While researching a possible article about my many years at the No Finish Line I came across this inspiring story I wrote about my adventures back in 2012 when I was just 55. Seems it could be subtitled “How I accidentally ran 310km in 6 days“.
It was dark and cloudy as I made my way along the quayside of the Monte-Carlo harbour. Just after 8pm in late November, but felt like midnight. There was no rain but I was sure light rain was only moments away. The reflections of the Christmas lights on the shiny sides of the superyachts gave the scene a surreal look. Silently a thousand zombies advanced towards me. Fortunately an irregular line of small traffic cones formed a barrier they seemed unable to cross. The zombies passed harmlessly to my right, most seemed unaware of my presence. Their listless eyes were devoid of hope. Some ran, some walked but many merely shuffled along dragging weary feet from one step to the next. Occasionally there were zombie pushchairs with small zombie children wrapped up against the cold. Zombie dogs on leads pulled their zombie masters ever forwards. Every now and again a zombie waved as it passed, I waved back in recognition of a body that before this fearful night had been a friend or a loved one. I turned to watch as they disappeared into the distance. I took strength from the knowledge that I would probably see them again and again and again. You see I knew they were trapped in a circular exodus to nowhere. They would continue until they stopped. There was No Finish Line. . . . . . .
A thump on my back brought me back to reality. “Get a move on” said my wife, Penny “are you doing this or just watching?”.
I was in fact on track at the annual No Finish Line (NFL) charity event in Monaco. The year was 2012. The NFL concept is simple, the organisers close off a 1.3km circuit on the Port of Monaco with an athletics chip timing sensor mat at each end. The track is opened at 14h on Saturday and closed 8 days later. Everyone who signs up is given a timing tag to attach to their shoe. They are then free to run or walk as many times around the track as they like during the 8 days. For each km recorded, 1 euro is donated by the sponsors to the supported charities. From humble beginnings 13 years ago this year’s event (2012) has attracted 7,817 entrants who would cover a total of 275,795km in the 8 days. Serious stuff.
Several weeks before, our Triathlon club had announced that they had organised for the club members to join the newly formed Metropole Fashion Run Team organised by the local luxurious 5-star Hotel Metropole. As an added incentive there would be running shoes and sports watches as prizes for the Tri club members who put in the most km’s. On hearing this I immediately said to Penny that I could win this. You see as a family we have been involved with NFL since 2005 and over the years have put in hundreds and hundreds of km’s. In the early years our son, Chris, was often on the top 3 podium for his age group. In our first year I had even completed 126km in the official 24 Hour race held on the last day of the NFL. My total for that week was a staggering 271km. As far as I knew very few of the Tri club members had really taken the NFL seriously before. Penny was not impressed as a serious attempt to win would mean two weekends in Monaco rather than escaping to the country.
And so it came to pass that at 14h on Saturday November 17 2012 as the NFL started I was 80km away in the countryside chopping firewood. I spent most of that weekend watching the online results and tinkering with my NFL data analysis website. I also started this in 2005 as a way to analyse the NFL results by team and age group. A feature not available on the official results site. By the end of the weekend the leader in the Tri Club competition had covered 54km.
Monday was a public holiday in Monaco so our office was closed and we stayed at our house. I was still keeping a close eye on the results and could see club members Jean Claude, coach Denis and racer Carlos were taking this seriously and putting in the km’s. I think Penny finally took pity on my walking up and down the lounge and suggested we go back to Monaco early so we could put in a few km’s before the end of the day. And so it started. . . . .
As soon as we are back in Monaco we hit the track. It was 19h30. I run for 1 hour, Penny runs and walks. The end result was S=10km P=6km. By now the Tri club leader was Jean Claude at 94km followed by Carlos at 82km with Denis the coach at 47km.
I woke at 6am and said to myself “shall I go put in some km’s before work”. “No” came back the answer so I went back to sleep.
In the evening we normally swim with the club. I decided to skip the swimming bit and just run at NFL instead. We went to the track just after 18h20, Penny ran/walked till 19h then headed to swimming. I stayed on track for a total of 2h20. Penny collected me after swimming and we went home. S=32km, P=14km. I was now about 8th in the Tri club with the leader, Jean Claude, on 119km.
I woke at 6am and said to myself “shall I go put in some km’s before work”. “Yes” came back the answer so off I went to start the day at a jog. I ran 15km in 1h34m then came back for breakfast and work.
In the evening I was back on track again just after 18h00. I put in a further 26km in 2h44m – I had completed a marathon during the day with the two sessions added together. S=74km, P=14km.
I woke at 5:30am and said to myself “shall I go put in some km’s before work”. “Yes” came back the answer so off I went to start the day at a jog. I ran 20km in 2h10 starting at 6h06 then came back for breakfast and work.
At lunchtime I put in another hour on track for a further 11km.
I talked with our son, Chris during the afternoon and explained the NFL situation. He was full of support and agreed that I should enter the 24 hour race and go for the club win.
In the evening I was back on track again for a further 16km in 1h51 after work. I had covered 47km during the day. Afterwards I approached the subject of the 24 hour race and a weekend in Monaco with Penny. S=121km, P=14km. The leader of the Tri club was still Jean Claude now on 167km with Denis in second on 156km.
