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24 in 24

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

What can I say about 2020? It certainly wasn’t the year I was expecting, and I think everyone can relate to that in their own way. For me 2020 was going to be an important year in my mission to complete an Ironman. I had a series of triathlons and fell races lined up which would culminate in The ROC in September. A triathlon which begins with a 1500m sea swim, followed by a 30 mile ride to the base of Snowdon, a (probably not so) quick run up and down Snowden, only to jump back on the bike to return to the beach for a 1km dash across the sand for the finish.

With all these events cancelled I had to look a little closer to home for my inspiration.

I enjoy challenging myself and trying to find out where my limits are. Primarily because they are often a lot further away than I thought they would be. So having watched Beau Miles’ A Mile An Hour on Youtube, I was intrigued to see if that was something I was capable of. In all honesty I didn’t think it would be. But the logistics of it worked well around various lockdown restrictions and if it all went to pot I would never be more than a mile away from home. So what’s the harm in trying? The most daunting thing for me was that I had told people I was doing this challenge and didn’t think I could face telling them I hadn’t completed it. Which in my mind was a very real possibility.

I was expecting it to be physically challenging. I had never run a full marathon before and wasn’t even sure I could stay awake for twenty-four hours. What I wasn’t expecting was it to be a journey of discovery. So here are twenty-four things I learned from running one mile every hour, for twenty-four hours. Some a funny, some are a philosophical ramble, and some just don’t make any sense at all.

ONE: Street signs are solid objects

It’s 1am and I am only on my second run of the challenge. I should have been feeling fresh and alert this early on. Although I had been up since 6am the previous day, I had managed a few cat naps and was raring to go. Then a street sign came along and slapped me right back down to earth. Figuratively and literally. In a momentary lapse of concentration I had not made the correct judgement on how much I needed to lean to the left to miss the sign. Before I know it I’m taking a blow to the shoulder and a blow to my confidence. If I’m making these lapses of judgement only two hours into a twenty-four-hour challenge what was going to happen in my fifteenth, twentieth, or twenty-third hour?

TWO: Don’t underestimate the power of a fresh pair of socks

This one is self-explanatory. I changed my socks a few times over the course of the challenge and I had underestimated the psychological boost that a fresh pair of socks would give me. Fresh feet, fresh mind!

THREE: As long as you can comfortably run 1 mile, it’s a mental challenge, not a physical challenge

In the run up this this challenge the furthest I had run was a half marathon. So although it would be broken into very small chunks, I felt nervous about the prospect of running a whole marathon. I absolutely didn’t need to be. Even after twenty-six miles I still felt physically fresh. The challenge was in the mental strength needed to get up and run again every hour, knowing that you’ve never quite enough time in between to relax, eat and sleep.

FOUR: One hour is not quite enough time for me to recover from a one mile run

Although I still felt physically fresh on my final run, very gradually throughout the day I was starting to notice signs of tiring. I certainly could have gone further, but the lack of time to completely recover would have caught up with me eventually.

FIVE: Strength is not the immunity from suffering, it is the ability to carry on despite it

When people have told me I am strong, I have always been a little confused. How can I be strong if I feel fear every time I take that first step out of my front door, every time I feel the initial buzz of my phone ringing, like the breaking of surface tension, every time something doesn’t go exactly as I had meticulously planned it would?

It wasn’t until I was several miles into this challenge, and I had started to understand that it would test me mentally rather than physically, that I began to understand that strength is not the immunity from suffering, but the ability to carry on despite it. I may feel fear in stepping out of my front door, but I do it anyway. My phone ringing may send rivers of anxiety gushing through my veins, but I don’t put it on silent. Most often things do not go as I planned, but I take the diversion and carry on. Finding this challenge hard did not make me weak and finding it easy would not have made me strong. Strength is finding something impossibly hard, but doing it anyway. Even if that is just opening your eyes to face another day.

SIX: Endurance is one hell of a rollercoaster

At precisely the halfway point of the challenge I crashed and crashed

hard. Within the space of 15 minutes my energy levels plummeted. Returning from my run I was pale and washed out. Panic set in, which intensified the crash and I was left wondering how the hell I would last another twelve hours.

How was I going to rectify this? FOOD!

I thought I had been eating enough, but apparently not. I dedicated the remainder of that hour to filling my body with carbs, and an hour later I felt great. This is the point at which I learned that the key to endurance is fuel. I also learned that although you’ve reached a dip, you can climb out of the other side. It’s not game end.

SEVEN: Having to wee every ninety minutes is quite inconvenient

I know I don’t drink enough. But I also know the effect that not drinking enough has on my ability to run. So when embarking on this challenge I was adamant that I would keep myself hydrated, especially as it was forecast to be a warm day. There’s only one problem with that. It meant I need to wee at least every ninety minutes. So on top of running a mile, trying to get little bits of sleep, and keeping myself fuelled every hour, I also had to throw going to the toilet into the mix. You wouldn’t think that this would be too much of a chore. BUT. This was in the times of COVID and as I had made the back garden of my wonderfully supportive friends Kat and Steve the base for my challenge, every time I needed a wee I had to go home (a half kilometre round trip). I’ll let you calculate how many miles that may have added to my distance for the day.

EIGHT: When you plan your food, prepare to be flexible

I had meticulously planned out what I was going to eat during this challenge and had it all ready to go. What I was not expecting was my friends to decided to have a barbeque which resulted in an extra trip home to grab a veggie burger. I really am collecting those extra miles!