My team comprised of Jo Derx, Ruth Medlock, David Langford and Matthew Thomas Burns – a late replacement for Ian Gillings, who unfortunately hadn’t recovered from a long term injury in time to compete. The name was simple enough, based purely on the fact that we were unlikely to get much sleep!
I took part in Endure 2018 as a late replacement for David, who had become injured whilst running the 2018 Manchester marathon, so it was especially nice for me that he was able to fulfil his role this year and a complete bonus that he and I ended up in the same team.
Our approach as a team to the event, particularly as part of any group discussion, was somewhat … cavalier. Jo had been nursing herself back into race fitness after an injury from the Canalathon (ultra marathon) in March, and to a lesser extent I was still coming back from an injury from the same event. Matthew hadn’t really run any further than a half marathon distance before, Ruth seemed to be happy to go with the flow. David, having been injured after Manchester the year before, conquered it this year, was back in great form and was just happy to be match fit and ready to go!
Whilst we were all in a bit of a disarray of fitness, distance running experience, and I suppose, expectations, it just seemed to work for us as a unit – we were going in to “get the job done” without actually specifying what we were going “to do.”
So laid back were our preparations for the running itself, we hadn’t decided an order to go out in, or any sort of team tactics. In fact, the only thing I’d suggested we do, having had little sleep or time to eat properly between runs the year before, was to float the idea that we maybe put in some consecutive laps to give each other time for rest, particularly at night.
We settled on our race order less than an hour before the start and agreed that some of us might put in some consecutive laps, but others might not. My only stipulation as a captain during the entire thing was that no-one was to push themselves so hard that they injured themselves, and that we should each try and enjoy the occasion rather than drive ourselves into the ground over it.
Anyway, the order was to be; Ruth, myself, David, Matthew and then Jo.
This approach worked… kinda. I suppose each of us as runners, if we’re honest, all have little goals of our own, even if we don’t confess to them publicly or in the confidence of our own teams. I’ll admit – I felt like I had unfinished business from last year, having flaked during the night.
Jo felt quite early on that she couldn’t continue to do as many laps as she wanted to without fear of her injury flaring back up, so I suppose (although she never said it) she had a target in mind and didn’t quite get there. To me that’s irrelevant, – she loved the rest of the experience, will no doubt be back next year to have another go, and hopefully didn’t go away unable to run again for a while – and that’s what matters. She was a constant bubble of joy and encouragement the entire time and (as always) a pleasure to share company with.
At around 3am (give or take an hour or two), Matthew had just done his 4th lap and said he didn’t think he could get to 6 (and I think that might have been his goal). I reminded him – “DO NOT injure yourself, stop if you need to.”
Ruth was out on her 5th lap at this point and when I went out to meet her at the changeover, I could see she was in trouble as she approached. “My knee’s blown.” She was hobbling and said that that was probably it for her. Again, I reiterated “DO NOT injure yourself” (although I feared it could already be too late for her by then.)
After I got back from #5 and David took over from me, I headed back into camp to find Ruth wandering around camp, almost aimlessly. I asked whether she wanted some ibuprofen to ease off her knee pain. She took some and said she was going to see about a massage.
Soon after, someone had seen Matt on his way back from his 5th lap and said “he doesn’t look good.” I found him looking finished. Utterly done. Staggering from side to side like he was drunk. I congratulated him on what he’d done, as if that was the last time he’d be out on the course.
It was at this point we had to make changes to the running order – David went out having had just one stint’s break – and that the consecutive lap plan was going to be put into into action. I’d suggested to David that I’d do a couple of laps when he got back and, that if someone was there to meet me afterwards, good – if not I’d return to camp and we’d figure out what, if anything, to do from there.
I spent a disproportionate amount of time on the first of these two laps trying to figure out whether we could keep going (impossible maths at that stage in the race) – a thought still lingering as I passed marshals with a stand and sign saying “fresh watermelon, help yourself” at around 6 into the 8K loop. That thought blew away about 400 yards down the track, replaced with “why didn’t I stop for watermelon?” – a mistake rectified after having a chat with Nicola Wilkinson (after frightening the life out of her) on the following lap.
Sated by 5 or 6 slices of watermelon, new thoughts of “is anyone going to be there?” and “is the crepe stand open yet?”
Coming into the handover point, I wasn’t really expecting to find any of my team. David was a remote possibility. How many crepes can I eat? But then I saw Ruth! Unbelievable! She’d had a massage and was feeling much better. Said she’d be slow, but wanted another pop at it… and off she went!
Revitalised by that, I came back to camp to dry off and get some cash. There I found Matt, who must have found some inspiration from Ruth.
“I’ve had a massage, I feel a lot better!”
“Good stuff! Do you fancy some crepes?”
“What are they?” (??)
Meanwhile, Ruth had got back, David was out again – he was thinking it was his turn to do 2 laps and set off at a slower pace than he’d been running.
Having learned a new word for pancakes, Matt learned something else, this time about himself – he’s far more capable than he realises – and said, “I think I can do another lap!”
At around this point, overdosed on 2 crepes, I passed out and I can’t really remember the order of what happened next- but I woke up to find David back in camp, overjoyed that Matt had been there to meet him. Although he was prepared to do it, another lap really wasn’t overly appealing and he’d almost skipped to the changeover point when he saw Matt waiting for him.
Then Ruth was out again. By now she had let it slip that she’d wanted to get to 7 laps and there she was, doing just that. Super-hubby-support Philip met her as she came back, and they ran over the line together with their children, who had been little stars in camp over the weekend.
Watching as they did that, she handed the band over to me and fuelled by that, the past 2 days of preparation time in the camp and running (and 2 big crepes) I bounded off – a little sad that it was coming to an end for the year, and excited to get back to the finish line to be with everyone again.
Bursting with adrenaline as I picked my team out from the crowd (easily found by the human landmark that is Matt), we finished “the job” (whatever that was) together.
I could not be prouder of my team or this club.