Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Touch the Bird 24

A couple of years a go I suggested to some running friends that the hill at Great Notley Country Park would be a good location for a challenge. For example running up and down it for 24 hours, there were murmurs of interest quickly followed by maybe 12 or 6  hours would be better. Other events and challenges happened and nothing came of that plan until September this year when I was looking for a final challenge for 2015. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea, and I had the perfect weekend at the end of November as I had the Monday off work. I spoke to the park rangers to see if they had any objections to me spending 24 hours running up and down their hill and other than them thinking I'm a little crazy they were happy, and so Touch the Bird 24 was born!

I have some lovely local running friends and was pretty sure I could persuade one or two to come out and support me, bring me extra supplies if needed. Never did I imagine I wouldn't run one minute on my own or that I would have a constantly manned base camp!

For some reason I have earned the nickname 'Bonkers' and Len designed me a great t-shirt to wear and friends bought a space on the back to have their name and help me raise funds for Moorfields Eye Charity.Many thanks to all these and everyone else who donated money, this event itself has raised over £1000 and still some coming in.

The morning of the challenge was bright and sunny, if a little windy and cold, but it was a great way to start the day. I started at 9:30am towards the end of Great Notley parkrun and finished Sunday at 9:30 at the end of junior parkrun.

The support for the event was phenomenal and a couple of weeks before the event every slot was filled, even the night time ones, with friends who wanted to come and run an hour or more with me.
The park rangers couldn't have been more helpful allowing us to bring a camper van in and have access to the car park all night so supporters could come and go safely. Nuclear Races donated a dryrobe which was amazing to snuggle into at the end of the event.

I was planning to write about every hour but I am more than likely to forget someone who came to run and I would hate to do that, so I will pick out some of the highlights, funny bits, tough times. I am enormously grateful to every single person who ran with me whether you did one lap or stayed for hours. Every bit of company and support really was appreciated and it is that side of the event that will stay with me forever.

Here I also have to mention my base camp crew, Dan Warden deserves a medal for staying for the whole 24 hours with no sleep, ordering me pizza, making coffee, stopping base camp from taking off over Essex and counting laps. Dan you were amazing and I can't thank you enough. Len and Michelle also put in many hours of being in the cold supporting me, and cooking bacon, thank to you as well  and to all other base camp supporters who dropped in.

The running went well with 16 laps done in the first hour, don't think I have any more hourly totals after that but was still managing to run laps well into the evening. Luckily we didn't have too much rain, the wind was pretty relentless but bearable. I was glad of the many extra layers I had brought, and shock, horror even resorted to long trousers during the night!!

One of many signs around the hill

The first lap was quite emotional as I discovered Mum, Michelle and Rich had been plotting ant their were signs around the hill with motivational  messages and photos, I loved the one of my Dad he would have been up for a challenge as bonkers as this!

My running support team were great, keeping me entertained in various ways, Lorraine and Rob had us coming up with interesting facts about each lap number we were on, I think John and Jane joined in on that one too. Richard made me giggle for about three laps with his ridiculous hat (sorry Rich) and kept my mind occupied by naming as many towns as we could starting with certain letters. When Lorraine came back the next morning we started naming bands starting at A and changing after every lap, that kept us amused for 26 laps, and I still don't see what's wrong with Glen Madeiros!! We sang Christmas songs because at certain times as you ran (shuffled) towards base camp it did look like a scene from the Nativity in the dark!

100 Laps in!

There were some times it was hard and I wanted to stop but a conversation I had had with James from Essex Boot Camp about mindset and mental strength early in the challenge stayed with me and really did get me through the low points.

Yet again Richard had to look on as I threw up at the top of the hill, it is becoming a habit, but made me feel much better and I was then able to eat and drink better and continue with the running/walking.

The last 6 or 7 laps were like a scene from Forrest Gump, every lap I seemed to gain more people, they just seemed to appear out of the bushes and the group got steadily bigger. I was tired and emotional at this point and withdrew a little to get to the end without being a complete blubbering wreck, but it was just amazing and I am so very thankful to everyone of you who supported me.
The final lap

So some numbers from the day.The final number of laps was 265 which was about 67 miles and I think some one worked out it was about 14,000 feet of ascent, and the most popular support runner's name was Mark, with 4 Marks joining me during the 24 hours!!!

It was one of my most enjoyable challenges, I was worried that boredom would set in but being able to catch up with old friends, get to know new friends better, and spend time doing what I love most, meant at no time was I bored, and I now have a certain fondness for my hill!

I know I haven't mentioned everybody by name but the blog will be as long as the challenge. Thank you to everyone of you that came out to help me through this challenge, you made it the wonderful and fun experience it turned out to be.

A few special thank yous to all of the core team at parkrun, the park rangers, Mark Greensides (cake baking master!), every support runner, friends, family and strangers who donated money. I could go on and on as I have special memories from all of you, that will stay with me always, and so many more photos I could share, but I will stop now and will always treasure that 24 hours as something very special.

Time now to plot and plan for 2016! Happy Running xx


  1. Ny running highlight of 2015 too and I didn't do it. I loved every minute and can't wait for your next crazy scheme ☺

  2. great blog and great achievement Nicki

  3. Stunning effort Nicki, pleasure to be a part of it. Sue.

  4. Stunning effort Nicki, pleasure to be a part of it. Sue.