Runderwearer Emma Marshall-Telfer recently shared her experience at this years Equinox 24 race. Read on to learn how she overcame the "little demons" in her head and completed 18 gruelling laps in 23:27:46.
The Equinox 24 race weekend is set at the stunning location of Belvior Castle in the quiet Leicestershire countryside. The race is all about how many 10km multi-terrain laps you can do in 24hrs. The course is a mixture of trail, path and grass, with two hills, one being named ‘That Hill’ (the polite term for it!).
Now in its 5th year, EQ24 has grown substantially, whilst still being personal, friendly, family orientated and fun. The options for competing include, solo, pairs, small teams and large teams. This year I opted to go solo with a field of 386 taking part and 139 of them being ladies. I knew the competition would be tough!
The race weekend started on Friday night with the beer run. This involved drinking a pint of beer and running around the outside of the Equinox campsite.
The main race began at 12pm on Saturday with the first lap also incorporating a separate 10km race starting at the same time. This year, the 10km race got a lot busier, meaning the 1st lap was congested at times, but fun and it was lovely to see so many new runners taking part in the sport.
I gave a lot of thought to my race this year. The previous year was my first time dipping into ultra-running and I learnt loads. I had a plan of what I would eat and when I would come off the course, but as all plans go…
Here is how it went down:
The weather was just right, great running weather, a.k.a. dry and not windy. I had opted to tip all my running kit in my bag and take out what I thought I didn’t need, which wasn’t much, being a lady!
I chose shorts and a tee - my ‘go to’ choice of running kit for the first 5 laps.
As I waited with my friend Abbie (also running solo) for the start, I felt so calm. The atmosphere was electric and jovial. Honestly, you have to be there to experience it. I set off at a pace that would give me a lap time of 60-65mins per lap. I was hoping to build enough time up, that stopping to get food and change clothes wouldn’t be a mad dash.
After three laps, I felt quite out of sorts and came off the course to quickly check my feet and get some food. I set off again hoping it would pass.
My husband Sandy and our friend Chris were also racing as a team of pairs. Chris caught up with me on lap 4 and also commented that both he and Sandy weren’t ‘feeling it’. After I completed lap 5, I came off the course and completely changed my running clothes including shoes. I also took the opportunity to eat something a bit more substantial; my ‘go to’ choice was chicken super noodles lovingly made by my youngest son who was ‘crewing’ for me with a mug of coffee.
I went back on the course and immediately felt so much better. I used the next five laps to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’, so to speak. By seven o’clock, it was dark and at Belvior Castle that means no street lights at all so on went all the head torches. I love and hate this. It’s very pretty to see all the lights, but it also makes running a lot harder with just torchlight and by this point, the course was very muddy and slippery.
For me, when it goes dark is when the race really begins and your skills step in. I planned to hammer out as many laps as possible in the dark and hoped that a fair few of the solo competitors would take a break (selfish, I know but hey!).
By 11:30pm I had completed 10 laps, 100km and knew I could spend a bit of time off the course getting some food. I went back to my tent and completely changed again, this time to warmer kit. This included long compression tights over a pair of Runderwear™ g-string undies, a thin thermal top, a long top and gloves. I also had some more food, coffee and a big glass of dandelion and burdock. I filled my lightweight backpack with goodies to be eaten over the next 5 hours.
At this point a friend texted me to tell me I was in 3rd place. It then dawned on me that there were live results, which came as a complete surprise!
After 40 minutes, I was back on the course with more determination. I knew the lady in 2nd place was only 7 minutes ahead, but the lady in 1st place was 40 minutes ahead which quite a big gap. All I could do was be consistent and hope they would eventually slow down.
I started checking the live results after each lap, but wasn’t making much progress. My head then started working against me. The little demons were creeping in and I kept thinking ’What’s the point? I’m tired. Go to bed’. I then had a light bulb moment; the live tracking times hadn’t changed at all, which was almost impossible. I then got word the timing system was down. I wanted to shout hurray, but thought other runners might think I had lost it. Instead I had the biggest grin on my face and a renewed spring in my step. There was still a chance!
As the sun rose over the Vale of Belvior, a magical sight to see, I dumped my head torch, which made a massive difference. I checked to see if the results had finally updated. I was astonished to see that not only was I 1st Lady, but 2nd in the whole field!
At this point I would have normally come off the course again and changed, but I really didn’t want to put myself in a position of being over taken and having to fight hard to regain 1st place. I had enough food with me to carry on, so I bit the bullet and went for it.
I’m not going to lie; it was tough! Things like ‘how are my feet looking’ and ‘my Runderwear™ is probably rubbing but everything else hurts more at the moment’ came to mind. It’s strange what you think about during ultra-distance events. I just kept concentrating on running and counting the laps.
I reached the end of lap 17 and saw Jonny Nichols. I asked him if I could start walking and all he did was laugh and say ‘no’. By this point, I was getting really tired. I was hoping to get 19 laps in but my head was screaming at me to stop. I gave myself a talking to and decided if my legs wouldn’t let me run, I was going to start power walking. It was the hardest thing I have done in a long time and getting up that second hill was a real challenge. When I got to the top, I knew I wasn’t fit to attempt it again and this would be my last lap. After making this decision, the feeling of sheer tiredness overtook and I needed all my strength to carry on.
Coming on to the camping field, for the final 1km was a huge relief. My running and triathlon clubs were both camped on the course edge and were waiting for me shouting masses of encouragement. When I crossed the finish line at 11:27am completing 18 laps, I knew I had given it my all and another lap was beyond me.
At this point, I had no idea if I had held on to 1st place, as it was still possible for people to start another lap right up to 11:59am. I was so exhausted and went straight to the medical tent. I’m not sure why I went there, as I knew they couldn’t do much other than tell me to go to sleep, but the guys were great and gave me full check-up. They found my friend Christo who helped take me back to my tent.
Upon reaching the tent, I collapsed to the floor. I began taking off my shoes wondering what state they would be in and was relieved to see I had only gained a tiny blister between two toes. The next thought was how my nether regions were. The Runderwear™ kept me chafe-free even after 80km in them.
It took me ages to get changed into clean clothes and by the time I had finished, everyone was back at camp and ready to go to the presentation. It was only whilst we waited for the last few runners to finish, that I knew I had held out and won. This called for a mini celebration in the guise of a pint of beer, pure nectar!
Standing on the podium was special; I knew I had worked hard for it!
This race has a special place in my heart; it feels more like a festival than a race. I applaud each and every person that ran this event. The support from everyone was amazing. Thank you to everyone that went out of their way to chat, shout words of encouragement, gave up their time to marshal and generally be jovial.