Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Hope24 2019 - When a Festival of Running becomes a Family of Running

If you go back to 2014 when Hope 24 was first started, it's aim was to raise money for charity as part of a group of Firefighter's fundraising efforts. It was a small affair, just over 150 runners and straight away this event fell into many runner's hearts. One of those runners was myself. 



My little family helped the event that first year by volunteering for hours on end marshalling out on the course. My son was around 3 and half years old. He was giving out high 5's and Mexican waving all the runners every lap. Given those 150 ish runners the morale they needed to keep going. 

Little did anyone know, this event would not only become an award winning event but a family! My son has been involved in some form every year since the 1st, and apart from last year when I was deployed, I had as well. 

So this year, I was excited to be back, preparing for one my favourite weekends of the racing calendar. So my plan was to take a couple days off, prior to Saturday from work, go down, help out with the course set up. I love giving back to this event, mainly because the RD Danny Slay is pretty much a one man band when it comes to the set up. It's so nice it's gone from a couple of us helping out, to a good amount of people that come and help out. It makes a lot of difference and it's what makes the event even more special knowing it's built by runners. The fact it's a charity event is just the cherry on top of the cake. 


One of the pre race laps in the rain
It was going to be a busy weekend for me for many reasons. On Friday night, I went to the Theatre as we had tickets for Les Miserables (it's amazing BTW). Having to drive up to Portsmouth Sunday evening for work meant I wasn't going to be able to run through the night like I usually do. So I had to have a break planned in during the race, so I made my race plan around the busy weekend. 

I decided, I was going to run 30 miles on the Saturday in no longer than 8 hours, take a good break get some sleep (attempt to) then get up early morning, and try again to run another 30 miles. Well that was the plan anyway!

During the Thursday whilst helping out I recce'd the course to make sure it made sense and measured ok. So I did a lap, which then followed later another another lap. I wasn't expecting to do another lap. I had got out of my wet running clothes from the pissing down rain and was in jeans etc. Due to having to pick my son up from school, we had to get a jog on as we went round measuring out the mile signage. As it was still pissing down with rain, I suffered some serious chaffing doh!!

My son completing another Hope 2.4km race

Friday morning, back down helping Danny with the registration stuff, doing the numbers etc giving him an extra hand. I also got out for another lap, to double check the course and check the lap mileage. We were pretty much all ready to go, I set up my gazebo for the race at the start/finish straight and then left to go to the Theatre. I had a great time to be honest and it probably allowed me to chill out and become less of a Runzilla (I said less, I still was a little) prior to the race start. 

Soon enough race day was here, we got down to the arena in good time, finished setting up my little run base, and got my boy ready for his 2.4km race he had, which started at 10am. It was great to see so many kids taking part in the two distances they could race. They all seem to have smiles going on. My son went off, and made his way around the course. When he finished, we asked him if he enjoyed himself to which he did. We said we'll go find out his chip time but he response was just brilliant. "It's ok I'm not bothered, I just went out to have fun. I don't care about my time". I love his outlook to running I really do. 

It was race briefing time, I tried to shake off my pre race nerves, and relax. After Pete did the usual safety briefing, Danny did a few mentions, 1 was for remembering a Hope24 runner who sadly passed away aged 36. This automatically brought me to think of my own best mate who died of the same age a few years ago. We did a round of applause for him then the second mention was for a lady who was celebrating her 21st birthday by running solo around the course for 24 hours lol We sang happy birthday to her as you do. 


Having fun on the trails! Pic by AG Images
Everyone gathered on the starting line, and we were off. The course took us out of the arena briefly before turning back in and heading down towards the bridge by the cottage. From here, we then started our climb, firstly up through the wood behind the cottage for about 1 and 1/4 miles before getting some relief running down a gentle descent through the the equestrian fields full of sheep. Once we reached the bottom it was straight back up up the climb, it wasn't steep but it was long, you eventually finished the climb around 2.5 miles in once you were in the woods. From there is was downhill ish all the way back. Although it was undulating in some of the more flatter sections, it was definitely a negative split lap. The second half was fun, beautiful and very enjoyable for me. Each lap was fun as I made my way through 3 miles towards the 4th. Just before the 4th you reached marshal point which was amazing. The Dartmoor Search and Rescue guys and lasses were brill. They laid on a bit of an aid station with various sweets, coke and water and most of all Watermelon! The Saturday day time was a complete opposite contrast to the previous few days, it was sunny and very warm! I'd say borderline hot, so the Watermelon was a welcome treat each lap. From 4 miles it was the run home, down through the shooting grounds, over a bridge, up a small steep hill, over the undulating hill top to run down in to the arena to the finish line. 


