100 Miles in a Day!
Gloucester 24 Hour Race Report
By David Nightingale
August 12/13, 2023, was the weekend of my very first 100-mile race (100 miles what on earth gives me the right to think I can join the 100 mile club), I was inspired to have a go at 100 miles as my running coach Nathan Flear seemed to run these and further as often as I do a park run, he never said anything much about suffering afterwards, so I thought yeah let’s do it with a very inexperienced approach!
The training wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been, it’s not like a marathon where you can get a training run up to 20/22 miles and hang on for the last 4/5 miles.
Training for 24hrs / 100 miles is very different in as much as you don’t have a practice run for 20 hours and neither an 80-mile training run. I was due to go on holiday end of June, so I did as much training as possible and decided to run a 50-mile race local to me before I went away as a decent long run as preparation for August. That day turned out to be one of the hottest of the year with temperatures in the very high eighties. I recall during the event (which was 1 x mile laps) that I needed to speak to someone as I was there on my own and it was getting very tough I also didn’t know anyone. I got to about 30 miles and called my wife for a chat, she was surprised I called and initially thought something was wrong as it’s not the norm for me to call.
Once I explained I just needed to hear a friendly voice she said how is it, I said really hot but its ok, she then said you won’t know I doubt but you are winning the race, I thought to myself she must have that wrong as I don’t lead races there are all sorts of seasoned runners here, I’m just an overweight mid 50 year old plodder. I kept going, finished the 50 miles and then drove home, that night only to look at the results and I see that I had actually won the race and second place was around 31 minutes behind me, I couldn’t believe it I had had some good for age results previously but never an outright win.
Reason it also felt strange was there were 3 or 4 different distances taking place at the same time so you never really knew who was in the same distance, that also meant no winners ribbon at the end either however it was a nice event.
Fast forward now to w/c 7th August the reality of doing 100 miles in 5 x days’ time was really beginning to be on my mind as soon as I wake in the mornings, constantly through the day and the last thing I think of before going to sleep. I quote a Vassos Alexander saying that I heard him say recently, “I like to bite off more than I can chew and see if I can chew it…” I was anxious now about the whole thing as the day seemed to be coming around quickly, the week seemed to go faster than any other week, then I have the, “have I got the right nutrition for the event?”, “what clothes do I need?”, “how many changes of clothes?”, “how many shoes should I take?”, my mind was in overdrive to say the least.
I had a call with Nathan mid-week to go through some of the details and he did a great job of calming me down and going through each line of detail to ensure I had everything clear of what to take and what to expect on the day / night.
Tracey and I set off on Friday lunchtime for Gloucester and we had planned to go to the track and familiarise ourselves with the surroundings, say hello to Tori (Nathans boss…) and see how Nathan was getting on in the 48-hour event. It was a glorious day, the event organisers looked to of laid on a great event and that helped me feel slightly more relaxed.
We went back to the hotel to have an early dinner and get as much sleep as possible in readiness for not planning on sleeping again until Sunday night back at home in Southampton.
Its 06.00 Saturday 12th August I look out of the hotel room window, and I recall thinking to myself this is one hell of a challenge for a plodder like me and perhaps I have bitten off more than I can chew… But it’s a bit late now!!
We arrived at the track and set up our table which we shared with other who almost instantly became friends, and we were all on first name terms quickly and we all chatted about our goals for the race etc which was nice as I think it aided people’s nerves slightly. Once the table was set up, I got changed and headed over for the pre-race brief, the details were explained with simple things such as what lanes the 24hr runners need to use along with the Instruction of every 4 x hours the direction would change.
Its now 09.55, Tracey wishes me good luck and I walk to the start line, BANG the start pistol sounds and were off. I was talking to another guy on the start line, and we were running together for a good hour lap after lap, I was trying to keep the pace in the window that I had agreed with Nathan, trying to keep relaxed, enjoy the occasion, keep smiling etc etc. Tracey soon started handing out my nutrition from the table and all was going well pace was right I was holding back as I just wanted to go quicker but I had to keep disciplined with the plan we had set out as there was an awful long way to go yet.
