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Going Extreme for Team Panda

 

Hopefully you are all enjoying the summer, and watching Wimbledon while getting inspired to take on a sporty challenge? Well this should put you one step closer by hearing about one of our fantastic Team Panda supporters, Alexa Briggs.

Alexa took on a 24 hour running race called Endure 24. Wanting to try something a bit different after running several marathons, this was her way of stepping up the challenge and raising fantastic funds for #TeamPanda!

How do you prepare for this type of challenge?

The short answer, a lot of hard work! I’d run a few marathons before and wanted a new challenge that suited my strengths of being able to run long and slow. The format of the race was 5 mile laps, so you were never more than 2.5 miles away from food, a place to sit down and first aid – which seemed ideal for my first foray into ultra-distance events.

I trained for the event over 6 months, starting with just getting into a much more structured training plan and getting used to running 6 times a week. I then worked on my speed for a couple of months and then moved onto endurance training with longer runs both days at the weekend and once during the week plus other shorter sessions. I was doing Pilates and strength work to ward off injury too. I loved my longer runs, which is good as they built up to a longest duration of 6 hours! They were an opportunity for me to de stress, do some thinking, mentally re charge and also get out into the countryside as I was running mostly on trails. I also used them to trial clothes and shoes for the race.

Alexa Brigg during the Endure24 challenge©Alexa Brigg – Team Panda

Why would anyone want to run for 24 hours? It’s a good question!

Given that the event is a bit different I thought it would be a great opportunity to fundraise for WWF, my favourite charity. I sponsor an Orang-utan and have a real soft spot for these magnificent creatures so wanted to do all I could to raise funds to support them.

I relied on social media for most of my fundraising work and used a blog, Facebook and twitter posts about my training and encouraging people to donate. I got lots of donations from friends and family, from people I’ve never met through twitter and the blog and from colleagues who were shocked into donating when I honestly answered the question “what did you get up to at the weekend”! The company I work for were also very generous, meaning that I tripled my original fundraising target of £500 and went on to raise over £1500. My support team on race day also tweeted my progress and the fundraising link which was really effective.

Alexa Brigg at the start lineAlexa Brigg at the start line – Team Panda

Calm before the storm

Two weeks before the race I felt calm, prepared and was enjoying the taper and race day planning. The final week before the race went less well, with a long awaited house move going through at the last minute and I then came down with a bad cold. Still snuffling and coughing I decided to run anyway, after all the training I couldn’t face pulling out!

On race day I was feeling nervous but also excited, there was lots to prepare when I arrived like leaving food and water out to collect each lap and checking I had my kit, shoes, food and other supplies ready. I had managed to pack more things that I would usually take on a two week holiday!

Panda mascot©Alexa Brigg – Team Panda – Endure 24

The event had a great atmosphere and the other runners were really friendly and supportive – I’d written “solo” on the backs of my legs to get myself a little more support on course from other runners and it worked really well.

I stopped for a sandwich and a change of shoes after 4 laps, 20 miles, and felt good. Heading back out again at a run. From there I slowed a little as I was coughing more from the cold, so I had more opportunity to take in the beautiful woodland course, the “bar” halfway round serving water and energy gels and the VW camper van playing a great playlist of music.

After 8 laps I stopped for a pasta dinner from the onsite cafe, a shoe and kit change and put on warmer things and a camelbak and head torch for the evening. I was down to just walking most of the time now and getting some tightness in my left hip, but everything else felt good and I was full of energy. As the sun set it felt very atmospheric on course and on my first lap in the dark I was blow away by a part of the woodland where the organisers had wrapped lots of the tree trunks in fairy lights – it looked amazing!

Running in the dark is a great experience, slightly eerie to start with but then very calming as it’s quiet and peaceful and you don’t get distracted by too much, you are only focussed on what you can see in the pool of light from your head torch. Sadly by that point the stiffness had turned to something more serious in my hip and this was having a knock on effect on my knee which swelled up a lot and made even walking very painful and difficult. At 4am, after a trip to the onsite physio, I was advised to stop.

I managed 60 miles in just over 16 hours, which I am so proud of and disappointed with at the same time; I really wanted to finish by crossing the line after 24 hours. Now some time has lapsed after the race however, I see it as the perfect reason to try again next year!

We are hugely grateful for Alexa’s commitment to training and fundraising and can’t wait for her to go back next year and finish what she started.

Feeling inspired and would like to take on your own endurance challenge? Why not sign up to London2Brighton in May 2016? Plenty of time to train and what better motivation to enjoy nature and get outside. Lots of other events can be found on our website, so you can fly the Team Panda flag.

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