The e-mail arrived about Endure 24, having taken part last year, I must have been one of the first to sign up…a few months later and I discover I have switched teams to join the first ever Sandhurst Ladies team! I started to get nervous as I knew the other ladies in the team were super speedy, but they were quick to reassure me that they needed some ‘ endurance’ on the team as well as speed! Endurance I can do…
Nikki, our fearless captain, was super organised, getting us to work out some predicted lap times and preferences for day/night running, so she could create THE PLAN. Then conversations turned to more important things – what shall we eat for 24hrs and what on earth were we going to wear?
The weekend arrived and we were able to answer one of those 2 questions as we rocked our fabulous new team vests, to the envy of all who saw them. Lisa had even coordinated her knee taping to match them, which was dedication to the cause of run-fashion.
We had THE PLAN, we had THE VESTS….what could possible go wrong? As it turned out, not very much. Runner after runner returned to the camp having smashed their predicted lap times, those of us later in the ‘running order’ smugly began our 24hr eating festival, and the time ticked by. Sharon and Gemma developed an excellent theory, that as long as the person before you in the schedule was still relaxing and within sight, you had no reason to be concerned that you were supposed to be running somewhere! At this point we also discovered that Helen had brought enough run clothing to kit out everyone for several weeks.
After everyone in the team had run a lap, rumours of the leaderboard started to circulate and we discovered we were winning the Ladies ‘Large Team’ competition, now the pressure was really on (although it actually wasn’t as we were winning by a fairly significant margin). Day turned to night, and the well-oiled machine continued to run, with smooth handovers and swift loops around the forest. Unfortunately, on one of the night laps, Heidi picked up an injury, although still managed an amazingly fast time despite hobbling the last km or so.
Despite a bit of a cold, and some hayfever, I had been enjoying the running and socialising, but at around 2am came my darkest hour of the event, I was lying in my tent listening to the rain and dreading the call which arrived even earlier than expected. At this point we were over an hour ahead of schedule. On went the trail shoes, and I slipped and slid around the muddy trail which was getting more churned up by the minute. The music had stopped and the runners had spread out – had everyone given up because of the rain? At certain points I thought I’d left the route as I couldn’t see a single head torch, but I completed my lap – albeit, very slowly!
The rain soon stopped and it started to get light again which was cause for great celebration – the end was in sight, and things were still looking good for our win. Some frantic calculations and strategizing was ongoing as our last few runners headed out, although we were sure we had won, did we have time to squeeze in another lap before the clock struck 12? And more importantly, did we need to? It turned out to be a ‘ no we didn’t ’ on both accounts, so instead we had a fairly leisurely jog across the finish line as a team, with Katie doing some impressive ‘run-dressing’ (not to be confused with undressing). We had done it. We cheered the other teams home, picked up our winnings (a funky headband each, and a team trophy) and went our separate ways for some well-earned sleep.
Reflecting on a brilliant weekend, I’ve never really done any team sports, and had previously never really considered running to be one. It was an absolute privilege to be on the first Sandhurst Ladies Team with my amazing teammates Nikki Stanley, Helen Antram, Lisa Hale, Katie Herrington, Sharon Burfield, Heidi Zymela and Gemma Potter. Hopefully we’ll be back next year to defend the title!