What’s Equinox 24?
I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to make of Equinox 24 when I first heard of it. I can recall some of the KADS highly recommending it after running it in 2018, but the concept was so out-there to me, I couldn’t compare it with anything I’d done to date and get my head around it.
This is how it works:
Four teams entered for KADS in 2019:
Ju and I piled down to Belvoir on Friday. The gates open at 12, and we thought we’d be first there. Arriving at about 12:20pm we joined a 2-mile queue into the venue! When we wound our way onto the field lots of old hands had already pitched up right next to the course where it runs up the centre of the camping field, and taped off large areas around them for their teams. We borrowed some tape and did like-wise, but with our camper couldn’t get next to the course.
The bulk of the KADS arrived on Friday afternoon and evening, Rachelle opting to set her tent up and retreat home for a warm night’s sleep, and Chris Worth getting a pre-race test when his caravan tyre imploded on the way there. A wee fire was started on Friday evening and we all sat about chatting over a few beers (or lemonades!). Having failed to actually bring any firewood, Nick pulled off a fine manoeuvre offering to buy some of our neighbour’s stash, who promptly gave it to him for free.
Race Day (and Night)
One of the defining features of this event is the fact one team member is always ‘out of camp’ during the 24 hours of the race, and often two as one will be waiting their turn in the handover area just after the start-finish line. The camp ebbs and flows with people as some run, some crash, some tuck into a pot noodle, fish ‘n’ chips (whatever has calories in it), some shower, some feed the fire and some stare into the darkness, blankly, gone that tiny bit crazy by 3am…
Being part of a pair, I can only give you my own perspective on how the race felt as it progressed, but my feeling was the spirit of each team grew and solidified as the miles and laps wore on. For Dave and I, we’d set a strategy to run 3 laps each, so 30km (18.6 miles) and then swap. We nicked this from the other KADS pair of Rachelle and Kerstine, as we were clueless beforehand. Dave ‘won’ the toss and started for us at noon, after which I only ever saw him for fleeting moments. We swapped a few words of encouragement during the laps and handovers, and sent back and forth a handful of text messages later on in the night, but other than that we just piled on around the course.
I was nervous on Friday and Saturday morning, even more so during the wait until 3pm when I’d get to start my first set of laps. My heart rate was bouncing along in the 80s as I sat waiting. I was confident I’d get around the first 30km OK, but after that, who knew? A 27-mile training run two weeks before was tough to finish, and my mojo was low. We’d agreed to start at about 10 min mile pace, while my guess is both of our marathon pace is less than 8 min miles. Knowing we’d a long way to go though, the slower pace seemed sensible and paid dividends in the end.
Come 3pm I finally got started and joined the steady stream of runners and walkers on the looped course. Although it has ‘solo’, ‘pair’ etc written on your race number, I couldn’t make many of these out so I’d no idea what strategy the people around me were doing. It is a race with yourself, not with the people around you. Only the website and screens around the start-finish area gave an indication of where your team are in the grand scheme of things. The atmosphere was good though, with fancy dressers (who must have suffered in the daytime heat) and vocal marshals (one of which spotted me heading off course in the night and corrected me, thanks!).
After lots of umming and arring I’d decided to run with a backpack with a bladder, containing about a litre of water-OJ-honey mixture (Dave drank Tailwind and said it worked very well). It was warm, and I’d cut the top off a freebie baseball cap to create an airy-sun-shield for my thinning hairline! Both worked well, although I was a bit keen on those first 30k and ran out of drink, which I sorted later by using the drinks station rather than carrying more than 1l of liquid. My personal preference is to be able to drink in sips, a little at a time, so carrying some liquid made sense for me. I opted to run “Not That Hill” and walk “That Hill”, which again worked well for me. Faster 10k and team runners (Dave Savage, are you reading this?!) legged it up “That Hill” at least once, and I bow down to these mountain goats. There were timing stations at the bottom and top of ‘That Hill’, so you could see how your climbing ranked after the race.
Before my second 30k stint I’d had a shower, changed my top, eaten and drunk, utilised the toilet facilities and was amazed how recovered I felt once I’d started running again. I’d put on warmer shorts too, and donned my head torch, as it was about 9:20pm by this point. I also pulled the headphones out for this stint, entering a weird world of darkness, Rocky tunes and an endless stream of runners decked out in fairly lights, funky reflective gear, headlamps like something from the Starship Enterprise and even one chap with a wheel barrow lit up and banging out tunes, raising funds for charity. The night run was a wonderful experience for me, I really enjoyed the hours of internal solitude among my fellow runners. My pace slowed from ten-min miles to ten-mins and 30s, not by anything much as I’d expected.
It was well after midnight when I handed back over to Dave. He really got the graveyard slot, a hard, hard slog until about 4am. I can’t speak highly enough of my team-mate as he toughed out those miles, eventually rolling over the finish line having nailed 90km! He’d suffered for it, and my respect went even higher as I gritted my teeth and headed off into the dark, leaving him for a well-earned sleep. I’d got maybe 15 mins of kip myself, another revelation that I could keep going without it. By this point we’d crept up the pairs field and were amazingly in 4th place.
