Equinox 24 is a 24 hour race with options of 10k, large teams, small teams, pairs and solo. It all started on Friday when a few excited Stiders were ready at the gates to put up camp near the entry/exit point of the main field. Tent poles creaked under tension and tarpaulin flapped in the breeze of a greyish day. The Eleventh Duke of Rutland must have been impressed with the small temporary town being erected on his huge tracts of land.
A good few of the Striders ensemble headed over to the Chequers Inn, a homely pub with good grub for a bit of pre-event sustenance and to ensure the ales hadn’t gone stale since the last outrun visit out this way. No-one from the Striders crew (as far as I’m aware) did the beer run, but there’s an option to drink a beer and run round the field on the Friday due to the many types of refreshment available throughout the weekend.
Saturday kicked off with hearty breakfasts and remaining team members arriving before the 12 o’ clock parking inside the field cut-off. Sarah Lawrence negotiated with the marshalls to arrange the camper-van to park near to the mother-camp. The array of camping equipment was proudly displayed and teas were brewed. Now to the running orders! Who would be running first? The first runners may end up doing more laps if the orders remained on Sunday. But should positions count, a tweak in order could make a difference to attain one more lap.
And they’re off! 12 o’ clock Saturday is the start of the 24 hour race. Timing chips were affixed, with teams and 10ks setting off at a ferocious pace while soloists took the long game plan, although not as slow as might be expected! For the soloists we had: Matt Gayton, Richard Gray, Ben Pickard, Brian Walkling, Shane Sharkey, Amanda Pearson, Laura Pickard, Dan Moult, and Marie Gray. For the teams we had Simon Bottrill, Clive Kent, Katie Hateley, Greg Pettingill, Jon Wilson, John Houghton, Dan Valencia, Michael Atton, Paul Geeson, Christie Jones, Sharon Eshelby, Jenny Kent, Vannessa Walker, Liz Parkinson, Sue Pettingill, Debs Wilson, Emma Palmer, Sarah Lawrence, Kaye Mead, Nick Pryke, Rachael Heggs, Katie Edwards, Emma Hope, Julie Bass, Dan Howley, Tam Nicol, Mark Ashmore, Tom Peacock, Ray Walker, Matt Taylor, Dan Giblett.
The course took runners out of the field, past the mother camp and onto a tarmaced road for a few hundred yards. Then right onto the first rough ground up to the top of a field. Then to traverse interweaving tracks at the top and then onto a muddy rutty track back to the road. Puddles were the main route decision maker here… to enter the puddles and make the trainers wet could be quicker, or use the verge where there was little room to overtake? So then back along the road and eventually people on their out-laps are met coming the other way before turning right over a bridge and past a picturesque lake. A slight hill up and this isn’t ‘THAT HILL’, but it’s a tester before a noticable kick up in the gradient and this is now ‘NOT THAT HILL’. Eventually runners arrive at the top where a drink may be had before decending down a quick off-road, off-camber trails. Luckily, it’s relatively dry this year and people can get away with road shoes although some prefer deeper tread on their shoes. The track winds down and then levels out and then the infamous ‘THAT HILL’ appears. There’s always some determined runners who nail ‘THAT HILL’ and run up it, but the majority take a slightly more balanced approach. For myself, I ran to the ‘THAT HILL’ sign and then power walked. I figured the upcoming down hill would give opportunity to make up time if I still had the energy left. Once ‘THAT HILL’ is summited the trail takes runners back out onto the road, which is now going down. For the soloists, this could tell on the quads later. In fact, the quads, the calves, the glutes and any other muscle that runners didn’t know they used! Then back to the field, past mother camp, and all the supporters lining the route around the field. This is where it really hurts for the teams. It seems to go on forever, especially the last drag up to the blow-up transition area. *SNAP!* Snap bands are passed on for the next team members and pizza can be grabbed. Soloists may think about refueling or just put one foot in front of the other and head out again!
There was so much positiveness going on that it’s hard to describe it all. But things that stick out for myself are things like the colours of the bunting on re-entry of the field, cheering team members, last ditch efforts to get an extra lap in, fire pit, tired non-sensical talking (myself), huge efforts of all teams and solists, too much cake, tea from Yorkshire, and John’s ‘tent’.