I woke at 5:30am and said to myself “shall I go put in some km’s before work”. “Yes” came back the answer so off I went to start the day at a jog. I ran 11km in 1h 21m then I hunted down Philippe the organiser and asked if he had any space left for the 24 hour race. 4 places left so I signed up. I came back for breakfast and work.
At lunchtime I put in another hour on track for a further 11km.
In the evening we went back down on track in jeans as I was now tapering for the 24 Hour race. While we were collecting the 24H tee shirt I accidentally met coach Denis. I told him I had entered the 24H race then immediately regretted it. As he was about 40km ahead of me tactically all he had to do was stay on track for an extended period to push out his lead to be uncatchable. The NFL was in its final 48 hours so time was becoming tight. Later that evening I decided that honesty had been the best policy and if he thinks he can beat me then he should go for it. Denis was now leading the Tri club with 196km with Jean Claude in 2nd on 194km I was 4th on 149km.
Up at 6am, ate the breakfast of champions and checked the overnight results. Denis had not spent a lot of time on track and was “only” 48km in front of me. We parked the office motorbike next to the track to be my base station and headed for the start. The gun went just after 9am and the 116 of us were off for 24 hours of nonstop fun. Penny stayed on track for the first few hours then left me to it. As per my plan my first marathon took about 6 hours (a marathon race normally takes me about 4 hours) and by 12 hours in I had covered 84km. I was 30th out of 116 and in the zone. My aim was to beat my 126km personal record from 7 years ago.
Slideshow : NFL 2012 – 24 Hours Race Start
I passed through 100km at 1h37am with 7h 23m still to race. By now I was 20th out of 116. (One day I would like to cover 100 miles (160km) but obviously it was not to be today.) Denis was also on track. We chatted during a refueling stop. As my Tri team coach, he recommended I go home for a few hours to be better rested for the final part of the race. That’s some suggestion coming from the guy I was trying to beat! I stayed on track, he went home for a rest.
I remember in 2005 finding it a real grind after midnight. Not so this time. The hours meant nothing, 2am, 3am, 4am just passed like numbers. My only concern was the time counting down to the 9am finish.
Slideshow : NFL 2012 – 24 Hours – Doing It !
When the sun came up just after 7am it brought with it a new day and a new energy. I was 16th out of 116. At 6am I was wondering if 130km was going to be possible. By 7am this target had shifted to 140km and I knew I could do it.
With 9 minutes to go I pulled through the finish line and stopped as I figured they would just take the result as the last full lap in the 24 hours. While having a drink and talking with Penny, Philippe the organiser came over and explained it would be a cannon finish. You keep running till you hear the cannon then stop. Philippe then tours the track with a measuring wheel to record the actual number of meters covered. I have just over 7 minutes left so off I went for the fastest sprint lap of the day. Unfortunately I forgot to start my watch!! I was within meters of the finish line when the cannon went to bring my final distance to 142.374km. Job done? Well almost.
Slideshow : NFL 2012 – 24 Hours – Done It !
It was just after 9am, there were almost 5 hours of NFL left before the end at 14h00. I was a bit knacked but thoughts now turned back to my week’s total which sat at 291km. Now call me weak willed but 300km was sitting at the end of the road dancing, pulling faces and waving at me. I couldn’t resist. No stress though. So far every hour on track had been km hunting at a pace. I finished the 24H race with honour and I had probably won the Tri competition. Time to kick back and spend a few hours on track with Penny, talking with all those people I had zoomed past during the week. Suddenly I noticed a hurt. It seems that on my last crazy lap of the 24H something had gone wrong inside my right shin. No worries though as it seemed to be a reasonably low level pain so I kept on with the walking and talking.
5 hours and 18km later the event ended and my leg was really hurting. I had totaled 310.524km and Penny had completed 73.224km. I had been on track continuously for 29 hours and amazingly covered 160km (100 miles). I had won the triathlon competition beating team coach Denis by 29.8km and I was 4th in the 300+ Metropole Fashion Run team. My greatest achievement though was 14th out of 116 in the 24H race and 4th in my age group. Further analysis showed that this is the first time I have won anything in 53 competitions over 9 years of sport. However, to put this into perspective the winner of the full 8 day NFL competition had covered an unbelievable 1,414km.
After the finish we hung around and chatted with others from the Metropole team and posed for photos, all problems with my leg instantly vanished – when not moving. It was only then we discovered that Jean Claude was the manager of the Hotel Metropole so, even though he was in the Tri club, he was never really in the race for the prizes. Went home and slept through bits of probably the most exciting Formula 1 race of the year. Officially went to bed at 8pm and slept till 11am the next day.
The next day my leg is no happier so it’s off to the doctors and an MRI scan. Turns out I have a common endurance athletes soft tissue problem. I took this as a complement. I was so relieved it was not mechanical or a stress fracture and would eventually fix itself. No sport for a month. I can live with that!
A few weeks later we attend the Metropole Fashion Run cocktail party and prize giving. A suit and tie job. Strangely enough the only suit that fits me is the one I was married in 26 years ago. All the others are way too big. As an homage to that great day I also wore the same tie that I was married in! I received a Motorola Motoactv GPS sports watch for my 1st place prize so was very content. Really nice to be in a podium ceremony for once. As I already have a high performance Garmin GPS sports watch this new one is destined to be Penny’s surprise Christmas present. . . .
Slideshow : NFL 2012 – Metropole Fashion Run After Party