I am, as my American friends would say, "stoked" to be heading to Belfast this weekend for the World 24 Hour Championships. Whilst i'd obviously love to be running for Team GB, that standard is in another orbit. Fortunately though, this event has an Open Entry race mixed alongside the Worlds, meaning that David, James, myself and around 70 others get to mix it right alongside the best in the world as they compete for Gold.
A 24 hour race is a fixed time rather than fixed distance format. You basically run, walk or hobble as far as you can in the allotted time and the winner is the person who covers the most distance. These events are usually held on 400 metre tracks or fairly short and flat loops where you are never too far away from the support area and feeding stations. You are allowed to stop and rest if you like, although that's to be avoided if you want to do well, and you can't "DNF" as if you stop you are just given your final mileage as your result. The definition of "success" at a race like this varies a lot from person to person and across age ranges and genders.... the world records for men and women are an astonishing 188 and 159 miles respectively. In fact that 188 mile record, set by the legendary Yiannis Kouros, is considered by many to be among the very top sporting performances by anyone, across all sports. At the more mortal end of the spectrum, getting beyond 100 miles can generally be considered a decent result, but it's one that's by no means guaranteed given the number of things that can go wrong in a race like this.
We'll be using this as a training race for Spartathlon (yep, we got in again this year, whoop) but also want to try to set a new PB for this particular format of race, having only previously taken part in one. That event was hilly and muddy, a very tough 2.5 mile loop, and we had to pull out all the stops to just scrape a Spartathlon qualifier of 113 miles. In Belfast, we'll be on a one mile, flat concrete loop and theoretically will be able to set a new PB. But like I say, things can and do go wrong so we'll just have to see. Training has gone well I think.... there's always more you feel that could and should have been done but sometimes you just have to go with what you've got and do what you can. I'll be going into it looking to adopt a very steady pace of around 10 minute miles for the first 8 to 10 hours. Beyond that, stay positive, keep moving for the duration and when things get tough adopt the mindset of "just one more lap".....
|Training with the lads in the Yorkshire Dales |
(L-R: James Ellis, David Bone, me, Jamie Holmes)
Part of the appeal of entering this race was the chance to share the track with the elites and see up close how they approach this format. In a typical point to point ultra you basically see them for about a minute at the start line before they tear off up the road! The same thing will happen in Belfast but this time we'll get to see them frequently as they come flying past lapping us. From a British point of view i'm really looking forward to watching our deeply talented men's and ladies teams challenge for individual and team medals. Robbie Britton won individual World and European bronze two years ago in the combined championship in Turin and the mens team took the team gold. Meanwhile the mighty Dan Lawson is the current European Champion and recently obliterated the field at Ultrabalaton. The GB ladies won team bronze in Turin and surely have great chances again. No doubt they will face very strong challenges from athletes from all over the globe including defending World Champion Florian Reus of Germany and strong teams from USA and Japan amongst others. It's going to be great to watch. In the Open Race, I can see Nathan Flear for the men's win (and I wouldn't be surprised if he is up there mixing it in the overall Worlds!) and Aoife Lyons of Dublin has been grinding out months of 100 miles a week in training so it would be great to see her do well. If you want to follow along you should be able to find updates on Facebook and Twitter:
And the organisers are currently scrambling to put some form of Live Tracking in place, links to which should be posted on Facebook and Twitter once it's sorted.