Looking at how far ahead the podium places were, I knew they were out of reach unless one of the other teams had a problem, but I really didn’t want to lose that 4th place! I wanted it enough to get four laps in to give Dave a chance to recover, a little bewildered I could complete the best part of a marathon having already run about 37 miles? My pace wasn’t quick, but was only down to 11:24 min miles, and apart from “That Hill”, which I’d long started to see as a rest, I wasn’t needing to walk. The rain started on this session, so the headphones went away and the phone went on load speaker (after much frantic stabbing at the wet screen in the rain), so everyone around me got the Rocky soundtrack from this point…
Every lap gave a boost when I came around the tents and up towards the start-finish line. At all points of the day and night there were folks sat offering encouragement, and it was a buzz to cross the line and head back out again onto the course. After the end of that 4 laps I was really ready for a rest though, so thankful Dave was stood there in his waterproofs ready to complete his 100km effort on seized legs, and ensure we got 4th place. Top man! He’d enough in the bag to get back before 12 too, so we could get in one final lap (we couldn’t be passed for 4th, but my brain couldn’t work that out at the time so I needed to make sure of it) to complete a total of 210km, 130 miles, which we were both staggered by, coming over the line together for the final time and buzzing!
The Other KADS Teams
All the KADS teams did a cracking job knocking out the miles, hour-in, hour-out, day and night, all placing highly in among the other teams:
A few lessons I personally picked up from this epic event, which might be of use to someone else organising or running it in future years:
On the 20th July, KADS, along with their friends and family took over the 120th Shipley Country Parkrun and helped 176 parkrunners cross the finish line. We had so many willing volunteers, we were able to have a fleet of 11 pacers from 20 to 35 minutes, as well as two tail walkers. Whilst we were promised thunderstorms (yes, it’s July) the weather held off and led our very own Shell Chauhan as race director is looks like we pulled it off. They might even ask us back.
Big shout out to the Shipley Country Parkrun volunteers who weren’t given the day off to help organise us and make sure we didn’t make a pig’s ear of it! You can check out their parkrun website here: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/shipleycountry/. KADS are actually one of the top clubs for attendance at Shipley, so it really it seemed only fair we gave something back to the parkrun community.
All parkruns are run (pardon the pun) entirely by volunteers so please consider volunteering every now and again to help keep parkrun the amazing event that it is. You can find out more about volunteering at Shipley on their website: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/shipleycountry/volunteer/ but there are plenty of others across the region that need our support.
Most of all, thanks to Becca for organising the rabble and making sure we all got to where we need to be. And for the cake…
Left to Right: Nick Crehan (Full), Lee Cutforth (Full), Paul Taylor (Full), Andy Wright (Half), Susan Laceby (Half), Kirstie Dodsley (Half), Darren Dodsley (Full), and Jason Buckley (me, Full) all ran in Boston (UK) on Sunday 15 Apr 2019. Julie Buckley, Helen Whitham and daughter Annabelle were there doing a cracking cheerleading and support role. The marathon started at 9am, and the half at 9:10am. Both races shared the same few miles at the start and end of the races. There was also a 5k fun run.
Boston’s the UK’s flattest marathon course. At the meet and greet the night before the run, where sandwiches were served up and the organisers milled about with the runners, a friendly old chap came over for a chat. He turned out to be the chairman of the race committee, telling us how it’s not a big city marathon, but more of a community thing. We’d guessed it was more of an intimate gig than Wembley Stadium, but that gave it a unique flavour. He also turned out to be the town’s ex mayor and relayed how he’d made the Manchester Marathon correct their website after they’d too claimed to be the flattest marathon, when they were practically a fell race compared with the snooker table fields of Lincolnshire! The only incline out on the course was the odd tiny bridge which he told us was a legacy of Boston’s salt-producing past.
Photo source: https://daviddales.smugmug.com/Boston-Marathon-UK-2019/2ndgallery/
Arguably, the advantage of flatness was eroded away a little the following day as the exposed nature of the course led to a steady headwind. Some of the KADS crew said they didn’t much notice it, but some of the others (me included) found ourselves wishing the wind would back off just a little. It was running at about 13mph when we headed out into it, the marathon turning around back towards Boston at around mile 11 at which point it became more intermittent. The temperature helped us all out though, sitting at about 7°C at the start, drawing out a mixture in kit choice from the KADS, from vest over T with gloves to just a vest with shorts.
The marathon field totalled 615 runners, and the half drew 561, so these were relatively small events, but they’re growing year-on-year. Once we were off out of the town and into the fields there weren’t many spectators to draw energy from, although the half marathoners didn’t seem to notice this as much as the 26.2 milers. The water stations were plentiful and well spread out, with the volunteers holding out bottles with the tops already opened and encouraging the runners as we rolled on past. They only had water, no isotonic drinks or gels, but a fruit station around mile 20 was handing out peeled banana and strawberries. I’d made the error of not practising running with water only as a drink, but I knocked back half a bar of salted dates from Decathlon every 30 mins for the first couple of hours, and with my usual oats-peanut butter-sultana breaky munched at 6:45am I felt like I had enough fuel. I drank at most of the stations even though it remained cool throughout the race.
