By David Noone

It’s sometime after 7 am, all concept of time evaporated when the sun began to set the previous evening.   I have been running alternate 10k loops with my running partner, Pat Staunton, Westport AC, for over 19 hours.  In that time we’ve covered 100k each on foot, I struggle to get out of the chair and hobble to the start/finish line to set out on another loop.  My feet are sore, my legs stiff, every step irritates my toe which feels like all the skin has rubbed off.   As Pat approaches the finish line I inform him I’m done!  I won’t be able to go again  -  I could barely walk,  never mind run, I told myself  this would be my 11th and last lap.

If someone told me 12 months ago I’d be participating in a 24 hour running event I would have told them they were mad.  When Pat mentioned taking part in this race 12 months ago I told him he was crazy and laughed it off...... but I was curious!  After running my first marathon in Dublin in October 2011 and reading books on running and ultra-running, I was curious as to how far I could run?  What level of endurance could I withstand? So I set out to find out, and when signing up for this 24 hour event was mentioned again I agreed to take part.

I had no idea how to train for this, so I set my sights on a couple of preparation races.  After months of training I found myself on the start line of the Connemara 39.3 mile Ultra-marathon, my second marathon and it was an Ultra - my family and friends mentioned men with white coats at this stage!!!.   I finished in 6hrs 1min and scarred for life following that last gruelling 20k. Then came the Cork marathon,  I had no idea what time I could target here but I knew I had a lot of miles put in so was confident of a 3hrs 30min. After finishing in 3hrs 19min all the training had paid off.    Next up was the Portumna 50k which was less than 2 weeks after Cork.   I thought it would be good idea to get two hard runs in relatively close together. I finished the Portumna 50k in 4hrs 59sec, going through the marathon that day in the same time as Cork.   All the signs were indicating that the training I was doing was paying off.

And so, this was the lead up to the Adidas 24 hour Thunder Run in Catton Park, taking place just outside Birmingham.  We arrived the day before the race and set up camp. The 10k loop winds its way through a private farming estate on cross country fields and forest trails. That evening we set off on a recce of the course, after 5k I was exhausted and we were only walking! The enormityof what I had gotten myself into was beginning to set in and the nerves crept in. It was quiet hilly so we came up with a strategy of power walking up the hilly sections and running the rest. Our plan called for us to run alternate 10k loops averaging 55mins for the first 12 hours then we could extend to 1hour which would give us enough time to do 12 laps each with the possibility of an extra lap at the end if one of us could manage it.

The first 12 hours were uneventful, our plan called for us to be relatively ‘fresh’ with 60k each done. What turned out to be a major surprise at this stage was that  we were actually  in 4th place, 3rd were fairly close, but the team in second were over 2 hours ahead and the first team farther again!  Aswecontinued our laps we found ourselves in 3rd place!   At this point our aim was to get through our last laps but also to try and maintain our 3rd place ranking.

On my 11th lap, after a few hundred meters, I went from a walk to a jog, my feet were in agony, but I’m happy to be moving.   After a few kilometres I realise the pain has subsided, I’m not sore anymore, and I’m actually moving pretty well. I’ve researched a lot on ultra-running and running through pain and fatigue and here I was experiencing it first-hand!  At this stage my head had quit and was telling me this was my last lap, I couldn’t go again, the pain was too much. On one of the hilly sections, (my walking break!) I met a solo runner and struck up conversation.  He told me he would have 100 miles done on his next lap, I told him I was done I couldn’t go on, my feet ached, I was tired.   He inquired as to how many laps we had done and where we were on the standings. I told him we were in 3rd place.  He was astonished and jump started me into the realisation that I had loads of time to get more laps in and fight for a top spot.  He was instrumental in encouraging me and the adrenaline started to flow again!   It was then I realised I had come here to run 120k and I wasn’t going to settle on 110k! I started running almost as hard as I had done since the previous evening as if I had only run 5k not 105k.

You have the option of doing multiple laps in one go, so I decided I was going to keep going and do my 12th lap, instead of stopping and starting again.  As I came to the start/finish area Pat wasn’t there, he thought I was going to be much longer on the course, as the last time he saw me I could barely walk.   The look of shock on his face told it all when I informed him I was going to go again!!

After completing my 12th lap, I handed over to Pat to run what we thought was our 24th and final lap. But when I got off the course and looked at the live results we had moved up to second place. After speaking to the official looking after the timing it emerged that the team ahead had started to struggle and we were on the same number of laps. Not knowing if they were gone out for their 25th lap or not, the only option was for us to try to get another lap in. If we were on the course for our 25th lap before 12 o clock it would count. We decided to head up the course to tell Pat the situation as he was coming into the last half kilometre. When he saw us he knew straight away the news we were going to break to him.  “I don’t have to go again, do I” was the response we got, but he gotstuck in and headed out again.

Little over an hour later Pat crossed the line having completed 130k, and it was announced that we had won completing 25 laps, the team in second hadn’t in fact gone for their 25th lap. It came as a complete shock, we had set out on this event with the only thought of taking part and fulfilling some personal goals.

A lot of people ask how do you stay going?  Looking back now, running through the night into the early morning was like it was some else, on some of the harder laps it was like I was floating above looking at someone that resembled me running.  You grasp onto any thought that will get you through the next few minutes or the next few hundred meters, “If I run for another 500m I can have a walking break”  or ” that water station is only around the next corner” and you just dig deep and tell yourself  that the road ahead is not going to beat you.

I can’t finish without saying a big thank you to my fiancée Sharon and Pats wife Colette, our crew for the event, without whose encouragement, support and most importantly food and hydration we would not have made it.

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” Dean Karnazes

Below is the event website and our lap times.

Name    Lap No    Lap Time

Pat Staunton    1    00:52:28

David Noone    2    00:51:06

Pat Staunton    3    00:53:52

David Noone    4    00:52:32

Pat Staunton    5    00:54:29

David Noone    6    00:53:02

Pat Staunton    7    00:53:37

David Noone    8    00:54:58

Pat Staunton    9    00:55:05

David Noone    10    00:55:52

Pat Staunton    11    00:55:58

David Noone    12    01:00:14

Pat Staunton    13    00:57:46

David Noone    14    00:59:56

Pat Staunton    15    00:59:09

David Noone    16    01:03:36

Pat Staunton    17    01:00:45

David Noone    18    01:10:37

Pat Staunton    19    01:01:44

David Noone    20    01:10:21

Pat Staunton    21    01:00:42

David Noone    22    01:08:02

David Noone    23    01:07:36

Pat Staunton    24    01:02:06

Pat Staunton    25    01:01:53