24 things I learned from my first 24 hour race

I don’t actually know why, but I decided to buy-in to Equinox24 – a 24 hour trail race in which teams or solos were able to run as many 10km laps as possible within the time limit. I did this with about 4 weeks to the race so no real time to train specifically for it.

I managed to complete the race successfully with my target 100km! Here are my 24 things I have learned from my first 24 hour race.

  1. Book early – As commented, I only booked with 4 weeks to go, not really giving me much time to train. The earlier you book, the more time you have to prepare. Also, the cheaper your ticket will be!
  2. Train – Train for the mileage you want to do – I successfully hit target, but I was really struggling in the last couple of laps. Train to ensure you enjoy the race.
  3. Time management – Whatever target you are going for, manage your time effectively. Make sure you are adding time for your laps, rest and food. Add extra time for your later laps taking longer (My first lap was 1h6m and my last lap was 2h4m).
  4. Speed – For ultras, you need to be going slow – probably much slower than you’re comfortable with. Looking back, I think I went out too fast and may have managed my body better if I had started out a bit slower. Remember, 24 hours is a very long time.
  5. Trainers – Wear the right footwear – I started out in my 361° Ortega 2 Trail shoes. In fact, they were a bit hard on the feet for the dry light trail and paths that the route took and by lap 3, I had changed to my 361° Stratomic road shoes which were softer underfoot.
  6. Camping Location – Getting the right spot is crucial, I was fortunate enough to camp next to the transition area, meaning I could get off course, change and feed then get back on with minimal fuss. This does mean getting there on the Friday afternoon to ensure a good spot has been secured.
  7. Camping – I really enjoy camping, and this is a must. If you’re not a fan of the outdoors you’re not going to enjoy it so much. If you do have the kit, then you need to spend a bit more than you would hope or rely on friends to help you out.
  8. Blister Plasters – I never really got bisters, but I did get epic ones from the race – my thoughts were that this was down to time on feet rather than the socks or trainers – I had only ever done 25 miles before as the furthest distance. Blister plasters really helped to manage the blisters and pain.
  9. Food – Really important – the right “nutritional” content of food to keep you going – I burned around 8000 calories over the 24 hours. Whilst also getting enough “treats” to keep morale up. I bought soup and rolls, fruit and nuts and then sweets, chocolate and coa-cola to keep my sugar content up and keep me smiling
  10. Friends / support – Useful to have people around you (especially if you’re running solo) to keep you occupied, help feed or change you. Middle of the night when you have done several laps, everything is 10 times harder. Having someone to take care of you is invaluable
  11. Pre-event set up – Not only location is important, but getting everything set up in the way you want it to is equally important. Ensuring you have your clothes, food or anything else simply to hand is a godsend in those early hours of the morning.
  12. Carb load – I’m not sure whether this is a myth or not, but having a good meal the night before (or feeding up a day or two before) is important. Again, I burned around 8000 calories over the 24 hours, so feeding before, during and after the race was really important to keep energy levels up.
  13. Time off – The DOMS are real! Take at least the following Monday off to relax, get a sports massage and generally not go near the stairs.
  14. Clothing – The temperature change over the 24 hours is marked, and your race clothing should reflect all outcomes – wind breakers and base layers are a must. Even if  the weather is dry through out, its still good to change out of sweaty clothes every few laps
  15. Weather – I think we were lucky to have dry weather across the 24 hours. Make sure your race kit is durable across the spectrum. This does include your shelter and food too!
  16. Entertainment – Make sure you have your phone/mp3 fully charged and with all your favourite tunes and podcasts. 24 hours is a long time! I saved 4 weeks worth of podcasts to listen to along with my own mix of uplifting running music.
  17. Wet wipes – You’re going to sweat a lot, so wet wipes are insanely useful for all manner of sins.
  18. Head torch – Important to have a bright head torch (a cheap £5 one from a supermarket wont do) along with a back up. I have the Black Diamond Spot which I used at Europes Toughest Mudder. Waterproof and next gen LED means the batteries lasted through the night no problem
  19. Batteries – Bring lots of spare batteries and especially battery packs for your phone, headphones, watch and anything else that may need to keep going across the 24 hours.
  20. Water – Keep hydrated. Bring water with you to go in bottles or hydration packs – bring hydration tablets (if thats your thing) And just general bottles of water for tea, coffee etc etc. If you don’t use it at the race, I am sure you will use it at a different time.
  21. Solo nutrition tent – If you aren’t fortunate enough to get a good camping spot, make use of the nutrition tent when solo runners can leave their food and drink as not to have a slow transition (or a longer than needed walk back to the tent).
  22. Elevation – Jog the flats, walk the hills and run the downs
  23. Target – Have a target distance in mind – this will help you keep going when the going gets tough. Ultras are as much a mental game than a physical one. If you don’t reach the target, don’t beat yourself up. Train and come back stronger next time.
  24. Photos – Get out, spot the photographer and smile! (It’s only for a split second and then you can go back to grimacing)

So that’s my 24 things I’ve learned. Do you have any other bits of advice you would like to share? Ill be back again for Equinox 24 – but will also sign up for a few more. I wont be going for 100km target again, but if I do reach it, I’ll be pretty chuffed.