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Endure24 – Lina Johnson tells her story of 24 hours and 90 miles!

I have completed Endure 24 once before but only as part of a fantastic relay team with Sandhurst Joggers so this year I wanted to run it as a solo entrant.  I set my alarm for when registration opened, and it was a good job I did as it sold out in 3 minutes, so I was very lucky to have got a place.  I entered it as fun but also, I thought it would be good training for the triathlons I had planned.  When I entered, I didn’t have a distance in mind, I just wanted to run and see how far I got but as race day crept nearer I started contemplating on whether I could make 100 miles.  I have completed 2 x 86-mile non-stop ultra-marathons before and for a long time now, I have wanted to complete 100 miles, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to be that race.  The last ultra I completed was in August 2017 on the hot bank holiday but since then, the furthest I have run was a marathon, so I was dubious if I could make that target with no proper training.

As this race wasn’t my main race, I didn’t taper too much on the week leading up to it and ran a 10km PB at Yateley on the Wednesday leading up to race day.  Due to working 3 jobs, I didn’t really have much time to prep all my kit until the Saturday morning so all very last minute but having had experience with running ultras, it didn’t really faze me.  I got to the race venue at Wasing Park in Reading and got everything I needed ready in a bag to leave in the solo runners’ marquee at the start/ finish line.  This was perfect as it meant I could have all the stuff I may need at my fingertips.  I had an hour until the start, so I decided to drop off my kit and get my race number.  As I was walking towards that area, I recognised a few beautiful faces from the 3cTri club and Sandhurst Joggers.  As I was speaking with Vicky Rice, I think she was surprised (and maybe a little shocked) that I had no tent.  I knew that I could run/walk for over 27 hours as that is how long the 86 miles took me, so I had decided to not even bother bringing my tent with me as I didn’t want to stop for a sleep.  If I was to have a lie down, there would be no way I could get going again.  I find it easier to just keep moving forward with breaks little and often.

I was now ready to start.  I had decided to wear my race vest even though the checkpoints were so often on the 5-mile loop.  This was a decision I later regretted as I had to stop after 2 laps to discard it.  On the start line, I saw Richard McCready, Charles St Aubyn and John Tovell who all wished me luck and then this guy who I had never met before, came up to me and shock my hand telling me that I was an inspiration running this as a solo.  What a lovely thing to say and what a boost just before we all set off.  I had no race strategy, in fact, I had no plan for this race what so ever except for the fact that I wanted to just run and feel comfortable, keep my breathing very relaxed and not run any big hills.  Unless you’re a super fit mentalist ultra-runner, you never run the hills as it can waste a lot of energy and burn you out for the latter stages of a race.  It is very important to try and get the pacing right at the beginning of ultras as you just don’t know how you are going to feel later even if you’ve done them before.  It’s like any race, you don’t know how you’re going to feel until you’re out there running.

After a few welcome speeches, the count down begun and then that was it, off we all went.  As I was running along I only recognised a few things from the last time I was there and had conveniently forgotten some of the hills but slow and steady is how I was moving and just taking in the atmosphere with all the other runners around me.  It was amazing when people gave you shout outs just for being a solo runner and luckily before the start, Vicky had suggested to write solo runner on a bit of paper and stick to the back of me and I’m so glad I did as it really helped, especially when I did start to fatigue.

Lina at finish

When you are running distances, it is essential that you are comfortable and for some reason I wasn’t so when that happened I had to stop at the start line and change but this unfortunately wasted time.  I also stopped too long after completing 50 miles in just over 10 hours to get hugs from the other half who came to show support plus I had a clean with wet wipes and a complete change of kit from head to toe including my shoes.  It’s a great idea when running long distances to not only change your socks regularly and talc your feet but it also really helps to change footwear into a completely different make of shoe because then if you have any hot spots, they will change in a different pair of shoe thus making the rubs less severe. I tried to ensure that at both fuelling stations and back on the start line, I had something to eat and drink but after approximately 25 miles, every time I tried to eat something I just felt sick and, in the end, I had to run most of the race on dextrose tablets, shot blocks, apple energy drink and water which isn’t ideal.  There were a couple of times during that race when I had to tell my Chimp (Chimp paradox) to do one but then when I got a hug sandwich from Patrick and Charles, my Chimp totally disappeared.

Lina and Patrick

Normally I dislike laps but for this race it really helped me mentally.  I knew when I was feeling tired, it was only a short distance and then I was back at the start and it seemed to work well for me, the miles just flew by compared to previous races.  The night part was also good because it got light very early which made it feel even quicker.  As I was going along, ticking off the miles, I really started to feel it and that is when team spirit comes into play.  I had so many shout outs and hugs from fellow members of Sandhurst Joggers and 3CTri club that it really did keep me going.  There was one point on the course when I was going along, and I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open.  It was wired because I had run for a longer time than this and not felt sleepy tired, but it really hit me.  I just felt like a needed to shut my eyes, I didn’t necessarily need to sleep but I had to close my eyes, so I found a lovely looking log post next to the water checkpoint where I sat down and shut my eyes.  I had been there about 5 mins when I heard ‘Hi Troop’ so I looked up and saw Charles.  He asked if I was ok and I was, but then he said it wasn’t a good place to sleep and got me back up on my feet and said he would walk up Heart Break Hill with me.  As we were chatting and walking, I had mentioned to Charles about not being able to eat due to feeling sick and that I was now absolutely Hank Marvin.  I didn’t want to stop and eat but Charles made me promise to grab something from the food tent and I’m glad he did as the egg bap and hot cuppa tea went down a treat and I didn’t feel ill.  After I had eaten, I knew that I could keep going beyond the 86 miles I had done previously so off I went with a renewed sense of determination.

Jane & lina

As I was attempting my 17th lap, I saw Jane Crawford and as soon as she clocked me I got the biggest hug possible.  We had a little chat and I had told her that I was going to do one more lap to make sure I had gone my furthest distance but then I was going to stop.  I think she could see the pain on my face and told me that she would walk the final lap with me and off she went to finish her final lap and get ready to come with me.  As I was going through the start line for the last time, I saw Jane and I can’t even begin to tell you how that made me feel.  It was an absolute privilege to have Jane accompany me on that final 5 miles as it really lifted my spirits and took my mind off everything that was hurting.  It made that last lap fun and it went by a lot quicker.  As we came onto the field for the last little bit, Jane decided to duck out to allow me to cross the finish line on my own and take it all in.  As I saw the finish line, I felt really overwhelmed because I had just done 90 miles!!!!! I almost ran over the line however; my legs did not agree with my head and I had to walk instead 😊 Despite having time to do another lap, mentally I was done, and I just couldn’t face going around again but I was happy with what I had achieved.

As I went back to the marquee, the other half told me that I had managed to retain third place out of the solo females and I just couldn’t believe it, so he went and took a photo of my name in third place.  Wow… not in a million years did I ever think I could come third in any race and I was extremely happy with myself.  So, despite not getting to the 100 miles, I still managed to get my furthest distance, knock 4 hours off my 86-mile PB and come third.  It’s not a bad effort really but it would not have been possible without all the support from the clubs, you guys are amazeballs, and I can’t thank you enough for the support and for keeping me going.  This just goes to show that with training, support from others and a big dollop of mental strength, you can achieve anything you set your mind to so if you’re thinking about doing a race or something and you’re not sure if you can do it then I say go for it.  You can do it you just need to believe in yourself as you can push your body a lot further than you think you can.  Now go and smash those goals!!

Lina Tshirt and trophy.jpg

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