London Cardiff 24 2018, a review
A little big of background for this one. London Cardiff 24 is a 24 hour relay run/race from London to Cardiff for teams of 12 runners. It’s a nice mix of canal towpaths, bridleways, footpaths, the occasional bit of quiet road running and the Ridgeway at night. Oh, and lots of supermarket car parks! 2018’s event ran on 1st and 2nd June.
I’d been recruited into a team for 2017, but due to an injury I ended up just helping with logistics and providing cycle support for the runners on the Ridgeway sections. This year I was fit and signed up for another year, and managed to make it to the start line injury free as well, bonus. The plan this year was to provide some cycle support/company on the ridgeway sections and also do some running.
Getting to the London Cardiff 24
The only slight niggle was the logistic of being a Beeston based member of a team mainly based in Cambridge. Wanting to do my bit for the environment I booked my self a single from Nottingham to Cambridge, and then a single direct from Cardiff to Bristol, both complete with cycle tickets as well. So nice and early on the Friday morning I loaded the bike up as a packhorse:
That’s a full sleep kit on the front, and clothing in the seatpack. Unfortunately needing running kit as well I had a rucsac, but it was only going to be a short ride to Nottingham train station, only about 15 minutes along the River Trent from Beeston.
On getting to the station things went a bit south. Truck strike on a bridge between Peterbrough and Ely meant no trains were going through, and the staff couldn’t confirm the replacement service arrangements. Usually if it’s a coach replacement and you’re really friendly they’ll put your bike into the under floor storage, if it’s a bus replacement you’re pretty much stuffed. So back to the house, unload everything into the back of the car and off down the A52/A1/M11 run to Cambridge. To be fair, this is the first time I’ve had to abandon a train journey but I was on a schedule and needed the bike, so..
A number of podcasts later I met up with one of the minibuses that were to be our home for the 2 days and we headed into London for the start at Twickenham. A pre run carbo load was undertaken at Masaniello.
Then up to the start for our alloted start time of 16:45. Start times are based on submitted time estimates, with slower teams heading out first and faster ones last, the idea being it should even out with everyone getting in to the finish at Cardiff within a couple of hours to save the London Cardiff 24 team having to keep the finish open overnight. Our time put us about mid pack, probably because we’d also done it before which helps.
Here’s us just before the start looking alert and awake:
The shirt colour was picked to make it easy to see our runner coming in to checkpoints which comes in handy. The very first ‘mini’ stage is a team run around a playing field, and then the individual stages start. The route out of London follows the River Thames and then The Grand Union Canal so nicely traffic free and the route finding isn’t too difficult.
At this point those not running get used to waiting in supermarket carparks. This is a bit of a theme for the event. It’s not a downside as the car parks are large enough for the minibuses, clean toilets and plenty of food options as well. The London Cardiff 24 organisers do warn the supermarkets, so don’t worry about that.
We’d split into 2 mini teams, night and dawn. As the London Cardiff 24 goes overnight you need to make sure people get some rest, so this seemed to be the easiest way. So after a couple of checkpoints those of us on the night time headed off to Henley on Thames where we’d be switching over.
After Henley the route heads for the Ridgeway. We had cycle support for the runners from Goring as it was getting a bit dark so some company was appreciated. Someone else rode that stage, so I got to enjoy a 1am coffee and cake break before I jumped on the bike:
The next section pulled up on to the Ridgeway proper. The navigation along this section isn’t too difficult as the path is usually very obvious, the normal issue is not being aware of how far along you are. Some of the distance between turns is a bit further than it really feels, so having a cyclist along as an extra pair of eyes or distance measurer comes in handy. Plus the London Cardiff 24 organisers do put out some signs, it’s not completely waymarked but the places where an error might really cause problems are.
Stage 9 is the biggest section of Ridgeway, 13ish miles. The plan was to split this, with me cycling the first half, and then swapping with Chris to run the second half. For me the riding was pretty easy, it’s mainly a case of picking a tyre rut and following it. The running conditions were in my wheelhouse, lots of winter night runs meant I was fine with a headtorch, navgation was easier than the Peak District and it was quite cool out as well, so I made good time on my half. For me this was a really lovely section to run, but if you’re not used to running offroad in the dark on your own it might be a little bit too much. Some teams who didn’t have a cyclist ran it as a pair, so that’s another option.
Unfortunately Chris wasn’t quite so lucky. He lost the front wheel of the bike on some soft mud, hit the deck and gashed his chin quite badly. It was just bad luck, but if you’re looking to have someone ride along with the riders remember it pays to have someone with a bit of experience as there are some bits that need a bit of care to ride over.
The night team just had the team night stage to do. Just to make sure no one sleeps through the night, between stages 11 and 12 there’s another team stage. So everyone runs a 2 mile loop around a water park, and then the teams split.
We the night team headed off for our luxury accommodation at Severn View services:
I’d gone for the simple crash in a bivi bag option, as it was easier to carry on the bike than a tent. Other had brought a tent with them. After about 5 hours sleep/lying down we sample the breakfast delights on offer (Costa for porridge and a Coconut milk latte).
The dawn team arrived and we were back and moving. The first stage after the services crosses the Severn Bridge, so we were now officially in Wales. The day was warming up, a little too much for my liking. More stages and more supermarkets and we were then at stage 22 which was my next one.
9.3 miles on a really hot day starting about 13:00, oh boy this was going to hurt. First mistake, rather than carrying my own water I got the support cyclist to carry it. Second mistake, going off too fast. I was feeling good coming out of the Tesco car park and thought I could repeat my Belvoir Half Marathon pace of 7:11, I mean it was 4 miles shorter. About 3 miles in I lost the cyclist due to confusion of where the route went, which meant I lost my water :(. I ploughed on but after another 2-3 miles I was slowing a lot from the heat and lack of water. Luckily the cyclist found me around here and with some water I got to the end of the stage in a not too shabby a time. I’d really underestimated how much the running, cycling, late night and rough sleep had taken out of me
2 more shorter stages, a 300m team stage and it was time for the:
We came in at 23:15, so under the magic 24 hours, result! The London Cardiff 24 team had kindly finished the event next to a bar, so a cold beer was just a couple of metres hobble away.
We sat in the sun rehydrating and watching other teams finish, and the finishers of the Dragon Seeker 60km ultra comin in as well.
The Damage Done
Apart from a little bit of muscle soreness I came away pretty unscathed. Just a little bit of bleeding from some rubbing where my feet had swollen up in the heat on stage 22. But, they’re runners feet so were never going to be pretty anyway
That’s turned into quite a long post! I’m going to do a second one on the logistics of running the London Cardiff 24. And if you’ve got any questions about the event, please drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.