Fast forward now to around 30 miles in and it’s a little more uncomfortable but the game plan is still intact the nutrition is working well. I then notice a friend of mine (Lee Trueman) had arrived to give me some support and encouragement which was great to see another familiar face.
I decided to start the race using the Nike Alphafly but I felt they weren’t the right shoe for me for this event so decided to have a 5 min pit stop change my shoes and see how they were. They seemed to be slightly more comfortable, and I carried on with the more traditional every day running shoe. The timing clock was obviously counting down which I gazed at each lap but in reality, the time and the time of the day was irrelevant in some ways at this point , I knew I was going to be out all night so I just figured its dark so it must be after 10pm. Yes, I could have worked it out from the clock counting down but 60 miles in I couldn’t do the sums and at this point I really don’t care….
It’s now early hours of the morning , I’ve had enough of eating and drinking , Tracey is really telling me off and almost forcing me to eat / drink , she was right of course as she was recording everything I had taken onboard from the start she knew , no nutrition will mean this will all end in failure, I knew it too but I just had the bare minimum I needed as I couldn’t face anymore drinks , gels or liquids…. 60 miles in ,Next challenge is here now out of nothing and what seemed a mild night the heavens opened up and it was pouring down relentlessly.
I stopped on the next lap thinking I would take shelter for a while until the rain cleared however Tracey and Lee wouldn’t let me stop, they instead handed me my rain jacket and swiftly sent me on my way again!
It’s now early hours of the morning and the track is very quiet, some of the runners had stopped for some sleep, it’s now that you have to have the serious mental battles and you start to think why am I here, I have about 30 miles left now before i get to 100 and it seems such a long way still.
I recall numerous times asking Tracey for a distance update and she would let me know the exact distance from the live timing system. It seemed like I was getting nowhere. I decided at this point to come in put some dry clothes on and freshen up and get going again, it’s amazing at 70/75 miles in just how long it feels to complete 1 x 400m lap.To help get me moving again Tracey would walk 100 metres with me to un-seize the legs before I accelerated in to a not fast at all jog, she did this on a few occasions. I came in and got changed and my feet were seriously hurting at this point I had blisters the size of egg yolks, Lee put Vaseline all over my feet to try and help, then nice new clean fresh socks and a dry pair of shoes and all of a sudden your feet feel brand new. The dark night sky that seems to of been very dark for ever is now showing signs of daybreak, the birds are singing in the trees, the track is busier again as runners start to return to the track for the final few hours. I recall speaking to Dan Lawson who was wearing a West Ham shirt and I thought of James Ward Prowse going there, as a saints fan I was disappointed he had gone but it was a starting point for a chat with Dan and while we talked all things football , Ultra marathon running and about his Lands End to John O’ Groats run (Breaking 10) , he also recognised I was struggling, he said “c’mon I will run and talk with you some more” (it’s worth noting Dan had done 24hrs before I started ) he was as fresh as a daisy, I said all I had left to do was 15 miles, he looked at me and said “15 miles………….” I said “yes that’s 100 and I’m cashing out !.” He tried his best to convince me initially to stay out for the remaining couple of hours but after talking he understood my reasons and as he said everyone has different reasons and goals for being here.
I remember him saying how good I will feel once I get to the 100 mile, I really wasn’t feeling excited at all but he reminded me in Ultra running “never let your mind take over the moment that you are in at that point , think of the end result and how you will feel in a day or 2 when you have been victorious in your personal challenge.” I can now look back and relate to that perfectly and if I ever see him again, I will thank him for his kind words and inspiration to keep me going.
The timekeeper gave me a heads up with 4 laps remaining, I crossed the line to complete 100 miles with 1hr 32 minutes still remaining.
Tracey was there at the finish line, and I gave her the sweatiest hug ever, Even Lee got a sweaty hug but at this point I would of hugged anyone!
Summing up the whole event and the lead up is simple in lots of ways, Believe in yourself. Be honest in your training. Trust your coach Trust your crew Stick to the game plan. Be strong mentally Smile afterwards and soak up the plaudits and compliments. PS Ensure you have plenty of pain killers for afterwards and overnight, yes it will hurt but the pain is temporary, but the achievement is FOREVER….