So what the heck is MK24? It is a 24 hour race where you run as many laps of a quarter marathon distance as you can in 24 hours. Obviously that means that two laps is a half marathon, four is a full marathon, and anything above that is an ultra marathon distance. You can do as little as one lap and get the medal and hand towel but you get extra pins for the special distances like half, full, and ultra marathons, etc.
Alan and I did this last year with Joey in tow for a single lap. The weather last year was cold and so very, very wet! We were camped out like most others not living in Milton Keynes so it was NOT a pleasant camping experience. This year I agreed to do the race again but only if i could have a hotel room next to the race start/end. So of course this year was sunny and dry which is irrelavent to me as I hate camping in any weather. Let me tell you that having a soft bed and a hot shower made this race almost tolerable.
This year it was Alan, Emily, Joey and I doing the race. The running started at 2pm and we were ready along with almost everyone else. I had decided from the get go that I was walking this race….maybe a bit of jogging down hills but on the whole walking. First obstacle was the other event happening in a nearby area blocking our route for the first few hours despite knowing we were using the route. Our race had been planned with al necessary permissions a year ago so the other group had no excuse for being so terribly rude!
Once up the god awful hill to Midsummer in Campbell park (which is where the rude group forced us up the steeper side of a hill so they could stand around in the area of the path) the worst part in many ways was over. That first hill in the heat with people blocking your way through badly mown grass…or hay stuble to be more precise. That was a nightmare for me especially with the blaring music of the other group.
From there it was down Midsummer and a right turn followed not far along by another right turn to run down the other side of the park to the towpath. Actually there was a good bit of downhill and I was fresh so i did a reasonable jog while I could. Walked along the towpath to te next footbridge over the canal and headed to the zig zag up the hill to the Peace Pagoda (giant concrete pagoda in the Willen Lake area). well not quite to the pagoda as we had to turn left and run around the top of the hill until it gently curved its way to the bottom. From here it was clockwise around the lake before exiting to te right and going along the river. Thisis about 6-7m now. This is were I followed the signs without difficulty but with no clue where I was going.
After passing so many underpasses that would have taken me back in the direction of where I knew the race had to go I finally asked the marshall, “how much farther?!?” It was about another mile which was no really the best of news but so much better that anything more.The next turn right was the one I had been waiting for. It took us to the back and side of the marina we will be moving into when we get home. Just as we reached the corner of the marina there was a left turn to the towpath and then right onto it. There was a great view of our future home from the beautiful tri-bridge over the canal that can take you across the canal or over the entrance to te marina. From there it was just a straight shot to the path connecting Campbell Park and Willen lake and a right turn toward the lake. At the splash park a right turn then a final turn to the finish. One lap done!
Last year I did two laps. I might have been able to pull off a third but with no special pin to earn for it I wasnt interested. This year I needed to do more than two laps. I wanted to do four but I wasnt sure. I decided to rest and shower before we went out to dinner( the others all immeditely went out for their second laps) at the pub next to the marina. It is called Warbler on the Wharf. After that my plan was to walk the second lap at sunset.
Dinner was very good and I do recomend the pub but now it is time for lap number two. It was a bit chillier being 9pm now but not cold. My strategy was to wear a light tank top with my hoodie. The hoody was a pull over. I put it on then took it off before putting it on again. Note to self: use a zip up hoodie next time so it is easier to deal with. Where my first lap took almost perfectly 2 hours the second was not so quick. We did this one as a family so everyone walked. Joey’s shoes were for some reason hurting his feet so we heard a lot about that. Emily was desperate for the toilet at the end as was I but she had the umph to speed up her walk at the end to finish and get to the toilet. All I could do was plod on to finish the lap in 2 hrs 15 minutes. Two laps down for me and three for the other three.
It was now almost midnight. We could have done the midnight walk/run but we were all exhausted and went to bed. That bed could not have been more welcome at that moment. We had our bedtime ibuprofen and set our alarm…for the sunrise laps. This was happening on the weekend after the summer solistice. Sunrise would be at 4:44 am. Our alarm went off at 4am so we could get up, dressed and start the walk early enough to see the sunrise from the top of the Midsummer hill.
Our timing was perfect and the we arrived at the viewing point just at the planned time. The atmosphere however was not it the spectacular sunrise mood that would have made this early wake up call feel worthwhile. It was a meh sunrise. We moved on and kept plodding. It was just Alan, Emily and I on this lap. Joey had declared the night before he wasnt up to another go. Emily went off without us. Alan walked with me.
This lap just kept going. The weather was nice but the distance was getting to me. I tried so hard to keep my pace up but I really had nothing left. By the end of my third lap I had walked farther than I had ever walked or run before.My last lap took me 3 hours. I think 3 laps is just short of 20 miles but considering Emily and I had walked 5 kilometres before the race even started due to logistics of a small car and camping equipment I still claim 20 miles easily. Joey did the same distance as me. Last year Alan did 5 laps for an ultra but this year 4 was enough for him so only a mere marathon.
Emily was the surprise. She had never done more than a 10k race before and only once or twice in her life more than that but never anything even close to a half marathon. She did 4 laps! The first two laps she did one immediately after the other to prove to herself she could do a half marathon (she has been signed up to one for October for a while now). The last two were mostly walking but she still had the stamina to pull well ahead of Alan and I on my last lap. She is definity a candidate for doing a full, official marathon one day.
As our hotal had a check out time of noon and it was only 7am you can imagine we set alarms and went back to bed after breakfast. It was painful to lay down but it was also painful to not lay down. I had my breakfast ibuprofen and get a couple hours of sleep.
Once I was up I had another shower before taking my stuff to the tent while Alan checked us out of the hotel. As everyone of us were done we signed out of the race and collected our prizes of the medal, pins and hand towel. Alan and the kids packed up the tent and I was sent to collect the car which was parked at our nearby gym. That was a long and painful walk to the car but at least it was over.
Will I do it again next year? Probably as I am a glutton for punishment and I still have unfinished business with that fourth lap. It can be a very fun atmosphere. Many people just come to do one lap and camp. Some do this to challenge themselves as individuals or as relay teams. Some are determined to win. The mostly laps by a single person was 13. That is 3 marathons and a 10K with a bit to spare. so the real question is would you do the MK24?