".  

Love it.  Unfortunately the size of my fight turned out to be not so big!

I think I went through the marathon mark in around 4:20, maybe 4:30.  Not great but not a disaster either.  But I was finding the one mile concrete/stone loop tougher and tougher, and eventually I had to break it down into sections where I would run and sections where I would walk.  After a while, maybe 5 hours or so, the volume of people consistently overtaking really started to get to me. 

Of course I knew that I was going to be spending a lot of this race getting lapped by most of the field. I'd thought I was cool with that, but in fact I found it hard to deal with.  No matter how much I tried to tell myself it was ok, not to compare myself, not to judge myself against these runners, my internal critic got a right gob on it, and eventually it wore me down.  "You're a shit runner, what are you doing here, you've no right to be here, look at all these people who are so much better than you."  Just over and over and over, on a bloody loop.  I got so sick of it.   After about 13 hours, I needed a break.  I lay down in the treatment tent for a 15 minute rest, and 2 hours later I woke up with my teeth chattering and legs frozen.  It was 3am, any chance I had of a PB was long gone, and even reaching 100 miles looked a forlorn hope.  I stumbled out of the tent.  Very simple choice time: turn left, go to race control, hand in your chip, get a blanket round you and go back to sleep.  Turn right, face another 9 hours of torture round this unforgiving 1 mile loop being lapped not only by most of the field but also your best mates.  Probably also telling yourself what a f****** failure you are. Somehow, not sure quite how, I turned right.

I stumbled like a ghost round a lap, wearing pretty much everything I had brought with me.  God knows how long it took, but at least moving was starting to warm me up.  I picked up some coffee at the aid station, and carried on walking.  Eventually, things got better, I warmed up and woke up and was able to shed some layers and move a bit faster.  I was mostly resolved to walking and just staying out on the course for as long as I could, but I was also able to do the "ultra-shuffle" on occasions.  I need the practice for Spartathlon, i'm sure gonna need the shuffle there.    Around 8am the wheels came off again and I nearly keeled over on the track, I think maybe a complete blood sugar crash.  A very kind supporter got hold of me and helped me to the tent.  I got some food and drink down me and stopped for another "10 minute break".... yeah, yeah, that one turned into an hour.  Again I was close to handing in my chip, again I turn right and resolve to continue.  This time it was easier as it was daylight and warmer.  Also only 3 more hours of pain until the end.

And that's where the story gets better.  Not from the point of view of getting a respectable distance total, more like I remembered why I love this sport in the first place.  By now i'd completely given up on targets (the timing system was not showing us any info anyway, and my watch had gone, so I had no real clue where I stood), the internal critic had decided to shut the **** up and my mind was beautifully clear and peaceful.  Physically I was suffering but I was still able to march quite well, and break into the odd shuffle.  In fact the course was now full of walking wounded, and whilst there were still lots of runners storming round, there were also loads of people who I was now overtaking. Also there was now quite a lot of crowd support in the park, including a huge group of folk from various Irish running clubs who were going bananas for every single runner.  Feed off them and get them involved I thought - it worked a treat, making me want to do "one more lap" just to see them again.   On the last lap I go to high 5 them and hear a Scottish voice "oi, I was first!", it's Debbie Martin-Consani loving the occasion and still running strong... she jokingly shoves me out of the way, soaks up the high 5s and continues to run to clock up as many metres as possible.   See you out in Greece Debbie and Marco for Spartathlon!   Before I know it, hooters are going off and the race is over......  everyone collapses to the ground wherever they end up.  I admit I shed a tear or two, mostly out of pure relief that it was over.  

Looking back I think I just have to see this as miles in the bank for Spartathlon.  It wasn't the race I planned or wanted, but hey it's 89 miles more than I did this time last year, so I can't be too distraught about it.

As mentioned, David had a storming run, massive kudos to you my friend.

James was his usual battle hardened self, reaching over 100 miles in 21 hours despite suffering a shin injury.  James then took a couple of hours out but got back on the course to notch up a few more laps. Solid work my friend.

Our fellow Sparta devotee Paul Katsiva-Corderoy was his usual friendly and chilled self, reaching close to 100 miles and laying down some awesome Sparta preparation.  Look forward to seeing you out in Greece mate.

It was a joy to meet Nathan and Tori Flear.  Nathan only took up running fairly recently but has clearly poured heart and soul into his training and racing.  Nath didn't have the race he wanted here likely due to illness but watch out for this fella!  Tori, thanks so much for looking out for us and all your encouraging words over the weekend, it really meant a lot.  See you out in Athens you two.

Big thanks to Ed and his team for organising a great event, you did Belfast proud and I hope you can keep the Energia24 as an annual fixture.  Now I know what i'm up against, i'll come back sometime!

James, me, David, Dan Lawson, Nathan Flear


  1. Great report. See you in Athens!

  2. Hey Dazza - Big Kudos for turning "right". As you said it was somehow tougher out there than our last 24 hours event where we notched 113 miles on our own steam without too much fuss or worry. This was always a sparta training run for us - although a slightly high-profile and mad one!!!! James's did us proud with the food planning and the Meurten trials. Chia charge still works beautifully. Sparta will take us to the total limits. If people thought all 4 of us sticking together for 36 hours was going impossible before then they are probably thinking that Belfast has confirmed that. I though believe in the "train". With the tour de human force which is Jamie Holmes I believe that we can achieve the impossible and I'm still 1000% up for the challenge of the 4 of us doing it. BRING IT ON x

  3. Oh my goodness me. Running with you around the Capital Ring in London a couple of weeks ago, I know Belfast was just a temporary blip. The "train" will be firmly on its tracks in Sparta and all four of us will kiss that foot together - I cannot wait - in fact if anyone else wants to hook up to the train we always accept carriages (and engines!!!) and we can all kiss the foot en-masse!!! Oh, and the fact that anyone is disappointed with running 89 miles shows just how far we have come from our early days of Ultra running!

  4. Thanks DMC, great to meet you and Marco

  5. Amigos the train shall be together in Greece. It'll chug out of Athens, perspire to Corinth, grumble and grunt and banter its way over the Peloponnese before slipping into silent top speed over the plains of Tegea and down into Sparta. I know who the engines are, and I cannot wait to be a humble carriage Xx