Updated: May 6
Seven days beforehand the idea came to me, run for 24 hours on a 5km loop in my neighbourhood, my house being the checkpoint. Keep going until time was up. Sounds easy right? Or not!
Australia doesn't have as harsh restrictions as some other countries around the world during covid-19 so the message from Authorities was pretty clear - stay in your neighbourhood, close to home, we understand the importance of getting outdoors for exercise and mental health. However, no one put a limit on the amount of exercise did they!
When news came through earlier in the year events around the world were cancelling, my training took a less structured approach as I watched my fitness slowly take a back seat, with no path in sight. I'd thrown money at an international marathon, a local 100km trail ultra and other smaller races around town along with prepping for a 24 hour obstacle race. Compound this with remote working, limited social contact with colleagues and friends and managing home schooling, my feet were itchy to move!
Early on Thursday morning a day before the start, I turned up to Queen Street Physio the creators of Beartrap for some panel beating. He asked what's happening and where to focus his treatment, I told him calmly I'm running from 6pm tomorrow night on a 5km loop around my neighbourhood to cover some big distance for 24 hours without sleep. He had to sit and think about this for a moment. After processing what was said, he suggested we run a competition to the public guessing my distance to win a beartrap. From there, the personal training run I was planning turned into a competition with a serious game face on!
Now I'm no stranger to long distance events or putting myself through a physical or mental hurt locker. I sure as hell knew though, this was a totally different experience. On my own, no accountability, no competitors, no aid stations with volunteers giving encouragement or spectators. This was a 5km paved loop on the neighbourhood streets and through public parks.
With no set distance in mind, apart from wanting to tick off a miler (100 miles/161km's) in 24 hours, I set off from my front door in the dark at 6pm Friday night, 24th April 2020. The air was cool, it was a clear night and I was running with minimal equipment. A Petzl headlamp, singlet, compression shorts, shorts, Suunto 9, injinji socks and Nike Vaporfly Next%. My phone was strapped to my arm for safety and check ins.
It was a relatively simple strategy, get a pretty quick 50km in to create a buffer for the tail end of the day, as I knew the earlier hours of Saturday morning would be slow and the most mentally challenging, coupled with a hot day forecast on Saturday. My initial pace was fast and I ticked off a marathon in around 3hr 47m.
From there, it was all about pacing. Running at a very comfortable pace which was: legs on cruise control, slow controlled breathing, could talk if wanted. Whenever I felt too comfortable i.e. getting too fast, I'd pull it back just a bit.
The early hours of Sunday morning were difficult, streets were ghostly quiet apart from some teenage boys fishing off the footbridge on Norman Creek, giving me curious looks as I'd loop them 3-4 times on the run. A big confidence boost came at around 4:30am, whereby my GPS watch ticked over 100km's in 10:30hrs. A big PB for me. I think I yelled so loud at that moment I woke a few locals from their deep slumber! I'd thrown in a few IG live stories to update supporters virtually throughout the night, although it was a one way channel of speaking, it was great to talk to people with a few thumbs up and encouraging comments come through. My pace dropped off a little in the early morning dark but I knew once that sun came up, the rays would warm my back and give me wings and that they did.
Out of pure coincidence this run was timed for Anzac day. At 6am I stopped for a minute, played the last post on spotify and remembered our Anzacs. It was a somber moment as I have been in the military myself. Covid-19 had restricted Anzac parades and gatherings around cenotaphs, It was comforting to see many families standing in their driveways with candles lit paying their respects.
By 6am, I had been running for 12 hours and ticked off 112km's. That 161km bucket list moment was within reach. My legs were copping a hammering from the bitumen and concrete pathways. Overall my body was holding together well. I'd stop each lap at home for limited time and refuel with edge electrolytes, food and rub down the legs with fisiocrem and use the beartrap or muscle roller on the quads and calves. A little reprieve.
Once that sun hit my back, its warmth gave me life and miraculously my pace improved and spirits lifted. Next stop - 100 miles.
Vanessa, Maya and Emily had slept through most of the night and welcomed me around 7am with a freshly made bacon, egg and avocado toasted sandwich. I'll mention here although I'm mostly vegetarian, I've been running for 13 hours on electrolytes, 2 minute noodles, potato chips, fruit, chocolate and caffeine. Anything warm and fresh was heaven to my lips! I took a little extra time here at this pitstop to chat with the girls, make some sense in this situation and my sleep deprived state. It was here that Vanessa admitted she had snuck outside very early to check my tally board to see if I had still been moving and was safe and well. #muchlove
Just shy of 18 hours, around midday Saturday in the hot sun I'd hit 100 miles, 161km's. This was an incredible moment for me as I initially had in mind 100 miles over the 24 hour period. To hit that with 6 hours to go was a fist pump moment. I cheered to myself in the street and am sure looked like a madman in the hood. Nonetheless I finished the loop and celebrated this milestone with my family.
Although the next 6 hours felt like eternity and at some times dozing to sleep on my feet I was moving pretty well still and hopeful to tick off km by km, bit by bit. It was a hot afternoon but with regular phone calls with a few mates and the encouraging faces full of love and support from Vanessa and the girls, strength was found deep within to grind each kilometre with one goal in mind...keep moving forward.
By 6pm, Saturday Evening, 25th April 2020 I covered the final 100 metres with the girls by my side ticking off just over 204km. An overwhelming sense of achievement came over me. I was visibly broken and in a lot of pain. In this time of uncertainty and lives turned upside down, I had beaten those external challenges around me and won. I now cannot see the limit to my comfort zone.
An enormous thanks to my running club Mountain Goat Trail Runners, Beartrap for making the run more like an event, Edge Electrolytes for on point nutrition strategy and my family for unconditional love and support.
Whats next? Run Sleep Repeat if it was up to me!