In the aftermath of the final ever Energia24, which took place in Victoria Park in Belfast on 22nd/23rd June, I was sunburnt and sleep deprived, even after a night in my own bed. My big toes were both one massive blister and my legs were so seized up, I suspected that I’d be walking downstairs backwards for a week. And I had a ball!
It was like a music festival for runners. Crappy portaloos, scummy showers, loud rock and tents, all taking over Victoria Park. Except that the portaloos were clean and consistently very well stocked with bog roll and the showers were plentiful and clean. Hmmm, so maybe not too like a music festival then 😁 We were also incredibly lucky with the weather, so didn’t have to contend with the quagmire that Glasto usually becomes. Thank goodness, because running in the rain is okay, but hanging about and supporting in it, not so much!
First, a word to our sponsors. We arrived before 10am on Sat to find the gazebo already up. That was thanks to our wonderful clubmates. It was great to get there and have a base to set our tents beside. That was the start of a weekend of a constant stream of people arriving with food, necessary plastic items and most importantly encouragement, hanging about the gazebo, passing runners their water and energy drinks as they went by, clapping, shouting and generally letting us know that we could do it, we could complete this stupid…I mean challenging… task that we’d set ourselves. We (I mean the runners) were never alone. Partners, family, and Ward Park Runners members were always about. There was also fantastic support from other runners and clubs. Runners are a supportive bunch. We were next door to the Scrabo Striders and across the way from North Down AC, so there was plenty of shouting at all hours, as any of our three club’s runners went by.
I stumbled upon a perfect example of the sort of nutty, but amazing encouragement we got at 3.30am Sunday, just half an hour before my final stint. I was headed to the loo. Gotta get that last poo done before a run. 💩😂 I heard my name shouted and it was a runner from a different club, sitting on bench, offering random runners burgers 🍔 He’d done a run to Micky Ds on his way to support after work. Never has a burger tasted so good. That’s just the way the whole event felt. Very “One for all and all for one.”
My task, as part of a relay team, was to run for a two hour stint, pass on the baton (in this case, an armband) then rest up and refuel for my next go, six hours later. We all took three turns. Running for two hours is something I don’t normally find too much of an issue. My pace may vary, but I can stay upright and in forward motion for that time, no problem. Doing it three times within twenty-four hours is another matter. I found the second time the hardest. I still had a goal in my head as to how many miles I’d like to do in that time, so I wanted to live up to that. The third time, I was just concerned with keeping going, so distance was incidental, just a by product of moving forward, and I wasn’t overly worried about a goal, therefore I put less pressure on myself. Even though that section of running was 4am to 6am, it wasn’t the toughest.
End result? I did it. I got through my three legs of the relay with nothing more than a couple of big blisters, sore legs and an almost psychotic desire to “ate the leg o’ a scabby wain.” 🍔🥪☕ I covered thirty-three miles in total. Very respectable. I was well chuffed.
Now, running for six hours, in three, two hour chunks, was tough, so what, in the name of all that’s sensible, persuades someone that it would be a good idea to run for the whole twenty-four hours solid? I’m serious. What sort of buck ejjit does that? There were about three hundred just such ejjits, two from my own club. The heart and guts they showed was inspirational. I get that if you’re not a runner, you’d wonder why. What is it about doing this that’s so alluring? Why would anyone even think about it? I know that even other runners wonder at the desire to torture oneself this way. 5k or even 42k? Sure, but to run the whole clock round? I can’t say I get it myself. It’s beyond my comprehension. But those that did it just kept going. There were highs and lows in mood, but they kept going. When the final hour came and we saw them still on their feet, still going, it was genuinely emotional. Runners helped support other runners to the very end. When the timer went, I felt myself welling up. Sounds a bit dramatic, but true.
Midday on Sunday, we had friends, family and even more club members about, seeing it though to the end. The moral of the tale is that my team mates rocked, big style, and our non-running team mates (by which I mean all family, partners, club members, children, dogs, Uncle Tom Cobley and all!) rocked harder. What a stunning experience.
And what’s next? Well, my diet for the next few days consisted of left over chicken sandwiches and protein bars. Would I do it again? The following day, the answer was uncategorically not just “No,” but “Hell no!” Today? 🤔 Heaven help me, I probably would 🤣