E, is for Endure

For some the countdown began the moment they pulled away from the campsite. For others it was a horrendous nightmare of torrential rain, a mud fest and extreme exhaustion hopefully never to be repeated. This is Endure 24 and it’s not for the fainthearted.
Organised and sponsored by Mizuno and Racesolutions among others, this annual 24 hour individual and team relay event takes part in the woods of Wasing Park near Aldermaston, Berkshire. From midday on the Saturday the race begins and it doesn’t stop until midday Sunday. Without doubt the course is extremely beautiful. Reasonably gentle undulations of multi terrain glide their way around the first half, lulling runners into a false sense security of pleasant tranquil trail. Just after 5 kilometres you are hit with a long drag uphill, one which you cannot see the top of in daylight let alone the darkness. It is also just the right mix of length and gradient to make it for many the most difficult part of the course. What goes up must come down. And at approximately 6.5k you descend over soft, twisting ground covered with exposed tree roots, whilst ducking under small branches before dropping down a fairly steep bank to take on the final kilometre. This last section returns runners to the open and passes through the campsite allowing fellow competitors to bathe others in enthusiastic and at times much needed support. The course was slightly longer this year 4.95 miles instead of 4.70 and many stated it was more “technically challenging”.
The weather this year was definitely kinder to participants . Arriving on the Saturday morning, cloudy and cool conditions were present which were ideal. Within the woods though, the environment was very much warmer and quite humid. Although, a totally different story in the early hours of the morning albeit in June.
Twenty members of Bentley journeyed toward Reading, many on Saturday morning. Making up a total of four teams with Rodger Alexander and Ben Ficken choosing to go solo! Essentially it is a relay, each team member out on the five mile course at a time, handing the band of bravery onto the next. Thus it continues until the virtual noon day gun fires bringing the proceedings to a very welcome close.
The teams were Bentley Blue Belles: Vicky Presland, Lara Townsend, Davina Swindell, Tonie Wilson and Steph Horner. Malcolm’s Machines: Russ Sharp, Charlie Keitch, Darren Horner and Malcolm Jarvis. Only way is Bentley: Kevin Stevens, Sam Godden, Janine Simpson, Jamie Neill and Shawn Leek. Pauls Pals: Paul Carlisle, Gary Hill. Phil Presland and Frank Gardiner. Leading off for Bentley were Carlisle, Sharp, Stevens, and Presland. With Alexander and Ficken starting steadily in the midst of the pack, their race plans a mix of run/walk.

Chusa Batista and Lee Clarkson chose to run with a branch of The Commandoes, electing to call themselves Team Weiner?! Batista completed a total of thirty miles, Clarkson twenty five. Helene Tyler, this year running with Team Awesome Ladies finished on twenty five miles.

By 19.30 hours most of the Bentley crews had completed their second lap and were getting ready to don their head torch, a compulsory requirement from 20.00 until 06.00 which would see them continue through the night. Nocturnal activity had Bentley teams changing over anywhere between thirty five and fifty minutes. Alexander found himself in the medical tent, blisters had struck and his feet were bathed and dressed accordingly on more than one occasion. It’s possible they were now on first name terms. Ficken was putting in a considerably strong performance. So much that he took himself off the course at some stage to attempt some proper rest. Midnight washed over everyone to a mantra of run, eat, sleep. Returning after each tour to take on a little food and a hot beverage, then shuffling off to attempt some shuteye. By the early hours of the morning some had completed their fifth lap with about ten hours still to go. All night running, creates a peculiar individual. An infusion of sleep deprivation, cold and exhaustion can become your enemy and no matter your experience being able to stay grounded during times of disorientation and high emotions plays a major part in completing these types of experiences. Simply being able to run in daylight is an enormous relief.

As the timing clock showed one hour left the sun broke through the clouds to douse one and all in glory. I am sure as I type this report someone, somewhere is compiling overall statistics on miles, steps, massages and peanut butter bagels eaten.

For GBRC the provisional results stand at:

Ben Ficken 14 laps, 70 miles. Rodger Alexander 9 laps, 45 miles.

Ladies category 3-5 (participants) Bentley Blue Belles 4th, Men’s category (3-5) Pauls Pals 16th, mixed category (3-5) Only way is Bentley 14th and Malcolm’s Machines (3-5) 16th.