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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

12h de Feucherolles, 2011

Last Saturday I participated in the 12 heures de Feucherolles in what turned out to be an extraordinary weekend of sport, camaraderie and appreciation. Lifetime memories like this are hard to condense into a blog because it has the potential to be long winded and sound self indulgent. So my report will be as brief as I can make it in hope that the photos can do some talking for me and you wont have to sit all day listening to an hour by hour break down of me running round in circles.

Thanks to our Aunt Bibiche I arrived in the village of Feucherolles after about a half hour journey from our home, the main hub of the race was perched atop a winding a hill in a very affluent area where the "second car" in peoples driveways was either a Porsche or a sleek Benz. The locals seemed friendly, well dressed and slightly bemused with what we were up to. The course was a 1.2km loop of asphalt with roughly thirty metres of grass where the finish line and aid station were positioned. There were three races being contested, 6hrs, 12hrs and 24hrs and we were all due to start at ten o clock. As I was preparing my gear and fluids for the punishing heat (already rising in the early morning) I was approached by many folks from the 24 hrs d'Arcueil that I ran last year. Seeing faces from past races is real plus of these events because a lot can happen in ones life in six months both from a running a living perspective, and seeing my friend Pascal again was really nice. I also bumped into Jean Phillipe who had contacted me through dailymile a few days before the race asking if I was the guy who happened to be running the same event as him. We had traded a few messages the week prior so a proper introduction half an hour before the gun went off was a bonus. The whole atmosphere of people sitting in their tents, strolling around and enjoying life created the ambiance that powered us all to our own personal finish lines.

So, as race director and all out legend Jean-Luc Garcia assembled 140 or so runners for our pep talk we learned that the benefactors of the race would be an Autism group. I was so moved by this and further blown away to realise that a young Autistic man would be running the 24hr race. This made me very emotional and I could only think of my Pearl and how today was going to be for her more than any other race that had come before. At ten o clock we rolled.

(pre-race pep talk)

(the finishing chute)

(the rules are simple)

(our encampment)

My goal for the day was pretty basic, it was training for Ireland. Run for twelve hours, hydrate and fuel up the same way as I will for July and see how it goes. The first few hours were nondescript and consisted of regular water and snack intake, sponges of cold water on my neck and face and making sure I was well covered from the increasingly hot sun. By the time I had passed my first marathon (3:50) the temperature was hovering around 27/28 degrees. I kept my salt intake regular as I was drinking more and more. Jean Phillipe was definitely in the zone at an early stage looking strong and tactical. Mid afternoon brought the real test of patience and mettle as seeing the six hour finishers wrap up a solid days running meant I was still at the half way point. It was here that my inability to pee regularly became an issue, I felt the need to go but the colour (think iced tea) and quantity (very little) meant I needed to super hydrate. I know a lot of runners use sports drinks and gels but they turn my stomach and previous experience has taught me that a dodgy stomach can ruin the day. I did a mental check and pep talk reminding myself that I was in training mode and that with the right fuel would cover the next six hours at probably the same pace. I stopped for some bread, cheese and cold meats at the seventy kilometre mark (6:55) and walked a lap eating slowly. I then took a high carb hydration drink from someone at the aid station and slowly drank the lot. Pretty soon after I could feel my body's equilibrium restored and settled back into my rhythm. All I needed now was for the sun to go down.

(pet pig in a locals garden)

(waiting for sundown)


Once I had eaten I needed a distraction from the continuous loops and hooked up few hours of pre programmed tunes to pass the time. Music is something I can take or leave but for a time limit race there is no real finish line, not like a 100km race where the quicker you run, the faster you get to the end. With a twelve hour loop your suffering lasts as long as everyone else. The gentle slopes in the road and little dips suddenly seemed a lot more taxing on the legs and my ankles were starting to beg me for an ice bucket. Every two/three laps I made a pit stop to sponge my knees and thighs to keep my temperature low and have sip of water. At eight o clock it started to cool down I took the first of two Advil which was a trick I learned from reading Dave Mackey's blog. I passed to 100km mark at 10:08 and knew it was only a matter of cruising the same pace to the finish, I caught up with Jean-Luc at the aid station and was informed that I was in second place, this came a complete surprise to me as I had chosen not to concentrate on the rankings, just running my own pace. What came as no surprise was that Jean-Phillipe was ahead by about eight kilometres and we ran side by side for a few laps as the last hour descended upon us. I was happy for him and running against someone of his ability really brings out the best in a race as a whole. Pascal and all the support crew, volunteers and finished runners cheered us loudly as Jean-Luc announced that we had two laps to go. I revved up the pace and crossed the line after a tremendously fulfilling run of 118.2km's. Hugs were exchanged amongst all the finishers and Jean-Luc informed us that the old course record of 109km's had not only been broken by Jean-Phillipe (who won with 127.2km's) but by my second place also. A day of surprises and celebrations. The prizes were superb and everyone retreated to Jean-Luc's make-shift bar to toast the day, I stuck with my soup and a group of us sat by the finish line into the early hours to cheer on the 24hr runners who had to face the night. I camped out at the site to continue to encourage the brave runners the next morning.

(Jean-Luc's midnight tequila bar)

(l-r Jean-Phillipe, Jean-Luc)

(me and Pascal)

(me and Jean Phillipe)

(the podium)

The day summed up all that is good about friendship and sharing . The sharing of our compassion and support for the Autistic, the disabled, the less fortunate. The bonds created through enduring the same highs and lows of the road and ultimately knowing that you gave it your best shot, regardless of the distance covered. An enormous depth of gratitude I owe to Jean-Luc, Nadine, Pascal, Jean -Phillipe, Mireille and all the runners and supporters who cheered, stuck a sponge in my hand and beyond. And also to the ones behind the scene, Alicia, Dylan and Pearl.... the list is long. It was truly one of the greatest days to be a runner.


Results here.

Garmin below (it froze at one point, slightly innacurate)


  1. nice report - but an even better run ! you must be feeling confident for the ireland run. I've never done a 12H or 24H race, but it's something i'd like to try one day !
    all the best

  2. Thanks Martin, Its a different beast for sure but a lot better than around a 400 metre track. Now thats a killer. I really enjoyed it because I had no expcectations and I have really started to listen to my body rather than letting my ego take over. Hope you are in solid shape for July.


I would love to hear your comments and feedback so take it away......

Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.