After finishing the National 12 hour time trial championship this June I had two or three conflicting and, at the same time, complementary thoughts.
- That was really painful – I’m not doing that again.
- I really want to do a 24 hour time trial championship.
Whenever I do 100 mile time trials, I always think. I just about survived that, but there is no way I could have kept going for another hour, let alone eight. So I hope the same logic applies going from a 12 hour to 24 hour.
This year in the national 24 hour TT, Michael Broadwith of Arctic Tacx RT finished in first place with 537.35 miles – which is both inspiring and an intimidating distance. I think that is part of the attraction / challenge of long-distance racing. It’s a step into the unknown. You can prepare for 50 mile races, by cycling 50 miles or even further. But, you can’t prepare for a 24 hour time trial by doing a 537 mile training ride.
Since 1999 I have been counting at the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour running race in London. Usually I go for first 11 hours, then head back to Oxford, get some sleep and then go and do a hill climb on Sunday morning. This year, I was down to do the Reading CC hill climb, but injury meant dns. Fortunately or unfortunately, this meant I could stay for the entire 24 hour race.
The interesting thing is being on the other side of the counting shed. Usually, I’m the one racing, relying on time keepers to clock me starting and finishing. This time I was the one counting and watching the athlete. For the last shift, I was fortunate to have the lead runner – James Stewart from Scotland, who won with 160.3 miles – a course record and the 2nd best performance by Scottish athlete in a 24 hour race. Especially during the last hour, I could feel something of his joy and satisfaction. I got the impression of an athlete who had one of those days where everything clicked and was enjoying the experience of self-transcendence.
This is a very amateur video (as you can tell – though the momentary capture of a slab of chocolate was intentional), but it gives a brief glimpse into the race from perspective of a counter.
Staying for whole 24 hours was a very good experience – there is a lot of good energy at a race like this. You feel more immersed in the event rather than counting runners on Sat whilst thinking about racing the next day.
24 hour races are great, but my next priority is to get over this injury and think about those races lasting just a painful 2-5 minutes.