Deciding on the date for this year’s Terry’s Race was problematic, what with the GVS Anniversary Race, the British Relays, and the Cross Country fixtures to be avoided. The only option was 4th November but then we discovered that there were two organised running events in the Goyt Valley in the morning. Faced with the thought of over 400 people on the paths in OUR valley we chose to hold Terry’s Race in the afternoon this year.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Terry’s Race is held each year in memory of Terry Lardner. Terry ran with the club until he became ill and sadly died from cancer some years ago now. The race goes past Terry’s tree, a rowan planted in his memory. The Race Winner is awarded the The Terry Lardner Memorial Trophy at the AGM each year. Runners are set off at intervals and you guess your own time before you set off. The person nearest their time is the winner. No watches are allowed! This gives everyone an equal chance to win.
The race starts at the Taxal layby on Long Hill. The route is the same each year but the direction alternates. This year we ran anti-clockwise setting off up the B*tard fields, up onto Taxal Edge passing Terry’s tree, past Windgather Rocks, down The Street and back along the valley.
The sun was breaking through the mist as 19 runners gathered to take part this year. It had been a very misty, damp morning so we were very lucky. Our smart new club tent was put up in case of rain as we had to provide shelter, not for the runners, but for THE CAKES. We usually have cakes at the end of this race but this year our very talented bakers surpassed themselves with an amazing array of cakes. Sweets and fruit added to the banquet that awaited those who ran.
Most runners underestimated their times this year – due I think to the dry conditions underfoot. Sally was 15 minutes under her estimated time! Several other people also had great runs beating their previous PBs.
I’m pleased to say that new member Eddie was the eventual winner in spite of the dramatic head injury sustained on the GVS anniversary race last weekend. He even identified the very rock that caused the damage but managed to avoid it as he ran past it this time. He was just 20 seconds over his estimated time of 1 hour 8 minutes. Lesley and Kirsty were 1 minute 36 seconds and 1 minute 37 seconds under their estimate so I have designated them joint 2nd so account for discrepancies in my timing and Wayne was 3rd.
Mark W. ran unofficially in the morning and had a very fast time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 55 seconds. If he had run in the afternoon he would also have been 2nd, being just over 1 minute under his estimated time.
I thought we wouldn’t make any impact on the amount of cake we had but I was wrong! Runners tucked in and enjoyed sampling several cakes while waiting for Mary to get back. She had unfortunately twisted her ankle and had to walk back along the valley. Lucas and Tess gallantly stayed with her. We hope your ankle recovers quickly, Mary.
Thank you to Helen P for helping me at the start and finish, to those who put up and took down the tent and, of course, to the bakers!
The human mind has a remarkable ability to suppress painful memories and focus on the happy ones, which probably goes some way to explaining why, a year after our first experience of the Equinox 24 hour race, “Team WB” found ourselves once again in the grounds of Belvoir Castle, ready to run round and round in circles for exactly a day. The team was headed up once again by some-time Strider Amanda Skeldon, and though we’d lost Anna Aspinall and Caz Whittle to long-term injuries this year, the team still had a strong GVS core of myself, Julie Elison, Sally Kaill, Connor Lomax, and new recruit James Hobson.
Our first attempt, in 2016, had actually been surprisingly successful considering our strongest runner, Team GB age-group triathlete Dane Stanley, was struck down with a stomach bug. After an entertaining all-night battle with our friends from Marple Runners, we’d ended up finishing one place above them in 25th out of 116 large (8 person) teams. We managed 26 laps of the 10km course, but given that the 5th place team only did 4 more, we came away feeling that with a bit more luck and a bit less illness we could come back and challenge for a top 10 place. With Julie on top form as newly crowned Summer Fell champion, and on the verge of also adding the main championship, and James also fresh from winning the men’s Summer Fell series, we had no shortage of fast runners. Add in the fact that Amanda and Dane had recently completed half iron-mans (iron-men?), I’d just done my first ultra, Sally was in the late stages of training for her first marathon, and we hoped to have the endurance side covered. And that’s without mentioning our new recruit Paul “Kingy” King, who had just cycled the length of the country on a reclining bike and was known to be a strong runner too (though quite how strong, we were yet to find out!).
The race starts at midday on the Saturday, and having all turned up mid-morning last year we’d had to settle for a camping spot well away from the track and main “village” area. So this year we resolved to head over on the Friday, get set-up in a prime spot, and enjoy the Friday night entertainment, the highlight of which is a “beer run” around the section of the course through the camping field. Things didn’t work out quite as planned though. My own participation in the Friday fun was cancelled well in advance when one of my favourite bands, who I’d been waiting to tour the UK again for several years, announced they were playing the Apollo on the Friday night. Sally and Dane were also unable to get over on the Friday, but the others were good to go… or so we thought.
