Sunday, 3 April 2011

Crawley 12 hour Race 2011 - Race Report

Banished to the spare room on Saturday night I awoke at 4.45 am to prepare for the journey to Crawley in West Sussex some 50 minutes down the road via motorway. Preparation was easy as I had packed the car the night before and just my kit bag remained. At that time of the morning there is hardly a car on the road so got there in no time at all.

Driving up to trackside at the K2 Crawley, I quickly jumped out and grabbed my preferred spot on the track where I was to put my table and chair. All around me were the shouts, bangs and crashes of the organisers putting up gazebo style tents, drink stands and the precious race clock. Once I was happy with my drinks and food were layed out I went to collect my race number and was again really pleased to find that I had been designated 29, a Prime Number (Don't ask me why I like a prime race number!)

So at 6.49 am there was a shriek for me to hurry up as the race briefing was about to start and I ambled over to listen to the race rules and to have a minutes silence for Tadeusz Lancuckithe Chair of the 100 Marathon Club who died recently and was buried the day before. Then at 7.00am on the dot a day's race went under way.

The Start and early stages
The first third of the run was going really well, possibly a little too well, with me pacing out at constant laps but chose to reduce down as I had a long way to go and as the hours went by I could see that I was sticking to an almost metronomic 24 laps per hours. My legs were feeling great and I was taking on board fluids and food from my race table.

In this time the 6 hour runners had arrived and at 10.00 am they started their run, the danger from my perspective was that they would be running that little faster and it was important not to be drawn in but to focus on my own efforts. I had been running for 3 hours when they started and the track was very tranquil but some of the elite 6 hour runners can best be described as rude and aggressive as a couple of them would bellow "TRACK" to get us out of the way and felt they thought we were a nuisance...there were grumbles from people and it was communicated to them to tone it down.

The "middle bit"
It was a glorious day, the temperature cool but the sky clear with a breeze in the air. Most people would say it was a perfect day for running but 6 hours in to a run you may say differently as it began to warm up. I was soon seen to dowse my head from the large sponge bucket just to cool down my head.
I was aware that I was losing all track of time of day and I saw friends come and go who had decided to pop in to see how I was getting on. There was Ian and his father, a gentleman who always appears at various race meets just at the right time as my morale dips and lifts my spirits, it also gave me the opportunity to stop and say hello which was brilliant as it allowed my legs, which were beginning to stiffen up, to loosen up a tad. Then there was Theo and David with their new baby, Elizabeth always a welcome sight as they are so positive with a wealth of experience between them.

I trudged on but then I was aware that the dreaded halfway stage was about to happen a time when we all had to turn around and go the other direction. Last year this was almost the undoing of me when my IT band tightened. I had planned for this and as Pam, the organiser stood on the start line I chose to stop and stretch my legs and much to the amusement of the lap counters I put on an impromtu display of stretches. This, for me, was a great strategy when I saw runners in the coming laps start to hobble caused by the direction change.

The latter stages
Theo and David had popped off for lunch at this stage and for the very first time doubt began to creep into my head, my legs hurt and I began to feel very lonely. I was tactfully ignoring other runners who wanted to chat as I found it distracting and taking me off my concentration. I was 40 miles into the run and the thought of another 20 miles or so was upsetting me something I cannot explain as I have been there before. It was then Theo and David appeared and I got a pep talk along the lines that I was not eating or drinking enough which looking back on it was very true so I forced down some raisins, took a great bit glug of banana milkshake and trudged on, the feeling of a full stomach getting to feel that little better. Theo and David then had to leave but with their words remaining in my head I focussed on the final stages which soon proved to be very eventful with medical emergencies and a dramatic twist on the leader board!

The end game
I was now feeling very rough and looking at the state of some of the other competitors they were feeling the same, I believe it was the warmth of the day that was taking its toll. I was becoming aware that the top runners were beginning to walk, some limping and another seemed to swagger but I continued to struggle on. I had long put to bed that thought of getting 64 miles but knew at my pacing that 100 km was well in the bag and if I paced out the opportunity of breaking my PB.

The leader board was clearly defined with a battle for first place was dwindling away when there was a sudden movement of St John's ambulance staff running across the track to a fallen runner, it was the leader, a sudden feeling of excitement as we heard him scream in agony as the physio held his legs in the air, it looked like a case of severe cramping. As he was treated there was a flurry of activity around the lap counters and the second place runner was shouted instructions on pace. This set of events took me out of the my malaise and I too was soon heard shouting for lap counts and what I needed to get to the magic 250 laps and beyond.

At 11.54 hours plus some seconds I ran through to complete 100 km but I still had time to run 505 metres to beat my PB so I dug in and just went for it managing to get 795 more metres before the horn sounded....there we have it a PB by 290 metres!!!

I am very pleased.


  1. Fantastic write up you have done really well. Why do they change direction half way is it to stop you getting giddy?

    Mentally you must be very strong and great that you broke your PB.

    I look forward to having a chat with you next time we run together.

    Total Respect!

  2. Congratulations on a great run and PB! These type of races can be very tough mentally. You really did well. I find it easier if they change direction more often, even every hour works well.

  3. Clive, the direction change is basically to give your legs a change. We started anti-clockwise and after a while you can start feeling tightness in your left leg as there is a slight tilt in your pelvis with differing leg length as you go around the bends. The turn around can really hit the legs when there is a sudden change in the muscle group working and this is why I stretched out to get my IT bands equalised