A lap with Nicola pic by Melvin edited by me
So as I said my plan was to run 30 miles on the Saturday in the very warm temp. I ran the first 3 laps pretty much by self, occasionally seeing some one I knew at various points to have a chat with and either they or myself would move on ahead. I was joined on my 4th lap by a friend called Nicola, it was lovely to have her company all the way round that lap, we'd chat whilst we went round and the lap soon was finished, it was then I was met by my wife who said my lap times had not been registering. 4 laps completed but not showing on the timings. I went straight to the timing tent, who checked my bib. Due to how I had it pinned on the back of my race vest, it wasn't working. We rearranged it, they checked that it worked which it did and I went off once more. They added my laps on and all was well again. 

I'd grab a fresh bottle of tailwind, and off I went. I went through a 500ml bottle each lap, and this plan worked for me. I lost about half an hour grabbing stuff in between laps, and stopping to sort out my chip timing. 


My fuel and recovery nutrition for the weekend
After I finished my 5th lap I checked to make sure it registered which it had. I had one more lap to do and I went out to finish it. 6 laps were completed and I was pretty pleased with the time of 6 hours 47 minutes for the 30 miles. I was just over an hour faster than I planned to be and considering it was a tough course, off road and very warm, I was pleased how it went for me. 

Cos I had more time, I went home for a shower, then we popped out for something to eat. I enjoyed my big steak! It was late by time we got back to the arena to get some sleep. I did eventually get some sleep though before waking as planned around 3.30am to get sorted to get out at 4am. I started the 7th lap just after 4am and although my legs weren't quite awake , they were moving. It was still dark so I had my head torch on but as I made my way round it soon became lighter and by the time I had started my 8th lap I could chuck my head torch in the gazebo as I went past. 


All going well! Pic taken by Gill Case, edited by me

Again I saw a few people I knew during the 7th lap, there weren't as many out as there have been in previous years. Some even thought I'd be out all night as it's normally what I'd do. I hadn't this time, as it'd be too dangerous for me to drive up to Portsmouth later on (check me out being all sensible and that). 

During the 8th lap, it rained heavy. I had taken my coat off and ditched it at the end of the 7th lap as I was too warm in it. I was soon soaked through, and it was at that point, I decided enough was enough. With the drive later on, on my mind and the fact I couldn't be bothered to keep trugging on through the soft mud along the river side, I called it a day at the end of lap 8. 


Out on one of the laps
After a pleasing 30 miles on Saturday, the Sunday's 10 miles became a bit of a recovery run instead. I'm not too disappointed, I covered 40 miles in under 10 hours of running, I had done a good 30 miles for me and I was feeling strong, I could've done more if I could've been bothered. I still enjoyed the 40 miles I did and that was the main thing. I didn't want to ruin an enjoyable experience by carrying on in the rain and mud. 

So thus was the end of my Hope 24 weekend, a weekend of running, watching my boy race, catching up with friends and having a good time. The event feels like a big family gathering, and it's a feeling a few events I have experienced has given. Once you've toed the start line of Hope 24 you feel you've been accepted into a family and that's how it should be, whether it's your 6th time or your 1st. Whether you done everyone or come back after  a break, it's great!
Danny, Me and Pete. It was Hope24 that brought us together back in 2014
I believe we are so lucky to have this event in Plymouth, it's worth the travel for those who have to, each year it gets better in my opinion. It deserves more recognition than it actually gets. Whether you're an inexperienced runner or a season veteran, it's an event that allows people to test their limits whatever their limits maybe. 

Thank you to Danny and everyone who puts in the hard work required to put on this event, if you're reading this and never done it, look it up and enter next year when entries are open. It's the cheapest 24 hour race I know of, most are double the amount, you get pretty much the same as the other but most of all you join a family and two great charities benefit from it. What more could you ask for?

Thank you to Uglow Sports and Tailwind  Nutrition UK for their continuing support, I am forever grateful. 

Finally thank you to my wife and my son for being the best support crew. I know I wouldn't be able to achieve a lot of the stuff with out them being there doing what support crews should do. 

Thanks for reading, hopefully my film I'm putting together should be out in due course. In the mean time, read some of my other blogs or head over to my YouTube channel, watch the films and subscribe. 


My son's and my medals 

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#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

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