The first sign that we may not be heading into the race in the top-10 form we hoped came when, a week or two before, Amanda was struck down with a really nasty bout of tonsillitis, with an accompanying fever for good measure, and by the Monday before had been told by the doctor to rest for two weeks. Obviously she interpreted this advice as “only go to Equinox on the Saturday morning, and maybe only do 2 or 3 laps instead of 4”. But no matter, we still had four of the team on the way to get there good and early and get the tents up… or did we?
Connor was first on the scene on Friday, travelling alone with the bulk of the tents while the others followed in James’, erm, trusty VW campervan. He soon picked a prime spot on the finishing straight, 100m or so from the start / finish, and directly opposite a much expanded Marple Runners contingent and what can only be described as their tent city, and got to work getting the tents up. A couple of hours later, and there was still no sign of the others, so our heroic adventurer continued on with the erection single-handed (sorry). By later afternoon Connor had managed to put up two family tents and the GVS Coleman shelter, but there was still no sign of reinforcements. The reason soon became clear, when he received an SOS call from James. The clutch on his van had failed, about 15 miles short of Belvoir castle. The only course of action was for Connor to head out in his little Toyota Yaris and give them a tow. Eventually they all made it in, just in time to sit out a rain-drenched evening, gazing wistfully at Marple and their huge marquee, complete with two pizza ovens. Eventually they were invited over for drinks, where they found out that Marple were fielding no fewer than four large teams this year… we’d have our work cut out to beat them all! But at least we were through all the set-backs and on course to give it our best shot… or just about.
Midday soon rolled round, and we were off, Dane leading out on the first leg. We were a little surprised when he took a couple of minutes more than expected to complete the lap, but we were more surprised still when we found out the reason for the delay. We won’t go into the details in these pages… you can ask him in person if you see him, or failing that you can ask a squirrel. Solid first laps from Sally and James followed, and then we sent Kingy out. If we were surprised that Dane’s first lap took a little longer than we thought, that was nothing compared to our shock when Kingy came cruising past the tent looking like he hadn’t broken a sweat with less than 41 minutes on the clock for his lap. Suddenly that top 10 finish looked on once again if he could keep that pace up. 7 of the 8 were in fine form and the game was on… if everybody else could just stay fit.
By Saturday morning we were finally all assembled, the rain had gone and we were raring to go. Amanda was still suffering badly and expecting to only manage one or two laps, but that was the least of her worries when she got a call from home to say that the slight eye infection her daughter had woken up with was proving worse than thought – the doctor had advised her husband to take her to the hospital to get it sorted, throwing childcare plans into disarray. It was looking like she might have to jump straight back in a car and head home before the race even began. Fortunately my wife Jac came to the rescue and stepped in to look after Amanda’s son, and the news from the hospital was good, so total crisis was averted.
Connor and I were next up, and then Julie. When it got to 52 minutes and she hadn’t finished we were a little concerned, but thought maybe she was just pacing herself, knowing that there would be another 30km to run. The look on her face as she passed the tent said otherwise, and we soon found out what an incredible effort she’d put in to get round in 52 minutes, having been struck with agonising pain early in the run. Something had gone very wrong in her hip, and she was soon loading up on pain killers and heading over to the free massage tent. Amanda was our last runner out for a first leg, knowing that it could well be her only one. She fought her way round in an hour and after one lap each we were holding our own in the mid-teens.
As darkness fell, we headed out one-by-one for our second laps. Kingy once again put in the performance of the round, once again hitting 41 minutes while looking like he was enjoying a casual stroll. For my own part, with my second lap scheduled for 22:30, and the temperature dropping, I was starting to realise that much as I love camping, there’s a reason it’s usually accompanied by plenty of beer. I’d allowed myself a small can of Brew Dog at around 8pm, but two hours later the effects had worn off as we huddled around the small bbq that was our only heat source. We just tried to ignore the massive pizza and prosecco party which seemed to be going on over the track in the Marple camp! I got that lap done, and then came the trickiest part of the day to manage. Having just done a 10k run, there’s no way you’re going straight to sleep, but at the same time, you know you need to get some rest before the next one. And that next lap would be coming round earlier than planned, as we wouldn’t be getting any more laps from Julie or Amanda… or so we thought.
