Phoenix P24 Report by Jo Motto

During lockdown I did a few virtual events, mainly because I liked the medals and thought they would be a good memento of a rather weird year. With no competition however I struggled to show any speed at all and so looked for other challenges to keep me motivated. I ran for 65 days on the trot and did 100 miles in a month, which was a lot for me, although I appreciate that some people do this distance in an event!! Then I saw the details of the Phoenix P24, The Longest Day – all you had to do was run 1 mile every hour on the hour for 24 hours, simple! It was apparently the first event of its kind ever run in the UK so always interested in doing something new I signed up, joined the Facebook group and started counting down the days until June 20. It surprised me how many people did sign up and the amount of runners who weren’t based in the UK. Regardless of where you resided however you had to run your first mile at 8am (UK time) and then every hour on the hour until 7am on 21 June.

I decided on 1.1 miles every hour so that would give me a marathon distance and was handy as the loop that I decided to run, during the hours of daylight, was exactly 1.1 miles. A video was posted on the FB group page of an American guy who had done something similar and he suggested having a list of 20 minute jobs, ie all those little things that you keep meaning to do but never get round to, to do during the downtime in between runs. He did actually make a garden table in between his runs but my carpentry skills aren’t up to that standard! I duly made a list of about a dozen jobs to do to keep me busy – one of the items was to make a shepherd’s pie and boy was I glad of this one the following day!

Fuelling was a big concern because although I was only running 1.1 miles it was going to be a long day and also I was planning on no sleep until I’d done! Regardless of how far I run I struggle with eating beforehand so knew I had to go for the little and often approach to avoid nausea but had to eat enough so I didn’t feel sick through lack of food! Therefore I stacked my ‘aid station’ with chocolate, squashies, crisps, more squashies (best post-run food ever!!), some cake and haribo. I was ready! The only other bit of prep I did was to set alarms for 5 minutes to the hour every hour just in case I got distracted and decided to make a garden table or fell asleep!

So the morning of the longest day arrived I dragged myself out of bed early so I could shove some toast down me, listened to the race brief on FB live and off I went on my first run. The weather was great for running and lap 1 was over before I knew I’d left the house! On about the 4th lap I saw one of my neighbours who thought she was seeing things as thought she’d seen me running a few hours ago. I quickly explained what I was doing and her response was ‘WTF?’

For the first 6/7 runs it was just a case of wait till the top of the hour, press the Garmin, run, home, next item on my to-do list, wait for the alarm to go off and repeat!

The race director had suggested several themes for a few runs to alleviate the boredom – 2pm was a family run, 8pm beer run, midnight fancy dress. Now my kids have both left home so my husband, who I have never seen run in 20 years of knowing him, took it upon himself to accompany me for the 2pm run. With all due respect he did make it without stopping but don’t think it will become a regular thing as he declared he would be sticking to fishing in the future and leave me to do the running.

7pm was the halfway point and this lap was run to Bon Jovi on repeat:

Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer

I admit that I joined in very loudly with Jon’s dulcet tones which must have been a joy to anyone who was out walking at the same time but hey ho I was halfway there. From the FB group there were people all round the world doing exactly the same!

I had my chestlight ready for the darker hours and a route – basically back and forth outside my house. I live in a hamlet with no street lights so my lap was ok during the hours of light but creepy as hell in the pitch black. So 10pm was the last proper run I did and then 11pm saw me don my lights and off I went – now at this point everything was stiffening up; the distance I was running wasn’t very far however the stop/start nature of the challenge was playing havoc with my tired, old body!! I had also overestimated the distance from my house to the pull in at the end of the road and trying to run and see the time (without my reading glasses!) was difficult!

My husband went to bed and left me to it after my 11pm run so it was just me, the dogs and Netflix until the following morning. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much tea during the night before – I was struggling to stay awake and to find something decent to watch on the TV, the time before each run seemed to be getting longer and longer as well!

It started raining in the early hours of the morning and I can assure you that putting cold waterproofs back on is not a pleasant experience. I did discover that my elderly neighbours have pink flamingos and other weird stuff in their garden which they illuminate at night – unfortunately because of the rain and tiredness I didn’t take any photos. I also discovered that the pull in at the end of the road is used by canoodling couples and at 3am I’m not sure who was the most surprised when I ran past them – they perhaps thought I was some kind of pervert with my lights….

At 4am I could see dawn approaching from the east and I knew the end was nigh – only 3 more to go! The support on the FB group throughout the night was excellent with virtual marshals encouraging us and I don’t think I would’ve completed without them.

I can only loosely describe my last 3 outings as runs – everything was stiff and achy and I must have looked like a geriatric running. I just wanted to sleep. 7.11am and I was done – time for breakfast which tasted fantastic as all I’d really eaten was sugar for the previous 24 hours. Then it was time for bed.

After a few hours sleep I got up, did some washing and came to appreciate how many shorts/t-shirts/pairs of socks/sports bras I actually possessed and had worn during the duration of the challenge. I’d worn the same trainers throughout though even when they were soaking wet – it’s not like I’ve only got 1 pair so I can only blame it on sleep deprivation.

By midday I was absolutely ravenous and was so grateful for the shepherd’s pie I made. I uploaded my results on to the internet and I was done – time to kick back and wait for the medal to arrive. I have included a photo of Bruno, one of my Rottweilers, wearing the medal as he is a significantly more photogenic than me and did run about 100 yards with me!

I really enjoyed the challenge and have to admit to those 24 hours being one of my most productive in a long time. There’s another P24 scheduled for October when the clocks change again but I might only do the 12 hour one then!

If you want to watch the American guy’s video of his 24 hour challenge you can find it at YouTube Link

Since P24 I’ve also done their M25 Vultra which was running the equivalent of the M25 – 117 miles and you could pick the length of time you wanted to complete in, from 1 day to 30, (needless to say I picked the 30 day option and it took me 24) and the 7 in 7 which was any distance you wanted but you had to run for 7 days on the trot!

I’ve also done the ‘Run 8K with a mate’ charity run for the Samaritans – this was with my daughter Nats and as she’d been the last person I’d run with on the day that lockdown was announced it was fitting that she was the first person I went out with again!

Running has kept me sane this year and it’s been nice to get back to some club sessions over the last few weeks – really need some effort/tempo sessions now though before I lose any speed that I might once have possessed.