24 HOURS IN TootinG...

This is a review of #Bone (David not Daz nor Darren - more of this to follow) 2018 run at the legendary Tooting Bec 24 hr event.

To many in the (UK) ultra scene the Tooting Bec 24 Hour event is considered to be one of the real highlights of the calendar. Why? Well because it’s steeped in history - it’s one of the oldest running events and importantly it has attracted almost all of the great UK ultra runners over the past 40 years. Some of the more recent victories (James Stewart/Norbert Mihalik/Marco Consani) have all been in the region of 160+ miles - this is MASSIVE!

My more modest targets were split into two goals:

  • Beat my PB of 131 miles set in 2017 Belfast World Champs

  • Get a Spartathlon AQ (auto-qualifier) by going over 135 miles.

The race itself started with some light drizzle and the forecast was for some “heavier” rain!!!. I had on a winter coat and for the first hour went on a little faster than planned - probably to keep warm. This was my first ever race around a running track and I didn’t know what to fully expect. My friend and all round wise-girl Debbie Martin-Consani (who was crewing Marco and singing to the runners) herself a #teamGB 24hr athlete had written a brilliant blog post about the unique and quirky nature of running around a running track for (hopefully) 24 hours.

One of things I wondered was whether it would be a 24 hour “chat-fest”. It’s possible that the downright unpleasant wet conditions didn’t make it all that heartwarming but there didn’t appear to be a prolific amount of “happy chat” going on. What I did observe was that there were those runners that looked rather professional - they had crew that were drilled to share “split times” - to hand out specific drinks and food and they mostly looked competitive and steely. They didn’t appear to be in the need for conversation and they certainly were flying around the track at a pace that frankly made them look like they were there to beat a 100 mile PB and then step off the track - rather than be there for 24 hours.

The two stand-out runners were Michael Stocks and Paul Maskell. I had never come across Michael (in fact even after the race and plenty of internet search!!! Michael remains a man of certain mystery - on the brilliant DUV website I saw that Michael is a prolific Comrades marathon runner but that at 49 he doesn’t have too many 24hr+ type races identified). On the other hand Paul has become more well known in the ultra community. He is featured on a fantastic podcast by James Elson and Dan Lawson where the guys specifically say to Paul that he should target “Tooting” if he wants to run a fast 24hr and go for a “team-gb” qualifying standard. Throughout the first 20 hours both Michael and Paul maintained a standard that looked frankly out of my league. I think that I am so unused to pushing my body to a point where it might well break that the small niggles I felt in the first half of this event made me keep a little bit within myself.

The rest of the best were made up of some amazing characters in the world of ultra-running.

One of the real treats of Tooting is to be on the same track as legends. In Ann Bath (70) , Ray McCurdy (64), Geoffrey Oliver (85) and Patricia Seabrook (78) - you can read about their amazing running backgrounds in the brilliant race programme

For Geoff he was also looking to break a series of IAU World records. It was such an honour to be on the same track with Geoff. On the occasions that we would pass each other Geoff would always share a nudge of encouragement or impart a gem of running wisdom. Like Ann, Geoff showed some immense grit to constantly be pushing forward. The weather conditions were tough for most but the constant driving rain, cross-winds and cold must have been really harsh on Geoff. So proud to see him stay out there for the full 24 hours and break multiple World Records - Go Geoff. Hope that you are there breaking 90 age cat records.

I loved seeing so many of my ultra friends and meeting many who I had chatted to on SM. What I really noticed was just how much influence the Spartathlon race had on Tooting. There were Spartathlon finishers wearing their #teamgb shirts. There were runners specifically looking to get a qualifier for 2019. There were a couple of runners as well as myself looking for an AQ. I loved chatting the running legend Susie Chan. Susie has crushed many of the ultra classics like Badwater 135 and Marathon des Sables (MDS). However she feels that Spartathlon with its tough cut-offs might be something outside her running abilities. From what I saw at Tooting, Susie has a never-ending supply of drive and positive energy coupled with her own determination to get a run-job done - I have absolutely no doubt that Susie could also be a Spartathlon finisher. There was also Baz Taylor, Tom Garrod and Paul Corderoy with their own Spartathlon “glint” - these guys could all do it and I’d personally love to see them reach some of the Greek dreams.

One of the lowest points during Tooting was around midnight - it’s common in long distance events to have multiple “lows” - you need to know they are coming and you need to be prepared. Luckily for me three of my closest buddies turned up together at midnight - Simon, Cavan & Alexis - and with wicked smiles they got some great banter going. Part of me wanted them to leave so that I could slump into a really weak walk pace but they amazingly “hung around” for two hours - by which point I had kept my pace going - thanks lads it made a huge difference - Manchester 2019 here we come.

For me personally the four changes of clothing and the cold hands/head were all taking their toll. What made the difference was my crew - Dad.

Dad has always been my greatest supporter but even he had never been crew for 24 hours. I thought (hoped) that he would dive into the car and sleep for 6 hours to rest during the night but there is something constantly alluring about this run format. The closeness of the track and the camaraderie between the crew, the runners and the organisers. Dad also found himself being a critical part of the “leader-board” update team and it was amazing watching him support the organisation as well as being the most amazing crew to me.

With over 6 hours of the race left a big part of me felt that my goals were dead. I’m not certain what happened but I suspect that there was a moment in the race where those Top 10 runners all started to have a mixed time. The brilliant Marco Consani had to pull out and some of my closest competitors Sarah & Mari both began to tire. Mari actually collapsed and there was an immediate huddle around her and a medical team administering the oxygen. Then with 4 hours to go both Michael and Paul were finally becoming more human and I started to lap them. I looked over at Dad and smiled. I really wanted to get this done for Dad - he had given so much for me that day that it would be so sweet to at least try and do it for him.

As everyone tired I just gathered a greater desire to be quicker. Dad and I did the maths and if I kept a 6-7 mile hour pace I would be close to my 135 mile target. With 2 hours to go I was up to 3rd place and still lapping the quickest. My family turned up on mass as well as great friend Luca - It was amazing to see them and it felt incredible to be running so well with them there x

Rather than leave it to the wire I decided to put it all out there and see how quickly I could get it done. The rain poured harder but the support from the crowd and my wonderful lap-counter team just got louder. I screamed “I need to get 135 miles” and everyone began to feel part of the push. With approx 30 mins spare I hit it. Wow! that was such a buzz. I didn’t really know what I wanted from that point but I decided to keep pushing enough to rattle up a few more miles and I ended with 222km/138miles - 3rd place - Massive hug with Dad - you are the best

SPECIAL THANK YOU TO Shankara & RunandBecome Team for organising another epic event - what you did in those conditions was both sensational and inspiring - I loved the vibe at Tooting that you foster + Anji my amazing lap-counter for your warmth and encouragement - I literally loved hearing you call my name every lap - made this the most special thing for me + Dan Lawson - what a beautiful man Dan is - he brought me some wicked “pink” Re-Run gloves which saved my hands from the harsh conditions and he also took my Dad under his wing and looked after him - love you man + Debbie (DMC) - always a special treat to be serenaded by someone with such a beautiful voice!!!! + finally to my very own #coachdaz Daz Darren Strachan - we targeted Tooting - we put together a fantastic plan and I loved all the weekly views I had via the Training Peaks App - it always felt like it was progressing in the right way. I cannot praise you enough for your expertise and the way that you prepared me. Thanks for being at Tooting and bringing “belly-slapper” Luke as no.1 Haribo crew.

THANKS ALL x

I cannot recommend this event more highly - Like so many before me I will be back………to be a lap counter xx