Faced with the prospect of us only having 3 or 4 hours between our night-time runs, Amanda bravely stepped forward and offered to go out again, despite hardly being able to stand up. She knew she’d be well over an hour, but to be honest, the rest of us were happy for the delay to our next run to be as long as possible. So out she went, at 23:20, and I headed off for a massage. By the time I’d queued for and had my massage and got back, it was well after midnight, so I tried to hit the hey. This is when I realised I’d forgotten something essential… ear plugs. While our camp was now reduced to 2 or 3 people awake at any given time, quietly chatting around the embers of the bbq, in other nearby camps the party was clearly in full swing. The last time I remember looking at my watch it was coming up to 3am… and I was due to be woken up at 4:20 to get ready for my next run.
It felt like I’d literally just dropped off when a voice started calling me name to get up. It’s hard to over-state quite how low I felt at this point. I’ve never been a morning person, and the standard 6:30 alarm on a work day, after 8 hours sleep, is torture. This was another level though, as I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag on the verge of tears, cursing the day I ever agreed to take part in this stupid enterprise. As Connor handed over the baton, I was feeling no more optimistic about the situation, and the next 55 minutes were quite possibly the least enjoyable 10k I’ve ever run, save maybe the last 10k of Manchester Marathon. I eventually stumbled across the line, and this time headed straight back to bed, and was asleep within minutes.
This time I managed over two hour’s sleep, and actually woke up by myself, as bright morning sunshine streamed into the tent, along with the smell of fried bacon. As I emerged bleary eyed into the world, the horrors of 4am suddenly seemed like nothing but a bad dream. Admittedly the lack of sleep was probably still playing a part, but this time the tears that threatened to roll as I saw the constant stream of runners of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities passing the tent were tears of joy and an overwhelming sense of community and achievement. As the morning progressed and more people came to, the crowds lining the last km around the camping field grew, and with them the shouts of encouragement and praise. To see a solo runner dragging themselves past 150km was mind-blowingly inspiring (a lot of the ladies present finding this to be especially true of a certain athlete from Vegan Runners!). As 10am, and my final lap approached, I was once again raring to go.
This time I felt like I floated round, spurred on by shouts of encouragement as I passed the solos and pairs, who had done four times as many laps as me, and I hit that last lap of the field in a state of euphoria. I knew that Julie had, incredibly, put herself forward to hobble around a final lap, if Dane could get the baton round to her before the midday cut-off. Crossing the line and handing over to Dane, with over an hour to go, I knew we’d done enough to record a fantastic 29 laps. What’s more, although the organisers had been having massive problems since early in the morning with keeping the live results going, we knew that we were not only on for a top 10 finish with this many laps, but were somewhere around the top 5 or 6.
Unfortunately, the guys from Stuweb were still struggling to get the results confirmed, but the gob-smacking news was that, from what we could see we’d not only achieved our aim of a top ten finish, but were somehow in 3rd place out of 94 large teams! And so ensued a long and marginally tense wait for the results to be ratified. It took over an hour, which at least gave us time to get the tents down and packed up, but eventually, finally, the prizes were handed out, and sure enough we were called up to the podium. Having never before come close to being involved in the post-race prize shenanigans, this was the perfect end to an amazing weekend.
As I sat with the in the camp for that last hour or two, watching other teams take it in turns to join up and cross the finish line for the last time as one, roared on by ever-increasing crowds (a special mention once again to Marple Runners, who were immense in their support), it was hard not to feel that we were part of something truly special. And then, finally (though earlier than expected given her injury!) it was our turn, as Julie rounded the corner onto the finishing straight. Remembering the slightly-obscured-by-other-teams finish line photos from last year, we made sure to drop back until we ensured we had a good space ahead of us, and then over the line we went, hand in hand, a joyous finish to a crazy 24 hours. And then we headed to the timing tent to find out how we’d done…
So, how’s that ability to suppress painful memories, and will we be back next year? Well, yes and no. If you’d asked me at 4am if I’d ever do it again, my answer would have been a very definitive no, but in the end the positives outweigh the negatives, and for some crazy reason I’m looking forward to the next one. As it happens, though, next year’s Equinox 24 clashes with a triathlon which three of the team, myself included, have already entered… but it seems there’s a very similar 24 hour event in Leeds in June. And guess what, there’s only a couple of hours darkness in June, so count me in! If any of this has inspired you to give 24 hour relays a go, there’s always room for us to start trying to rival that Marple encampment for numbers. If you want to hear any more about the whole experience, give me a shout some time!