I thought I'd missed the opportunity to run this race but organisers added another 20 spaces for the 24 hour race, one of which I quickly snapped up.
The North East weather was dire running up to G24 weekend, the forecast for Aviemore was pretty good even though we drove through a storm to get there. Work and school meant a late Friday arrival where the car park was almost full. The perimeter spaces were taken so we parked beside a few more campers in the middle of the car park, forgoing the party for an early night.
On race morning we woke up, the only camper left in the middle of the car park. With no choice I reversed back onto the grass to what must be the best support location of the race, across from the the steps entering the car park.
My tactics worked so well last year I decided to use them again, even though virtually no training had been done. I wasn't sure if I was fit enough to hit the ton but I was going to give it a go. So here is a reminder from last year - 6 laps in the first five hours then 1 lap per hour gives a hoot of the horn.
It was a relaxed race briefing from Bill before being reminded by Sean to remove rings which I duly did. As forecast the weather was cloudy and dry, I didn't expect this to change so conditions were perfect for running.
The horn sounded at midday which signalled the start. The hayfield circuit was wetter than I expected but nowhere near as bad as last year, my feet were dry and would remain so for the rest of the race.
Lap one, it was good being back on the 4 mile loop. Through the technical section next to the loch then onto the track, pass Rays bench before the uphill to the 2 mile watering hole. Continue to the top before a one mile descent overlooking Loch Morlich and back to the hayfield.
A quorn mini egg and sup of water every lap, I was even mirroring last years fuelling strategy, this time I had Lynne and Skye for support so I could put in an order for hot food rather than relying on flasks.
I settled into the race and made sure each round was completed under 50 minutes including refreshments. I chatted to two runners doing an ultra distance for the first time, the G24 makes perfect sense as you can run as much or as little as you want. After lap six I was well ahead of schedule and reminded myself to slow down. Lynne was away on her bike which threw a spanner in the works. I had planned something hot to eat after lap 7 but this would have to wait if Lynne was still out.
I can hear the relay runners long before seeing them, they are running flat out. Now that must be a real tough shift, 24 hours of running as fast as you can, cooling down then having to warm up and go, I take my hat off to them.
At the end of lap 7 Lynne was back. I allowed myself 15 minutes to have tomato soup and quorn sausage rolls. I struggled to eat for a few laps after this, relying on Starbucks Latte coffees to see me through.
Two runners approached, running the route in the opposite direction. It was George and Karen, an amazing sight and one I would recall several times in the early hours of Sunday morning.
As the sun set we were treated to some beautiful views, one of the runners (sorry, I didn't get your name) commented on the colours of the landscape. As nice as this was it meant one thing, it would soon be head torch time.
I struggled to get my appetite back. I couldn't stomach any more quorn mini eggs so tried half a bounty instead. I would normally demolish a bounty but not this time, I took ages to eat before trying to spit the ruminants from my mouth.
I managed to squeeze in a lap before darkness fell then resorted to the head torch. The batteries were dull so I asked Lynne to load new ones into my second head torch which I would pick up next round. This was a mistake as I struggled to make out the trail in the dim circle of light.
All was going well, I was around 1.5 hours ahead of my schedule, if I kept this up I would be able to put in another lap and beat my distance from last year but don't count chickens before they hatch.
Lynne and Skye were turning in, I had another soup and sausage roll then would use my cool box for food and drink through the night.
Of course, this wouldn't happen without support and sustenance from friends and family. The horseshoe shaped camp was full of crew giving words of encouragement from tents or sitting round camp fires. The fires looked cosy in the cold air, I particularly liked an ornamental looking one which burned all night. Then there was the row of party tents where music, lights and dancing went on into the small hours. On reaching the top of the grass slope the sound of two cow bells would ring out where two superstar kids would encourage runners to keep going, every lap.
It was after midnight, the 12's were done when I started another lap. In the technical section their are some low hanging branches to avoid, this is why Sean recommended clear glasses. This was ingrained in my brain where I would tilt my head to the right a couple of times every lap. Just after the 'S' bend is a stealth stump of wood. It looks like the ruminants of a fence post, rising out of the ground about two or three inches. This stump does not reflect light like the stones around it so I reminded myself to watch out for it. Then bang, my right foot smacked into it and I stumbled head long in the darkness. My head was forward, like a sprinter making for the finish line but there was no finish line, only the blur of my reflexes taking over and stopping my face planting in the dirt. The runner behind enquired if I was okay and said he stubbed his foot on the stump earlier.
I ran on mentally checking things over. Apart from some sore muscles I seemed alright, a pulled muscle in my left arm, my right foot would protest later in the race. I had to do something, so next lap I removed a spare glow stick from the bushes and placed it round the stump where it stayed for the remainder of the night.
The halfway checkpoint is perfectly placed with a soft glow of lights powered by the comforting sound of a generator. The marshals stand in the cold and dark serving up cups of water with a sprinkling of midges. This must be a tough shift with no respite from the biting insects and is much appreciated.
0313, I'm in the car park approaching the line and the air horn goes off, "what on earth is going on?" I thought to myself. Someone has completed 100 miles in 15 hours 13 minutes so I knew something special was going to happen today. The course record was about to get smashed by James Stewart who would go on to complete 144 miles.
Darkness hung on for as long as it could, an overcast sky delayed dawn, I couldn't wait to ditch the headtorch. I didn't lose any time from my target through the night and was looking forward to breakfast. Lynne was up at dawn and was surprised when I said just five more laps and I'll hit 100.
I put in my order for breakfast, a hot Aberdeen roll and a cup of coffee.
The roll and coffee went down well. The sun appeared making it a warm run towards the end of the race. I calculated 100 miles at around 1020 leaving plenty of time for one more circuit. This would equal 104 miles plus the small circuits. There was one fly in the ointment though, The top of my right foot and lower shin was in pain. I couldn't understand it but then I remembered about the trip in the early hours.
100 miles felt so much of an achievement I decided to kiss the line. With a couple of laps to go I informed Lynne of my plan then regretted it. How on earth was I going to manage to get down, kiss the ground then get up without incident or needing assistance. I began to doubt myself and changed my mind, I'll just run through normal.
I began to doubt my sums, what if I go through where I've counted wrong and the air horn does not go off. All was on schedule when Ada announced "next time George" as I crossed the line. On this round though the right foot was in pain and felt like bursting out of the Hoka. I contemplated crossing the line at 100 and calling it a day but that wouldn't be a PB.
It's hard to explain the feeling when that air horn goes off. It sends shivers up your spine when it goes off, especially if it's for yours truly. It was my turn, over to the van for a scoof of coke then approach the line. Ada is there of course and says "you ready George?". I'm ready Ada as the horn announces 100 miles I never thought I would make. Then sod it I thought, I'm kissing the line, down and up in one swift movement, it couldn't have worked out better.
|Photo by Lois Simpson|
It's the farewell lap. Mentally I said cheerio to all the landmarks and scenes on my last lap. One last drink of water infused midges and the last long downhill to the campervan. Lynne and Skye were waiting, I sat down with a coke and contemplated my next move. My right foot was done in, so do I just cross the line at 104 miles and call it a day or join one of the best spectacles in the Scottish racing scene?
Yep, sore foot or not I joined the small loop, no way was I going to miss the cheering, camaraderie, cow bells, encouragement and bonkers of the campsite circuits. Round and round to the incredible support till midday where the air horn sounded the end of the G24.
Mon 8, Sat/Sun 105. Weekly total 113 miles.