Several weeks ago my Mum brought this event to my attention. Organised by RSPCA North Wilts and marketed as a ‘bleep test’ of stamina, this was a two mile looped run, with a difference.
If you haven’t gathered by now, I like a challenge, as do several of my friends. So, I shared the event on Facebook to stir up a bit of interest. My 13 year old Niece also likes a bit of running and had been looking for an event longer than the annual 10k Race for Life we do, for quite some time. My Mum had found out there was no lower age limit, so this would be her opportunity.
So, what made this event a challenge? All runners would begin the first two mile loop together and be given 25 minutes in which to complete it. All runners to make it back to the holding pen within the 25 minutes would then continue for the next lap. With each lap, the time to complete would be reduced by one minute, and any runner who didn’t get back to the holding pen inside the time limit would be disqualified from continuing. This would continue until there was only one runner left at the start line – The last one running!
I signed up with my Niece so I could pace her around and ensure she got the distance PB she had been longing for. My partner also signed up as he needed to do a 10 mile run anyway, so this would make it more interesting. I also managed to persuade a good friend of mine (Jason) to sign up, who has lots of endurance event experience under his belt.
On the day of the event I worked out what pace would need to be run on each lap in order to complete it in time. Now, in recent years I’ve completed several 20+ mile events, but I am by no means fast and I most definitely do not speed up the further I run (until I see the finish line, then I pull out the obligatory sprint finish, or whatever feels like a sprint depending on what state I’m in!). My half marathon PB is 1:57:45, which averages out at 8 mins 55 secs/mile (or 5 mins 32 secs/km for those of you who run in metric measures). In this event, to complete 14 miles I would have to run miles 13 and 14 at least 9:30/mile (5:54/km) and that’s after already running for 2 hours 15 minutes. So, deciding on tactics for this was difficult; should you take it steady to begin with and slowly increase pace with each lap, having minimal rest but also expending less energy while completing the lap, or, run at a comfortable pace and then potentially have a long rest in the holding pen with the chance of ceasing up.
We arrived at the event and got ourselves registered. It quickly became apparent that the other runners here weren’t your typical charity run runners. There were some really serious runners here. Also, my Niece was the only under 18 entrant.
We warmed ourselves up and by the time it came to start all the tactics completely went out of my head! I needed to get my Niece around as many laps as she was capable of. I have several clients that I run with, so I’m used to running alongside them and keeping them at a sustainable pace, for them. So, this is what I did. I kept my Niece at my side and slowed or sped up my own pace as needed, knowing she would stick with me.
We completed the first lap comfortably, with several minutes to spare. After completing the first three laps I took on some fuel and made sure my Niece did to, especially as she’s not used to running for this length of time. We had been running comfortably and I knew she had at least another couple of laps in her, with the pace we’d been running at.
We went out for lap four, which was another comfortable lap. My Niece had achieved her distance PB, but I knew she could do more, even though we’d increased pace slightly compared with the previous three laps. Lap five was another success, although we didn’t have much time before having to head back out for lap six, and we needed to up the pace again.
Around half a mile in to lap six my Niece needed a walk break, but was still determined. She checked in with me as to how long we had left to complete the lap, and we got going again. About half a mile from the end of the lap was an incline, and before we got there my Niece stopped to walk again. I suggested we get going again and use the hill as our walk break, which she agreed was a good idea, so off we went again. We walked up the hill and once we’d got to the top and just around the corner I said we should start running again. My Niece was tired but she said she’d try, we’d lost a lot of time but we could still make it back in time. We went a little way, but it was too much so we started walking again. We were soon in ear shot of the speaker system and could just about make out that the compare was willing those of us coming across the field to make it across the line, time was running out. My Niece picked up the pace again and we saw the runners heading out for another lap, we hadn’t made it in time. My Niece, recognising this was it, took off into a sprint finish, leaving me far behind her!
My Niece received many congratulations for getting as far as she did. The runners who had been knocked out so far were all cheering on the remaining competitors and it didn’t even matter that there was no medal for taking part. My friend Jason carried on for another two laps before deciding that was enough. This event went against any standard endurance event by requiring the increase in pace the longer you go for.
Lap 10 saw the last lady standing, who went on to do another lap, completing 20 miles. Lap 13 saw only two runners remaining, would they both make it back in time?! Both completed the lap in time and went out for another lap. This was to be the final lap and the first runner in, out of the two, took the winning male title having completed 28 miles and reaching at least 6:30/mile pace (4:02/km) after 4 hours of running. Simply incredible.
The event raised over £1,200 for RSPCA North Wilts, who have confirmed they will be looking to put the event on again. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.
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