Equinox 24 2019 Jason Buckley
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:
I couldn't agree more with every part of this, thank you for so eloquently expressing my own feelings about Equinox24. Looking forward to 2020 😊
Nowadays, joining marathons and different races are not just about plane running or going extra mile just to win. There are some people who see this as their way of expressing their will to prove something to themselves. If you can notice, most of the joiners are adult already. Perhaps, they want to prove that they are still capable of doing something amazing! Well, they are in the first place! By the way, Equinox 24 seems to be an exciting race because it made you happy. Though it was totally exhausting, at least you had fun!
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