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By Ben Clark | Sunday 8th November 2020

Founded in 1989, the 24-hour long race which is held in Gloucester, England, is a gruelling invitation-only Track Race held once a year. The aim of the race is to run as many miles within the allotted time frame as possible, and the current record for this currently stands at 170 miles (274.480 km) which was set by Gloucester club member Dave Dowdle back in 1989.

We spoke with Damian Carr, COROS UK Ambassador who recently racked up 143.12 miles in just over 23 hours and 37 minutes! Here’s his story:

"You love and hate the build-up of any race and this one was the same. The preparations had gone okay, but with the COVID 19 situation, it had been a case of adapt and get on with it the best you can. I was just grateful the race was still on!"

Casting my mind back to those first few days after my Ridgeway back2back FKT when I spent days coughing up blood and picking up fallen toenails off the floor, I asked myself "why have I just entered a Track 24hr race?" – not any track race but The Gloucester Invitation elite race!

When I first saw the start-list I was so excited about seeing some of the other athletes that I felt my heart race. I actually checked my HR data screen to see if the graph had a spike! I had to slap myself and tell myself "get a grip, Damo!!".

When training for this event, I was so pumped up but knew that I needed to go into the race as close to 100% healthy as I could. This meant reducing my mileage, from where a typical week would include a mixture of easy runs, tempo workout, speed workout and a long run. Under my new coach John O’Regan (an ex-international ultra runner himself) he guided me to some key long runs in the build-up. Also what I found worked for me was to top myself in the gym before most of my runs, although this can’t be found in any coaching manual, in my head, it seemed like a good idea!

Race morning arrived, and I found myself nervously looking around at the other athletes,realising that I might be out of my depth here. These guys looked well organised and relaxed. Due to COVID, you were only allowed one crew member, so for me, it was my lovely, caring wife… basically, she was the only one I could convince that staying up all night in all sorts of weather was going to be fun!!

Much of the race itself was a blur, however, I do remember some key moments. My plan for the first 40 miles was to get into a nice controlled pace, which worked well for me, and I even did a couple of burst laps, which were soon halted by shouts from the side of the track: "Damian, too fast, control it!!".

With pacing my main focus in this race I needed to feel confident in my watch, and when you’re running around a track, even just the smallest of inaccuracies in distance recording (sometimes relating to erroneous GPS plotting) can add up and have a hugely negative impact on your performance. The great thing about COROS for me, having come from other watch brands, is the Track Mode feature. For my 24hr race, I simply needed to key in the track distance and what lane I’d be running in and the watch calculated the exact distance, time, and pace – giving me a true reflection of what I’d done, and how far I’d have left to run.

COROS Track Run Mode

We had very changeable weather too within the 24 hours; from the sun, high humidity, and strong winds and rain, however, the watch felt very comfortable throughout the whole race, with no irritation, or discomfort. In fact, for most of the race, I forgot it was there.

Soon, the miles were quickly adding up nicely, however, around the 100km-mark, I went through a little wobble; most likely due to not consuming enough calories and which led to a quick pit stop. Over the 24 hours, we mastered the act of saving as much time as possible, so at each stop, my wife would change my socks and shoes while I sat eating, and I even got her to open the toilet door at the right time so I didn’t have to break my stride!

As the race drew on, so did the number of casualties. I noticed a couple of runners dropping out and some struggling on the track. I tried to remain focused and humble as the 24hr race is a brutal and savage event and anything can happen – one minute you’re flying, the next minute you’re gone.

Before I knew it, the race was in its last 3 hours. I got information from my good friend Sam, who rang my wife to tell me about my position. I was sitting in 3rd place but only 2 laps in front of 4th place and he was moving a lot better than I was. I was back in a bad patch. I remember my wife throwing me the phone and Sam saying: "don’t you dare lose that 3rd spot, put the hammer down!". Following a couple of gels, I began smashing out a 7:30/min pace. Yes, my body was screaming at me but I kept reminding myself that I have been through worse. Soon, I was cruising around lap after lap like it was the start. I got rid of every negative thought and convinced myself I had just started a half marathon, which increased my pace and I even managed to get into 2nd place.

Still feeling strong and pushing hard, I ended up just 3 laps off of 1st place. I’m so happy with the result, not just with the position, but with how I adapted to the mental strain during the race. I feel so excited about my ultra running career and feel this is only the beginning.

I have to say, all the crew members and other runners out there were truly amazing and very encouraging. We had some good banter out there too! What I love about ultrarunning is the community within and the camaraderie. I felt the encouragement between the runners so inspiring. This was key for me to getting back on track. Someone said it looked like I was going from a death march to speed rep sessions hahaha, I loved it.

Kit Bag

Watch = COROS VERTIX (Mojito edition)

Shoes = Atreyu, Nike and Hoka

Nutrition = Mountain fuel, Unived, Spring energy, Resilient Nutrition, Army Rat pack, SPL/T protein bars

Clothes = Coventry Godiva vest, Doxa shorts, craft and dry max socks, Inov8 Jacket, Xmiles Cap.

Lube = Squirrel Nut Butter

Other = Squirrel Nut Butter muscle rub, Pulse CBD oil.

Photo credits = Norbert Mihalik

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