So, how do you end February in middle of lockdown? By doing a crazy challenge. I’ve got to start by saying I’ve really struggled this past couple of weeks mentally. I’m not one to go on about my mental health and usually keep it to myself but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself feeling angry all the time, short tempered and just down right irritable and I’ve been taking it out on those closest to me, which wasn’t fair on them. By Friday I was at breaking point, I was actively looking for arguments on social media that evening and then I stumbled on the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge. I had seen it mentioned several times but kinda scrolled past. For some reason this time it seemed to spark a fire in my belly that I had not felt for a long time.
I mentioned it to Sarah and after a short discussion on what seemed to be a simple challenge before I knew it, things snowballed. Before I continue let me explain what the challenge actually is:
The challenge comes from the brains of David Goggins, the former Navy Seal and globally recognised ultra runner strikes me as both inspiring and slightly mental. – The first time I came across Goggins was on a YouTube video. He was barking at the camera like sergeant major hammering home the realities of war to his men. Having been in the Navy his language and approach caught my attention.
The first challenge took place last year this year he is doing it again this coming weekend.
The Main rule: Run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.
Timing: You must start and complete the challenge at that same time David is undertaking the challenge regardless of time zone. This will have the greatest impact as people all over the world will be partaking in the challenge at the same time.
Sounds so simple right!, run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. That works out at 12 legs of running and 48 miles in total. Yes it means you are in ultra running in terms of distance. Now when I started to contemplate doing this challenge it was 9:30 pm and I was sat watching Googlebox with the family. I had no idea there was an official date and I had not trained for it. In fact my weekend was hill reps Saturday and 12 miles Sunday. So you can imagine my coaches reaction when she logged into Training Peaks Saturday to see I had already done 4 legs! (Got to say her support and encouragement over the weekend was amazing, lesser coaches would have lost their shit IMO)
So back to Friday night and I spoke to Sarah, who by this point had had enough of my mood and said go for it as I needed something to focus on. I planned to start at midnight and then every 4 hours. She said why not go at 10pm, so next thing I know I was running up stairs to get changed (now since finishing it I have read several articles on how to tackle the challenge, needless to say my approach isn’t recommended!)
I think now not having days/weeks to think about what I was about to do helped me mentally tackle this challenge. So out the door in the dark, head torch on. I set off from my usual start point. I decided to keep it around 8:00/mi pace. Now for me that is usually my easy/recovery pace.
It was a cold start but my mind was focused on working out my route, my plans for the next few days and if I was even going to make it to Saturday morning. I made an early decision to simply focus on the leg in front of me. I headed out towards the local reservoir, now I had forgotten that my usual route had roadworks on them so had to switch to the other side of the road which meant several more road crossings (usually only had one) as it was dark, as I hit 1.3 miles the streetlights stopped so I switched the head torch on and then looped up and down in front of the reservoir (just like the bus does) then at the junction it had a traffic island which was exactly 2 miles, so used that as my turn around point and followed the same route back to the finish. My pace picked up over the 4 miles of the first leg and finished bang on 32 minutes for the first leg.
I did the social media share then got my kit ready for the 2am and 6am legs, put them on kitchen table so I didn’t have to disturb the family. It took me a while to fall to sleep, I had put my phone alarm on vibrate under my pillow to wake me up for the next leg. I found my previous career in the Royal Navy helped me get my head down when I could as I found that getting sleep would play a vital role in my challenge. Now I had to start my 2nd leg within 4 hours of my previous one. I was up at 1:40am. Kitted up and half a sleep. I had put an extra layer on as I knew it would be cold at this time.
By the time I posted my only video of the challenge I still have 6 mins to start but as it was freezing (cars were frozen over) I set off a 1:54 for leg two. I decided that I would do the same route for all 12 legs. Mentally it helped that it was an out and back 2 mile loop so was able to break runs down. Again kept pace around 8:00/mi and picked up pace towards the end. I didn’t see a single soul during this leg and the amount of people I came within 2 meters throughout the challenge I can count on one hand with digits spare. I made a point of moving to other side if I saw anyone in my path. Except when I chatted to Jodie on leg 4. Running in the early hours of Saturday morning was a surreal experience, you would already hear birds singing and the moon acted as a personal floodlight. The second leg took me 32:01 but pace was again 7:59/mi average. At this point I wasn’t thinking about if my pace would slow etc over next day. I got in the house and stripped off and went straight to bed to get my head down for another couple of hours.
Was up at 5:40, repeated the process of previous leg of getting kit on in kitchen. I felt ok and like I had slept. I had a drink of juice but had yet to eat anything since my tea at 5pm the previous evening. I don’t eat after 7pm as a rule and I stuck to that rule. I decided that would do leg 3, go back to bed till 8am, get up have breakfast, shower before I started leg 4. So at 5;51 I begun leg 3, it was even colder then earlier but dawn was just breaking and birds where in full swing. Good thing is again only saw a couple of cars but still required head torch for the turn around section as wasn’t light enough just yet. It meant I worked out I had 3 night runs, 3 day runs, 3 night runs and 3 days. This again helped break the challenge down in to more manageable parts. I knew first lot of night runs were over and knew the day ones would be ok. My worry was the 2nd night leg, if I cracked that then I was on the home straight.
As I have gotten more sleep I felt fresher and my pace began to pick up again I let the route control my pace. The first part is a black spot for GPS, then I have a small climb to half a mile including 4 road crossings. Then a short down hill to fire station. The route climbs then drops to petrol station to conclude the first mile. Then its flat(ish) from there to Crown Cars Garage. Then a hill climb to 1.5 miles. I then turned left down and over the river and left again and was facing the way I just came (its a fast section that allows you to get over the drag that is the climb from the garage to junction. After you cross bridge again a GPS black spot but route flattens out till you hit the junction and the traffic island I always ran round it anti-clockwise and 2 miles would buzz on the watch. Then its back the way I came, flat back to bridge, over the bridge a short up hill, right turn a long sweeping down back to the garage then a flat(ish) run back to the petrol station, Then short up hill and then down again to fire station. By now I’m in to last mile, up hill to road works in front of the Co-Op and shopping precinct, then Lidl before final road crossing and a climb back to finish. The route meant I wasn’t pounding the same muscle groups for the entire route. On Leg 3 was great to run watching a glorious sunrise. This was my fastest leg taking me 31:39.
I headed into the house, again stripped down and headed for another hour of sleep. At 8am was up had porridge for breakfast and a flat white. A quick shower then I caught up with wife over my nights exploits. We then discussed the plans for the upcoming day…..
In part 2 I will cover Saturday legs.