It was barely a week earlier that I came up with the idea. After several weeks of Covid-19 restrictions, the idleness was getting to me and I needed a challenge. I set the criteria and started planning. My challenge would have to test the very limits of my fitness, endurance and willpower and the challenge would have to be done without testing the limits of the law.
We are very fortunate in Australia, having acted early, we avoided much harsher lockdown conditions experienced in many other countries. We still had a pretty strict set of rules, but we were permitted to exercise within a reasonable distance from home and since there was no actual time limit on exercise, the plan was simple enough, follow a 5km loop around my neighbourhood for 24 hours. Sounds easy, right?
When news came through earlier in the year that events around the world were cancelling, my training took a less structured approach and I watched my fitness slowly take a back seat, with no path in sight. I had thrown money at an international marathon, a local 100km trail ultra and other smaller races around town along with prepping for a 24 hour obstacle race. My feet were itching to move.
Early on Thursday April the 23rd, I turned up to Queen Street Physio for a last minute panel beating session. My Physio asked what was happening, so he would know where to focus the treatment. I told him of my plan and that I would be running a 5km loop around my neighbourhood for 24 hours without sleep. He got to work and by the time my session was complete, he had hatched a plan of his own. He had decided to get behind me by giving away a Beartrap™ to any member of the public who could guess the distance I had ran. I’m no longer just running a personal challenge, it’s become a competition too. There would be no backing out now!
Now I'm no stranger to long distance events or putting myself through a physical or mental hurt locker. I sure as hell knew though, this was a totally different experience. On my own, there was no accountability, no competitors, no aid stations with volunteers giving encouragement or spectators. This was a 5km paved loop on the neighbourhood streets and through public parks.
With no set distance in mind, apart from wanting to tick off a miler (100 miles/161km's) in 24 hours, I set off from my front door in the dark at 6pm Friday night, 24th April 2020. It was a cool clear night and I was running with minimal equipment. A Petzl headlamp, singlet, compression shorts, shorts, Suunto 9, injinji socks and Nike Vaporfly Next%. My phone was strapped to my arm for safety and check ins.
It was a relatively simple strategy, get a pretty quick 50km in to create a buffer for the tail end of the day, as I knew the early hours of Saturday morning would be slow and the most mentally challenging, as well as being coupled with a hot day forecasted. My initial pace was fast and I ticked off a marathon in around 3hr 47m.
My nutrition strategy was simple too. Through consultation with the team at Edge Electrolytes, we mapped the game plan. Get all of my essential electrolytes from Edge Hydration Mix and fill my calorie intake through solid foods, which I planned for around 300 calories per hour.
From there, it was all about pacing. I switched on cruise control to maintain a comfortable pace and regulated my breathing so that I could communicate comfortably. Whenever I felt too comfortable, IE: getting too fast, I’d pull back just a little.
Apart from some teenage boys fishing off the footbridge on Norman Creek giving me some curious looks, the streets were ghostly quiet and I have to admit, it was getting difficult. A big confidence boost came at around 4:30am, when my GPS watch ticked over 100km in 10:30hrs. A big PB for me. I think I yelled so loud at that moment I woke a few locals from their deep slumber! I'd thrown in a few IG live stories to update my supporters virtually throughout the night. It was great to talk to people, coupled with a few thumbs up and some encouraging comments. My pace dropped off a little in the early morning dark but I knew once that sun came up, the rays would warm my back and give me wings and that they did.
Out of coincidence, this run coincided with Anzac day, at 6am sharp, I stopped where I stood, switched on The Last Post and remembered our Anzacs. It was a sombre moment as I have been in the military myself. For the first time since the Great War, Covid-19 had cancelled Anzac parades and restricted gatherings around cenotaphs. It was beautiful to see so many families standing in their driveways, candle in hand, in quiet remembrance of those who had sacrificed so much. Of all the memories of the day, it is this one that will stand the test of time. I will never forget it.
By 6am, I had been running for 12 hours and ticked off 112km's. That 161km bucket list moment was within reach. My legs were copping a hammering from the bitumen and concrete pathways. Overall my body was holding together well. I'd stop each lap at home for limited time and refuel with Edge Electrolytes™, food and rub down the legs with Fisiocrem and use the Beartrap™ or muscle roller on the quads and calves. A little reprieve.
Once the sun hit my back, its warmth gave me life and miraculously my pace improved and my spirits lifted. Next stop – 100 miles (160km)
My family - Vanessa, Maya and Emily had slept through most of the night and welcomed me around 7am with a freshly made bacon, egg and avocado toasted sandwich, and whilst I mostly enjoy a vegetarian diet, I had been running for 13 hours surviving on Edge electrolytes, 2 minute noodles, potato chips, fruit, chocolate and caffeine. Anything warm and fresh was heaven to my lips! I took a little extra time here at this pitstop to chat with the girls, make some sense of this situation and my sleep deprived state. It was here that Vanessa admitted she had snuck outside very early to check my tally board to see if I had still been moving and was safe and well. #muchlove
Just shy of 18 hours, around midday on Saturday, in the hot sun I hit 100 miles, 161km's. This was an incredible moment for me as I initially had in mind 100 miles over the 24 hour period. To hit that with 6 hours to go was a fist pump moment. I cheered aloud and have no doubt that I looked like a hooded madman. Nonetheless I finished the loop and celebrated this milestone with my family.
The afternoon was hot and the next several hours dragged on, I had to jar myself awake as I started dozing on my feet. The regular phone calls from mates were welcome and really helped, but seeing the faces of Vanessa and the girls was the greatest source of strength, enabling me to dig deeper and grind on with one goal in mind. Keep moving forward.
6pm Saturday, with my girls running by my side, I completed the last 100 metres. We had ticked off just over 204km (126.8 miles) An overwhelming sense of collective achievement overcame me. I was a physical wreck and I was hurting, but I could never have finished this challenge on my own. At times I felt like a solitary runner, but I never ran alone. I had my team by my side.
An enormous thanks to my running club, Mountain Goat Trail Runners, Beartrap™ for making the run more like an event and Edge Electrolytes™ for helping me stay hydrated as well as their on point nutrition strategy. The biggest thank you goes to my family for their unconditional love and support.
What next? If it was up to me, it would be Run, Sleep & Repeat! But for now it's feet up, a daily serve of Edge OceanTrace™ and some good (most of the time!) food.