Everyone did themselves proud out on the course, and Darren deserves a special mention in my book, having been suffering with a couple of injuries in the later stages of preparation and was doubtful to start. He’d written Ju’s mobile on the back of his race number in case he needed recovery from out on the course. Personally, I can’t imagine even starting a 26 mile race with that kind of thought gnawing away, and I was inspired by him even starting. Not that he needed to worry, having paired up with Nick (who was running his first ever marathon too, and came in at a great time of 3:55:01) for much of the course, he absolutely smashed a lifetime ambition of four hours with a solid 3:47:27 effort. I think it’s fair to say he was happy at the finish, a truly great sight to see and to be a small part of, well done Daz.
A fair few other KADS marathon and half marathon PBs fell to the flatlands too, despite the windy conditions. Kirstie Dodsley knocked a massive 12 minutes from her previous best half marathon! Paul Taylor was the first marathon KAD home, putting the hammer down to finish 7th overall in the marathon in 2:49:24, running at just under 6:30 min mile pace for 26.2 miles – wow! Lee was the second KADS man home in 3:13:31, another fantastic run.
Photo source: https://daviddales.smugmug.com/Boston-Marathon-UK-2019/Third-phase/i-htZLW75/A
This being my first timed marathon, and not having done any racing over winter, I had to use a recent 5k time in estimator charts and websites, plus evidence from my old Strava runs to come up with a pace to go at. I ran a 19:02 Parkrun the week before, so according to the various charts in the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes, I could theoretically finish a marathon in between 2:56:02 and 3:06:11, if I’d done appropriate training. The time predictor on the Running World website had me at 3:16:19, based on the same 5k time and the fact I’d been doing (roughly) 45 miles a week in training. I was dubious. My training’s all been geared up to lots of slow miles building up to the uphill 28 mile Zermatt-Gornergrat marathon in July, and I’ve only done a couple of longish run at 8 min per mile pace, and they were only 13 and 15 miles long. On those runs my heart rate averaged 155 (85% of my max of about 182 – I’m 46), which I guessed was probably about as high as I can manage for a full marathon. I’ve done lots of slow half marathons, a fair few hilly 17 and 18 mile runs, and a couple of over 20 miles, but few tempo, fartlek or interval runs.
I’ve developed a healthy respect for long runs, which can really wear you down towards the end, and eventually came up with the strategy of running steady 8 min miles for the first half, then speeding up if I felt good. That would see me finish in a bit under 3:30:00, way off those estimated times (one day maybe!). In the end I did 3:26:25, and I’m really pleased with it. The strategy worked. I started and finished in a controlled way, I felt like I pushed as hard as I could, managed to avoid the dreaded wall (although I felt myself slowing in miles 23 to 25) and learned a few mental lessons about running over this kind of distance. Like starting further back in the field for example, it felt like EVERYONE ran past me in the first 6 miles which had me watch-watching endlessly trying to keep the pace down.
With a few of us staying in the same hotel after the run, the KADS tradition of rehydration was followed in the pub opposite, a great celebration following a solid effort all round. I’d personally like to thank everyone for their support in the run up to the day and for putting up with my nervous marathon-newbie questions!
Cheers ladies and gentlemen, and go KADS! For more information and photos:
P.S. A few more photos of the mighty KADS in action:
On Tuesday the 9th of April 2019, Rd 1 of this seasons BDL Summer Series took place at the Teversal Trails. The race took place over a distance of 4.6 miles on flat, well surfaced trail paths on a dry, fine but cool Spring evening.
Last season saw the number of runners take part in this series grow, and it looks very much like that trend is set to continue this year as nearly 440 runners took to the start line for Rd 1. An incredible 47 athletes from KADS lined up, we were quietly optimistic we would get 35 or thereabouts for this race so 47 is an astonishing response and is further proof of how much our club has grown in recent years.
Our runners were led home by Bruce Raeside, who finished in an excellent 5th place overall.
There were strong performances throughout the field by our athletes and all involved acquitted themselves well and were cheered home by our fantastic support team and their team mates who had finished before them. Notable performances from Neil Sumner, who finished in the top 100 on his club debut and our inspirational Secretary Michelle Chauhan who ran strongly despite having taken part in the Manchester Marathon only 3 days previously.
Special mention goes to Neil Sumner, Michael O’Brien, Claire Croll and Bev Barnes who all made their KADS racing debuts, well done folks, and welcome to the fun!
As always, we were cheered home and enthusiastically supported by our growing army of supporters, in fact, I believe our support team outnumbered some other clubs running teams!
A big thank you also to Claire Minoprio for helping with race admin, sorting 47 runners at the end of a race is quite a task, but it’s a lovely problem to have nonetheless.
The next round of the series takes place at The Pewit Golf Course, Ilkeston on Tuesday, 7th on May. Details to follow.
Yours in Running